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Home Heating Tips: How to Stay Warm This Winter While Using Less Energy

Issue 253

Jenny Blair Dec 16, 2019

It’s cold out, and sometimes it’s cold inside, too. You know you should wear layers, block drafts, service the boiler, yadda, yadda, yadda. But how else can you keep warm this winter?

First, if you’re a renter, know your rights. In New York City, landlords must provide hot water year-round and heat during “heat season,” October 1 through May 31. When it’s below 55 degrees outside, the indoor temperature has to be at least 68 degrees between 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. At night, no matter the temperature outdoors, indoor temperatures must be at least 62 degrees. Tenants can report heat and hot water violations to 311.

Need help paying heating bills? The Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) assists some low-income people with utilities, as well as helping with emergency heating situations. Eligible homeowners can also apply to the Heating Equipment Repair and Replacement program. Call 311 or 800-692-0557 to learn more. The website needhelppayingbills.com has information about other assistance options. Search for New York under “State & local aid programs.”

Meanwhile, whatever your situation, here are some tips for keeping warm that you might not have already heard a thousand times.

  • Baths: Do you take them? If so, when you’re done, let it cool before you drain it. You might as well harvest what’s left of that heat.
  • Reflectors: Aluminum foil attached shiny-side-out to the wall behind a pipe or radiator can help reflect heat back into the room.
  • Shades: During the day, especially if it’s sunny, open those curtains or shades and let in all that free solar energy. Once the sun goes down, close them to trap heat inside. Some shades are better insulators than others, so if it’s in your budget, consider investing in good ones or making some out of, say, an army blanket. You can also hang a blanket on a spring rod or pin a piece of thick cloth invisibly to the backs of your existing curtains.
  • Insulate windows: Window insulator kits are available at hardware stores. Common Sense Home suggests duct-taping a plastic shower curtain to a window frame. Another option: putting bubble wrap over at least some of your windows, then covering the whole thing with clear plastic. Seal around the edges with tape or silicone. It’s ugly, but it can help.
  • Lap rugs: Cold thighs feel better covered up. Put a throw on your lap. When you’re out and about, if you’re so inclined, there are quilted winter skirts that can feel toasty worn over pants.
  • Rugs: Unroll one or three. A lot of heat escapes through floors.
  • Radiators: Let them breathe! Don’t put furniture in front of them.
  • Ceiling fans: If you have the kind that can run in reverse, it can push warm air accumulating near the ceiling back down again.
  • Cracks: Plug them relentlessly. Door sweeps are cheap, or stick a snaky draft catcher along the bottom of the door. Window edges are notoriously drafty.
  • Walls: A cold wall is ushering heat out of the room. Hanging tapestries or blankets on the walls can cut down on that heat loss.
  • Humidification: Humid air feels warmer. Consider leaving the bathroom door open as you shower, or use a (clean!) humidifier. The Mayo Clinic recommends 30 percent to 50 percent humidity levels for optimal health.
  • Cookies: Bake, cook and let that heat-leaking oven or range make your house a little toastier. Note, though, that it can be dangerous to leave the oven door open.
  • Greenhouse: The Brooklyn Botanic Garden offers free admission Tuesday through Friday during December, January and February. Their Aquatic House gives you the experience of tropical heat sinking into your bones.

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