Cut expenses: tips for green, warm winter

It’s that time of year—the leaves keep piling up, Jazzman’s is selling pumpkin smoothies, and you’re already avoiding work on your final project. Yep, winter is coming, which means we’re about a month away from “Oh my god, it’s cold.” We then promptly start paying a great deal more for heat during the very season we’d rather be using that money on other things. So how can we stay warm and cheap this winter?

There are many simple things you can do—most taking only 20 minutes or less—that will not only save hundreds on your electric bill this winter, but will also help save the planet. Here are a few ideas:

• Put plastic sheeting over your windows. Heat loss occurs quickly through window glass; sheeting helps minimize wasted heat by creating an air buffer which acts as extra insulation. A roll of plastic pays for itself within weeks.

• Place weatherstripping around any windows which have to remain accessible for safety reasons.

• Does your front door have a gap under it? (Can you can slip stuff underneath it?) Some doors will leave a small space at the bottom, allowing heat to gush outside. Prevent this with a door sealer (foam pieces).

• Insulate your hot water heater by wrapping a thick blanket around the tank and taping it in place; bonus points if you put foam tubes over the connecting pipes.

• If you have an air conditioner, un-install it for the winter—cold air enters easily via AC vents. If you can’t remove it, cover it with heavy plastic and/or a blanket, wrap tightly, and tape in place.

• Check to make sure your radiator valves are open, if applicable.

• Is all your furniture at least 6–12 inches away from your heaters? Give the heaters enough space for hot air to circulate effectively.

• Don’t open windows during the winter.

• Install a programmable thermostat. Don’t pay to heat the apartment all day when you’re really only there at night—have the thermostat automatically heat your space only when you’ll be there.

• Before you leave on winter break, if you’re able to do so, open up your circuit breaker panel and flip off any switches for stuff you won’t need over your vacation. If your hot water heater is located indoors, you might be able to shut this very costly circuit off, but check with your landlord first to avoid liability.

Be sure to check with your landlord or RA before installing anything, and remain in compliance with your lease and/or the local codes of any homeowner’s associations in the area, if applicable. Have a warm, cheap, green winter!