The weather in the northeast has been pretty warm so far this year, but it probably won't stay that way for long. Many housing situations include heat in the rent, but some do not. Even if they do, there are a few reasons why you want to be smart about lowering heating costs and making your place as comfortable as possible. Here are a few tips to keep costs down during the winter and cold spells wherever you live:
Central air conditioning is nice, convenient, and it really shines in the summer. But in the winter, it can be a pain. Specifically, if you have an apartment with multiple rooms and only one thermostat, inevitably, one of the rooms is going to be too hot or too cold. The easiest way I've come to dealing with this problem is buying a space heater. The bedroom is the most challenging, because when you sleep you don't want to have to wake up to adjust the temperature to your liking, so you will just be miserable and tired when you get up in the morning.
In my last apartment, the thermostat was in the bedroom, so as long as I kept the bedroom at the desired temperature with the space heater, the central air never came on. This saved a lot of money. In my current place, the thermostat is in the living room, so I still keep the space heater in the bedroom, and just turn down the thermostat lower than normal, so that it doesn't make the bedroom too hot even when the living room is freezing.
In the end, it just comes down to it being cheaper to heat one room rather than the whole apartment. A space heater will definitely be an additional electric load, it is a giant resistor after all, but not having to power a central fan and pay for heating a whole apartment/house can make up for that easily.
I play a little game with the thermostat: "How cold is too cold." I set my thermostat to a temperature, and then if I'm comfortable, I lower it a degree. And then after a while, if I'm still comfortable, I lower it another degree. I keep doing that until I'm cold and then bump it up a degree and keep it there. It turns out that it doesn't take much to save money, while still being comfortable.
Seems obvious, right? Close windows and cold air won't come in. How about this: Lock the windows. If security isn't a big worry, (think 5 floors up and no fire escapes on that side of the building) locking the windows may not seem like a big deal. I learned a little late, that locking windows actually helps seal the window and prevent drafts. During an especially cold day last year, I happened to be by my window and feel a cold breeze hitting my ankles. Turns out, the window was closed, but not locked, and so as soon as I locked it, the breeze stopped. I still kick myself for wasting money for weeks before I noticed this.
Not only did these tips save me money, they also made my apartment so much more comfortable. My last apartment wasn't insulated very well, and so there were many drafts from closets and windows. Having the heat constantly come on and off was loud, and made the rooms hot for a few minutes, normal for the next and then cold for the following few minutes before the heat came back on. With drafts plugged, thermostats set comfortably and a heater in the room that mattered, the apartment stayed at a normal temperature for hours.