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.

So you have a new home to fill: Where should you shop?

Moving into a new home can be daunting, especially if you’re also on the market for new furniture for that new home. The good news is that there are plenty of options for saving money, and those options just keep getting better.

guest bedroom/home office
We found this futon at Walmart. Its black faux leather is just the right look for extra seating in a home office. Plus, it lets the room double as a guest bedroom.
  • Ask around. Most people have stuff they don’t use. From surplus silverware and china to old dining sets, if you ask enough friends and relatives, you can cobble together almost an entire household. If you have a trustworthy source, you could go so far as to get a mattress for super cheap. (Maybe even for free!) Though you shouldn’t accept upholstery without first giving it a thorough inspection. After all, your Aunt Marge might have an old sofa that she’ll give you if you’ll just come pick it up, but you might show up for it and realize it smells worse than her ash tray.
  • Go thrifting first. Spend a weekend visiting garage and estate sales, check your local Goodwill, visit flea markets. Any place that sells used items is going to have at least some of what you need for cheaper than if you were to buy it new. But thrift smart. Haggle for a lower price when possible, and don’t buy anything that’s so worn out that it’ll cost more to fix it than to buy the same thing new.

    home office/guest bedroom
    This desk is from IKEA, and the chair–believe it or not–is from Costco!
  • Buy new upholstery. Yes, coffee tables and shelving units are easy to find on the cheap and easy to fix up if they’re a little worn, but couches are a different story. Just like you should always buy mattresses and box-springs new, it’s safer to buy upholstery new. If you’re buying a ratty old thing with plans of re-upholstering, forget it. Unless you know how to do it yourself or know someone who’ll do it for cheap or even free, re-upholstering won’t save you money. Besides, old upholstery is dusty, musty, hard to clean, and possibly full of bedbugs. Safer to buy new for sure.
  • Comparison shop. Where you find the cheapest version of what you’re looking for will depend on what it is you need. Walmart’s furniture selection has gotten trendier over the years, but they still don’t have much beyond futons. Places like Target and Bed Bath & Beyond regularly have sales, but you might have to wade past stuff aimed at college kids to find the classier items. Check TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and HomeGoods for smaller pieces like accent chairs and storage benches as well as decor to tie a room together. Amazon, Overstock.com, and Wayfair have competitive prices, but stick to free shipping to really keep that price low. IKEA is still an excellent place to get everything you need, especially if you browse their as-is section as well as the store itself.

Cleaning tips galore!

We’ve been scouring the web for the best tips on keeping a home spic and span. Here’s some of the best advice we’ve found:

  • A list of things that should be cleaned but are often overlooked. This slideshow reminds us of our previous post on cleaning mattresses and oft-overlooked spots in the kitchen. It adds a few key places, like the toothbrush cup and some very specific spots in the fridge. We’d just like to add, that once or twice a year, you should pull your fridge away from the wall and vacuum up all the debris that’s collected behind it. While you’re at it, your fridge’s filter should be cleaned regularly as well.
  • The best way to clean a microwave. This method is super easy, no scrubbing required, and it leaves your microwave sparkling and smelling fresh. Plus, this article offers some of the best step-by-step instructions we’ve found for this cleaning method.
  • These 20 home-cleaning hacks are pure gold. Some of them are similar to what we’ve shared before, but great advice never gets old.
  • Prepping for visitors involves more than just vacuuming (though vacuuming is key). We enjoy this list’s advice to put out fresh flowers to impress guests. And why wait for guests to de-clutter? A tidy, organized home is a happy, stress free home.

Pro tip: The best way to spot clean your carpet

Spilled drink? No problem! The contractor who cleans the carpets here at Alvern Gardens just offered us the insider’s secret to cleaning your carpet: Dawn dish soap.

If you have a small stain from a food spill, there’s nothing better than the same soap you use for cleaning food off your dishes. Just remember it’s all about technique:

natural cleaning
Just like tried and tru baking soda and vinegar, Dawn dish soap is an excellent gentle but powerful cleaner that’s safet o use around pets. Image attribution: By katerha (http://www.flickr.com/photos/katerha/5703151566/) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
  1. Take a paper towel or a plain white towel or cleaning rag (nothing colorful, you don’t want the dye to transfer to your carpet) and dampen it with cold water.
  2. Put a couple drops of Dawn dish soap on it and lather it up a bit with your fingers.
  3. Gently press (don’t scrub) the towel onto the stain. Keep dabbing to lift it out of the carpet fibers. Again, gently dab, don’t rub or scrub, as that only pushes the mess deeper into the carpet.

And there you have it: a clean carpet is as easy as 1, 2, 3! Now, if you have a big mess on your hands, it’s time to rent a machine or call in a professional.

Here are a couple bonus pro tips:

  • Never use bleach to clean a carpet: you’ll end up with a bleach stain!
  • A dye stain will never lift out without ruining the color of the carpet, so always use a drop cloth when painting or take your DIY project outside or to the garage.

Remember: keeping your home spic and span while you’re renting it is good for your security deposit.

Top 5 things to do when moving

Because we have a lot of people moving into apartments in the next couple months, we decided now is the perfect time to offer our list of top 5 things to do when you move.

  1. Measure everything including your furniture, the spaces you have to fit it through to move it out of your old place, and everything in your new place. Measure the width and height of every door and hallway you’ll be maneuvering through. Measure the dimensions of each room. Make sure your furniture will clear all light fixtures, not just the ceiling. Measure all of your new windows for window treatments. Never assume that all the doors in your new place have the same dimensions—interior doors are often narrower than entryway doors.
  2. Pack the essentials conveniently so you have immediate access when you get to the new place. What’s essential? Here’s a brief list:
    – Toilet paper
    – Towels
    – Shower Curtain
    – Bathroom floor mat
    – Pillows and bedding
    – Drinking water or a filter for tap water
    – ID and other important paperwork
    – Checkbook and other things you’ll need for lease signing
  3. Manage your utilities and make sure all accounts are in your name that should be. Know when to expect your first bill and contact the company if it doesn’t arrive when expected as this could be a sign that something went wrong or didn’t get done.
  4. Know the rules about parking at your new place. If you need a parking permit, get that right away. If you have a big moving truck, make sure you’re parking it legally. Heed all signs in the neighborhood and on the property, and check with your landlord on where it’s safe to park for unloading large items as well as what to do until you get your permit.
  5. Bring plenty of water for your and your moving crew. Even if it’s a mild day, you’ll get hot and sweaty while you move, so make sure you have drinking water handy to keep you hydrated, energized, and happy. While you’re at it, pack some healthy snacks.

Have some moving tips of your own? Comment with your own top 5 below!

Moving, or looking for a new place to move to? Contact Prudential Realty Company for our current availability on apartments and townhouses throughout the Pittsburgh area.

Related posts:

10 tips for a smooth move

Where should I park?

Spring cleaning the natural way

If you scour the internet, you’ll find all sorts of creative natural cleaners that you can DIY with stuff you already have at home.

Not only are natural, homemade cleaners an affordable way to an effective yet safe and environmentally friendly clean, it’s also good for your security deposit. Some heavy duty cleaners out there are so harsh that they damage the very thing you’re trying to get clean, and you might not want to clean as thoroughly or as often if it involves a risk of inhaling dangerous fumes. With a natural, homemade cleaner, you’re unlikely to need protective gear and you don’t have to worry about using it around kids or pets. Plus, mixtures like baking soda and vinegar pack a punch without damaging surfaces.

natural cleaning
Bathrooms can be hard to keep clean, but natural cleaners can make the work safer and more affordable.

If you’re looking for smart uses for vinegar, vinegartips.com is our favorite place for pointers on one of the cheapest, most versatile natural cleaners out there.

Keep in mind though that vinegar isn’t the end-all-be-all, and it’s not always the best cleaner for the job. For example, vinegar is ineffective for wiping up raw egg as it will basically poach the egg as you’re trying to clean it up. Before you decide what product to use, consider the task at hand and what you want to accomplish. If you’re not sure what to use, check online for tips.

Most of the time, vinegar is the way to go for deodorizing and wiping away greasy grime. It’s excellent for wet dusting and getting your microwave to sparkle. For a deeper clean, combining it with baking soda for a fizzy paste does the trick. This method works wonderfully on stained coffee mugs. With any vinegar solution, giving it time to sit and do its work is key.

Here are some tips and recommendations we’ve offered in the past:

Spring cleaning to protect your security deposit

Cleaning tips for your acrylic bathtub

Battling mildew