The Heat is OFF

I’ll never forget the winter of 2017-18. It was cold INSIDE.

Outside, the temperatures were average for our area – mid-30s in the daytime, teens and 20s at night, with occasional bursts of sunshine boosting us into the 50s. We had some ice, a bit of snow, but nothing compared to the wintry weather our friends in Colorado and Minnesota were experiencing. Yet, inside our apartment, we had icicles on the bedroom window, with the central heat unit running constantly to no avail. When my mom came over for her birthday last January, it was so cold inside that she wore her coat the entire time. She even had me stand on a chair to feel the cold air coming from the vents in the ceiling. It was not a fun time to say the least.

A year ago, maintenance checked our unit and said it was running fine. They concluded that the cold air was due to the outside unit itself being cold, which supposedly restricts airflow. I attribute it to poor building maintenance. Our apartment was built in the 90s. The duct work is probably leaking. But I’m no HVAC repair woman so we decided to handle matters our own way.

When the temperatures started dropping in October, we challenged ourselves to see how long we could go without turning on the heat unit. Instead, we used two of these little guys:

We thought the space heaters would buy us a few extra weeks without turning on the heat. We never expected that they would work so well that 3 months later, we’re still using them as our primary source of heat.

We have two 1500W forced-air space heaters that cost $10 each. We use one in the living room when we are home and one in the bedroom/bathroom as needed throughout the day. Neither runs constantly. When the inside temperature reaches 71 degrees, we turn them off. When it dips below 68, we turn them on. So far, we have not used either heater while we’re sleeping at night, though Angie turns the bedroom heater on about 30 minutes before we get up to knock off the chill. The lowest overnight temperature (outside) so far this year has been 17 degrees. That same night, our indoor temp dropped just 7 degrees (from 71 when we went to bed to 64 when we woke up). When my mom came for Christmas, it got so warm inside that we had to open the back door. It was 40 degrees outside and no heat was on inside.

Not only are we not freezing to death inside our apartment this year, we’re actually comfortable. Angie is not wearing her beanie to watch TV this winter and I don’t have a thermal layer on under my jeans. We did add a 2nd blanket to our bed but other than that, no special accommodations have been made to stay warm. We’re simply capitalizing on some heat-generating aspects that we never thought to consider before. For example, we’re on the 2nd floor of a 3-story building, making us the “sandwich” apartment. We are insulated by the apartments above and below, which helps us maintain our temperature longer. Also, by cooking dinner every night, we can raise the temp by 1-2 degrees (and have a delicious meal to boot!).

Our experiment primarily started as a way to avoid turning on the inefficient central heat unit. We weren’t thinking about saving money or reducing our carbon footprint at the time, but the byproduct of our effort is that we did both. Our energy bill dropped by 13% and we reduced our carbon footprint by 20%. We’re pretty happy about that! Almost as happy as we are about my mom’s sudden interest in recycling plastics. Oh yes, that happened this month too. After years of picking on us for recycling everything, she suddenly one day started sending me home with her empty plastics to take to recycling. 2019 might just be the year for miracles after all!

All kidding aside, even the smallest things can make a big impact when it comes to saving money and saving our planet.