Why you should take out your window ac in winter

Window air conditioning units work wonders in summer, but in winter, they should be removed and put in storage. Why? Because energy conservation, that’s why.

First of all, no matter how snugly your ac fits in the window—and let’s face it, it probably doesn’t fit very well at all—there’s still a draft coming through. Only a fully shut and locked window is truly sealed against the elements. Ask anyone who’s sensitive to drafts and they’ll tell you they feel one when they stand in front of a window with an ac in it.

window air conditioning unit
At Alvern Gardens Apartments, residents are allowed to install as many window a/c units as they’d like, but it’s important that they remove them all before winter sets in.

Any sort of draft causes the energy output of your heating system to skyrocket because it’s constantly trying to compensate for that continuous flow of cold air. Taking out your window ac is the fastest, easiest, and most obvious way to stop drafts.

The more energy your heating system uses, the more money it costs to run it (obviously), but if you’re renting an apartment where “heat is included in rent,” you don’t notice that money blowing away in the winter breeze. But it absolutely is. When your lease renewal runs around, you’ll see that money again in the form of raised rent. When utilities are included in rent, the amount of rent reflects that. So if you’re causing your landlord to pay high utility bills for your unit by wasting energy, you can bet that your landlord will pass those costs onto you by raising your rent.

Now, there is another important reason to remove your window ac that applies only to those with radiator heat who have their ac installed directly above a radiator (which, if you have radiator heat, is probably exactly where you ac is… it’s more or less unavoidable). Radiators are made of cast iron and they can withstand a great deal, but one thing that is definitely a danger to them is the frigid cold air of deep winter in Pittsburgh. During extreme cold you should never open a window directly above a running radiator because that radiator can crack and leak. An ac inside a window directly above a radiator is pretty much the same thing as an open window above a radiator. If it gets cold enough, that little draft is going to crack your already overworked radiator.

Radiators are not easy to replace because, firstly they’re getting harder and harder to come by, and secondly the entire heating system has to be shut down to do the work. Then there’s the matter of repairing the damage from the leak. A single radiator can leak a whole lot of water and that water will not only destroy your flooring, it will destroy the ceiling in the apartment below yours. You can bet that if your radiator cracks because you opened the window, your landlord will charge for the full cost of repairs, and that’s going to add up to hundreds of dollars.

So when we say you should remove your window ac because it will allow you to conserve energy, what we mean is, you should remove your window ac because it will save you money.

Make yourself at home with window treatments

When you first move into a place, one of your first steps in nesting should be to put up window treatments. They reduce echo, make a place look cared for and lived-in, and even make your home more energy efficient.

Window Treatments
Not all window treatments have to be exclusively for privacy and blocking out the sun. Even simple sheers can add a homey feel.

Lots of rentals don’t have blinds as a standard feature, so you’ll want to put up something in a hurry for privacy on that first night, but remember that this is a temporary stopgap. Unless you’re living in a college dorm, it’s just plain tacky to use a blanket or flag as a curtain, especially when decent window treatments aren’t that expensive.

  1. Start with is blinds. If you have a pet or a child, you’ll want to stay away from corded blinds to keep your loves safe. Also, you’ll want to know the rules about whether you’re even allowed to drill into the walls and window frames to mount blinds. Chances are, it’s not allowed or you’d have to pay the maintenance man to do it. Luckily, Redi Shade has your back! They make cordless blinds that you trim, peel, and stick. Now, we are a bit skeptical as to how long they stay put and how annoying it will be to clean the glue residue off the window frame once the blinds are removed, but color us intrigued!
  2. Next: drapes. If you’re lucky, you’re renting from a place like Alvern Gardens, where each window comes with its own curtain rod. If not, you’ll need to buy those. Luckily there are sturdy temporary options. If your window frame isn’t conducive to spring-loaded rods, you can use Command hooks to mount your rod instead. Now, you’ll want to measure your window not just for fitting the rod but for finding the right size curtains. Floor-to-ceiling drapes in a heavy fabric lend luxurious drama, but you don’t want the bottoms to drag across the floor.
  3. Finally, maintenance. Now that you have blinds and drapes, you’ll want to clean them regularly. Give blinds a good dusting every week or so, and take drapes down once or twice a year to wash them. We recommend taking drapes to a laundromat with commercial sized washers and dryers to get them fully and properly clean.

Tips for beating the heat on the cheap

It’s been a bit stifling recently, and air conditioning is probably causing a spike in everyone’s bills. So we thought we’d share some tips for staying cool while saving money. (See our previous post on saving on air conditioning for additional tips and tricks.)

pool
Swimming is one of the best forms of exercise, and it’s a great way to stay cool on a hot day. (Residents of Alvern Gardens Apartments can enjoy their summer poolside for a $10 season pass.)
  • Use your ac wisely by turning it off while you’re not home, adjusting the temperature at night, and using any energy saving mode your unit might have. For example, here at the Alvern Gardens leasing office, we set our ac to “energy saver mode” where it shuts off as soon as the desired indoor temp is reached, and then it turns back on if it gets too warm.
  • Circulate air with ceiling and floor fans to spread the ac’s magic throughout your home.
  • Close doors to closets and unused rooms to make the work easier on your ac. The smaller you can make the space, the faster it will cool off, and the more energy you save.
  • Open your windows at night to let cooler air in, then close them in the morning before temperatures start to rise to trap that nice cool night air inside. If you have a box or window fan, run it in your open window at night to suck even more cool air in.
  • Close your curtains and blinds to block out added heat from direct sunlight. This works especially well if you have insulated energy saving curtains.
  • Avoid cooking when you can, and definitely don’t bake. There are plenty of no cook/no bake meals and desserts out there, so there’s no need to add to the heat in your home by using the stove. What a great excuse to add some new recipes to your repertoire!
  • Hang out in cooler places like the basement or under the shade of a tree. Better still, spend a day lake- or pool-side.

How to manage your air conditioning costs in the summer

Whether you live in a house or an apartment and no matter what type of air conditioning system you have (forced air, central air, window units, etc.), staying cool and staying within budget are both important. Here are some tips on keeping your electric bill from skyrocketing in the summer.

By strategically placing fans in relation to open windows, you can maximize air circulation. Moving air helps evaporate sweat, so if you live in a 2 story home, close the windows upstairs, open the windows downstairs, and put fans upstairs. In a single floor place, put fans farther away from open windows. The best windows to open are the ones where the most breezes come through.

It’s also a good idea to open windows at night when it’s cooler out, then close them first thing in the morning, trapping cooler air inside and keeping hot air out during the day.

The right window treatments can make a big difference in keeping heat out. You can buy insulating curtains at most retailers that carry window treatments. A properly insulated home is better for retaining internal temperature.

window air conditioning unit
At Alvern Gardens Apartments, residents are allowed to install as many window a/c units as they’d like. For just $35/unit, maintenance will install them for residents.

Humidity is often what makes heat stifling even if it’s not that hot, so consider investing in a dehumidifier, an a/c with humidity control, or an evaporative cooler.

When using air conditioning (central air, window units, portable a/c, whatever you’ve got), keep all your windows shut to avoid losing that nice cool air. Also, use fans to circulate the cool air throughout your home, or shut the door to the room you’re trying to cool down.

Only use the air conditioner while you’re home, and don’t over-do it. Some systems have a self-modulation feature that adjusts the a/c’s output according to the room’s temperature. This way, you can sleep through the night at the perfect temperature, and don’t have to constantly adjust the a/c during the day. If you don’t have one of these snazzy contraptions (though maybe you should invest in one if it’s been a few years since you bought your current a/c… having an efficient machine is key), do the modulating yourself. There’s no need to sleep in an ice box because it cools down outside at night anyway (plus your own body temp lowers while you’re sleeping), so don’t set the temperature quite as low overnight.

Adjust the fan in your a/c according to the humidity: on less humid days, crank it to high; on very humid days, set it to low. The slower fan speed actually lowers the humidity.

Cooking and baking can add a lot of heat to your home, so grill outside instead, eat cold meals, or use the microwave.

Water can work miracles in helping your body cool down. If you have a yard, set up a pool and take a dip. If your apartment community has a pool, go there. Go to a public or country club pool. Go to your bathroom and hop in the shower or splash cool water on yourself at the sink or from a water bottle. The water evaporating off your skin will cause a nice cooling sensation.

Finally, this might sound silly, but if your house is stifling and you don’t want to spend on a/c, just go someplace else for the day. If you have a basement, it’s probably nice and cool down there. Go to any public place with a/c, such as the library (you have that summer reading list to work on, after all).

Looking for a cool place to live? Contact Prudential Realty Company to inquire about our current availability at any of our communities throughout Pittsburgh. Or, contact Alvern Gardens Apartments directly at alverngardens@yahoo.com or 412-561-4663. You’ll have to bring your own a/c, but we’ll provide the pool.