Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Turning Down the Heat...Or Not

Julia from Color Me Green looks at the costs of heating an apartment.

Per New York City law, landlords are usually required to pay for heat and hot water utilities. However, my current apartment is in a new building where each unit has its own furnace and hot water heater. So this is the first time in my adult life that I've been able to control (and pay for) my heat.

The apartment comes with a programmable thermostat, which is great for energy efficiency and personal comfort. It's exciting to never have to wake up to freezing morning temperatures or be boiling hot at night. Now, I always thought that a programmable thermostat meant that the heat would magically change to the desired temperature at the time you wanted it to. However, I've learned that the time it takes to heat or cool to a desired temperature fluctuates greatly based on how cold it is outside. For example, when the weather was under 20 degrees F, it literally took eight hours for the temperature to rise from 60 to 70 degrees. When the weather is twenty degrees warmer, it only takes an hour or two.

In past winters, Crunchy Chicken has encouraged people to join a Freeze Yer Buns Challenge to lower your thermostat as much as you're comfortable. I always wondered, given the opportunity to control my heat, if I would keep my home cold. It turns out not. Because our heat is not that expensive,  my selfish desire to be warm wins out over my recognition that it's an indulgent consumption of more resources that I need.

We keep the thermostat at 69-70 degrees when we're home, and turn it down to 60 overnight and weekdays when we're at the office. This adds about $70 a month to our bill, and while I don't love it, that extra amount for three months a year is not going to break our bank. We are paying for natural gas to heat about 700 square feet in an apartment building, which comes with the built-in insulation of being surrounded by other heated apartments, so the temperature would never drop much below 60 or 55 anyway. How does this compare to your heating bill - whether you're in a standalone house or an apartment? And what temperature do you keep your thermostat at?

We did try installing plastic sheets over our windows to insulate them. However, it only reduced our heating bill by about $15. We didn't exactly do a great job installing them, since we noticed some spots where the seal came away, but I was expecting more of an impact than that. Have any of you tried window insulating techniques?


All Natural Katie said...

We usually keep our heat at 66-68 depending on the weather outside and how hot I get in certain rooms (the living room is a lot warmer than the first level master bedroom). We turn down to 64 at night and 58 when we leave for work. Yes, it makes for a cold morning and return from work, but the houses starts heating up fairly soon. From 58 to 67-68 takes a little while, but we start to feel warm within 30 minutes. We're in a stand-alone older house with lots of rooms. I am mostly on the fence about turning the heat down versus not.

I don't like to be extremely cold where my hands are numb, but I also don't mind putting on some extra layers.

Betsy (Eco-novice) said...

We keep our home at 64 during the day and 55-60 at night. We sleep under a lot of blankets! When we bought our home we invested in energy upgrades that improved our energy efficiency by 45%! Wall insulation and attic insulation made a huge impact for not much money.

But sadly you are still far more virtuous than I am b/c you live in a small apt. and I have a single family home. So while you could lower your thermostat, I think you are keeping your footprint small in more important ways.

My husband is totally on board with keeping the thermostat low (and higher in the summer), and I am glad my kids are used to being slightly colder or hotter than many Americans (I'm convinced our thermostats get set when we are little and that it's why most Americans are only comfortable in a 3 degree range). But people often complain our home is cold when they come over -- so we often turn it up to 70 when guests are over.

Julia (Color Me Green) said...

sounds like we are on the same page about turning down at night. Betsy - that is true that the small apartment has a lower footprint built in. but your 45% improved efficiency is awesome!


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