A Free Guide: Keep your Tenants Warm and Save on Utilities this Winter

Written on December 9, 2013 by , updated on April 21, 2015

weather-PDFAs a landlord, you have the responsibility of keeping your rental properties maintained, comfortable and efficient.  Doing so will also help save on utilities, regardless of who pays them.

Likewise, tenants have a responsibility to take care of the space they’re renting.

Landlords and tenants both benefit when they work together to improve a home or apartment’s heating efficiency.

I recently found this free guide that provides some extremely useful tips on improving the heating efficiency in your property and educating tenants on ways to be more heating-efficient.

I’ve summarized the guide below.

Landlord Duties – Improving a Home’s Heating Efficiency

To improve heating efficiency, you have to know where your home loses heat so you can fix the problem.

I believe that it’s the Landlord’s responsibility to upkeep various aspects of the house to improve its heating efficiency. These are some ways homes lose heat and thus opportunities for a landlord to improve the house:

1. Fill Exterior Air Leakages

candleThis is one of the most common sources of heat loss in a home. Drafty doors and windows can suck the heat right out of a house. To find air leaks in the home, take a lit candle and trace it along the edges of windows and doors. If the candle flickers, or the smoke wisps away, you’ve found a leak.

To seal air leaks in windows, apply caulk to cover the leak. For doors, install door panels to cover the bottom opening. If you don’t have air leaks, but the caulking around your windows is old, it’s a good idea to re-caulk anyway to prevent air leaks.

2. Replace Dirty Furnace Filter

air-filterIf the furnace doesn’t heat the house as well as it used to, it’s likely because the furnace filter needs changed. Dust and dander gets trapped in the filter, which makes the furnace work harder to heat an area, causing a rise in the heating bill.

Check the instructions on the furnace to see what kind of filter you’ll need to buy. Change it every one to 3-6 months, depending on how much it’s used.

3. Reduce Heating Throughout the Day

themostatIt’s normal to leave the heat on during the day, even while you’re at work. This means that your heat is running an extra 30(ish) hours during the week when you’re not even using it.

Remedy this problem by installing a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat allows you to control when your heating system kicks on, so you don’t have to run the heat all day when you’re not at home.

4. Install Sufficient Attic Insulation

attic-insulationIf the attic isn’t properly insulated, the heat in your home is going straight through the roof. Check to see if your attic is insulated enough by making sure the insulation is higher than the floor joists. If the insulation is below or level with the joists, you should add more.

It’s better to handle these tasks yourself instead of leaving them to your tenants. While they might be skilled at home maintenance, you don’t want to risk them damaging the property.

Encouraging tenants to be efficient – and safe – with heating

Educating tenants to practice energy-efficient methods of heating not only saves you money, but it helps them stay warmer during the cold months of winter. Talk to your tenants about preserving heat and heating safely with these methods:

5. Turn the Bathroom Fan Off

bathroom-fanIt’s easy to forget to turn the bathroom fan off right after a shower, but leaving it running can suck out all the heat from the room, and the rest of the house. Encourage renters not to leave the fan running longer than necessary.

6. Insulate Windows

3M Indoor Window Insulator Kit, 5-WindowEven if windows are well-caulked, they can still radiate cold temperatures. Insulating curtains ensure that cold air doesn’t enter the home, and warm air doesn’t escape.

Attaching an inexpensive window insulation kit over windows will provide more insulation.

7. Use Space Heaters with Caution

space-heaterIf tenants want to add supplemental heating to the home, talk to them about using safe methods of heating. While space heaters do provide extra warmth to a room, they can be extremely unsafe.

Between 2006 and 2010, space heaters were to blame for 32 percent of home fires!

Likewise, fireplaces can be unsafe if used improperly. Have the fireplace and chimney cleaned once a year to avoid chimney fires. Open fireplace doors while a fire is going — this allows the fire to ventilate so it won’t combust.

For more tips on safe and smart home heating, check out Electric Fireplaces Direct’s new free guide, “The Cure for the Common Cold Room.”

Working Together for a Warmer Home

Your renters want a warm living space as much as you want a lower utility bill and a more efficient home.

Being honest with them about savings — both money and heat-wise — will encourage them to participate in the effort.

Be helpful, not pushy, when advising them on making better heating decisions during the cold winter months. They’ll likely be more than willing to listen if you’ve got their best interests in mind.

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11 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Marie

    this article is fine – however, our landlord refuses to help fix the windows and believes it is our responsibility to weatherproof them. the house was built in 1950 in Brooklyn, NY. the windows have not been replaced and there is so much air coming through the window, cracks and walls around the window. She controls the thermostat in her lovely Warm apartment on the 2nd floor, while i freeze on the 3rd drafty apartment. Is this fair? I tried to be understanding. Yet i pay rent on time, and because her thermostat says 68 in her apartment, the heat shuts off – but our apartment never reaches the 68 degrees. what should I do? i pay more in electric bill for my electric heater and will threaten to reduce my rent for my extra cost in electricity. something has to give and i dont know what else to do. Any suggestions? What is my right as a Tenant ??????

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Marie,

      If your landlord is being stubborn, I can’t think of much that you can do to persuade him without looking into the legality of it. In most states, the landlord has an obligation to ensure a comfortable temperature can be reached in each unit. This is usually somewhere between 60-80 degrees. If it’s 45 degrees in your unit, the landlord should take steps to make it warmer. Your landlord could do a variety of things, such as purchase space heaters for each room, or as you suggested, fix the windows.

      Depending on your state, you might be able to “repair and deduct” the cost of the repair (or space heaters) from your rent. You should check the state laws page to learn more: http://www.landlordology.com/state-laws.

      You can buy “window film” (i.e. sticky plastic wrap for windows) at most home improvement stores which will reduce the draft coming through the old windows. It works fairly well and is very inexpensive compared to replacing windows. Perhaps if you inform your landlord of the cheaper solutions, then she might agree to let you buy them and withhold it from the rent.

      • Marie

        Thank you very much for your helpful response, Lucas – much appreciated. I have one more question —

        Regarding Lighting/Electricity.

        so when i moved into the apartment, one of the things that attracted me was the bathroom lighting around the mirror. I am partially blind and so the very well lit bathroom assisted me a great deal. about 3 months ago, my husband was electrically shocked when trying to turn the light on. instead of replacing the light fixture, the landlord left it as is, but cut the wires so as not to shock anyone. He left it with ugly black duck tape. I was appalled. he told me to use the overhead lighting in the bathroom, which for me is dim. So, my husband was the one who was able to remove one of the mirror light fixtures since it doesnt work anymore and the black tape was horrifying.
        This was a neccecity for me – it was one of the few things in the apartment which attracted me. I read somewhere in the NYC housing codes that it is the LL responsibility to maintain the electric outlets, etc.
        what are my rights regarding this? the LL said it would be far too expensive to remove/replace the entire mirror with the broken light fixtures – i get it. but what else am i to do? please HELP!! THANK YOU : )

        • Lucas Hall

          Hi Marie,

          Most state building codes mandate that all electrical outlets, switches, and wires be covered with a plastic panel. You should never have wires sticking out of a wall.

          Perhaps you can get a free estimate from a local electrician to see if the light can be repaired. Just because your landlord couldn’t do it doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

          And yes, I think he should pay for it but because it doesn’t effect habitability, he technically doesn’t have to.

  • Debra Jones

    My concern is that my landlord not only refuses to fix holes in floors but the only heat I have is space heaters provided by her because she said that gas is to expensive. Now I can’t heat my home and it is frustrating because she is saying it is my responsibility to keep heat in the rental property and if the water lines bust it is my fault. What are my rights regarding this?

  • Keli Dowdy

    The house I just rented 11/27/15 has no insulation what so ever. It was built in 1940, and has knotty pine walls. Should she have told me there isn’t insulation?
    Also she did not provide keys to any of the doors. She gave me a garage door opener, and became very angry, when I changed the garage code, that has been the code for years! I also let my son move in, my mistake, not telling her first, she raised my rent 300 a month, now she won’t speak to me. I’m thinking about moving now, can I break my lease based on these issues?

  • Holly

    Hey, Hello, Hi… How is everyone doinq?! I must say, I’M VERY FRUSTRATED AT THIS POINT!! I moved in this hme a lil over 2 years aqo. My cousin rented this hme before me & didn’t inform me of the OUTRAGEOUS LIGHT BILLS IN THIS HME DURING THE WINTER!! Needless 2 say… I FOUND OUT!! My QST winter here.. I noticed that my house was just qettinq colder & colder so NATURALLY, I turn the thermostat up a lil to 71° …. but, it will not heat above 68°. So I turn it bk dwn to 69° just to see if I can atleast qet it to catch up with its self. AND STILL…. IT DOESN’T WORK. MY AUXILIARY HEAT STAYS ON ALL WINTER, EVEN WITH MY WINDOWS COVERED IN PLASTIC, ALONG WITH THE NEW ELECTRIC FIRE PLACE WE HAVE BOUGHT. 700$ LIGHT BILLS. WAT R MY RIGHTS

  • Heidi

    Renting a house built in1925. Beautiful house. But the furnace is 30 years old . It’s not effiant. I just pay is a very high gas bill. Is my landlord responsible to replace this old furnace? Also can’t use the fireplace. Has cracks in the back wall.no fue. Heat would just go straight out ..im in tx plz help.

    • Margolis

      If the fireplace was in that condition when you moved in, and you were fine to move in with it like that, you can’t expect your landlord to foot the bill to make it work. If it was working but now it’s broken by no fault of your own, then your LL should fix it, or lower your rent. If they don’t, move out if it’s that important to you.
      Was an “efficient” furnace one of the terms of your lease agreement? If not, then your landlord isn’t obligated to make it efficient so that your heating bill isn’t as high. There is no benefit to the landlord to pay for that since you are the one paying for the heat. If the furnace were to break from old age, then yes, they would have to replace it, and might opt for a more efficient version at that time.

  • Tara Nine

    Are window insulation kits the landlord’s expense or the tenant’s?

    I would like my landlord to reimburse me for window insulation kits. Yes it’s inexpensive, but its still over $20 and I’m on a tight budget. Meanwhile for him it’s an expense he can write off on his taxes.

    Where you write, “As a landlord, you have the responsibility of keeping your rental properties maintained, comfortable and efficient,” by “responsibility” do you mean “lawfully required”? …I don’t want to look like a fool and ask him for reimburaement if I can’t point to the statute that backs me up.

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