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.

Know the rules, don’t get burned

When you rent an apartment, you enter into a contract with your landlord, so it’s important that you understand all the terms and conditions of that contract.

Your landlord or an agent of your landlord will likely go over your lease with you at the time of your signing or have you read it before you sign. This is the best time to ask for clarification if there’s anything you’re not sure about. But this should not be the last time you ever look at your lease.

security deposit, lease
Knowing the ins and outs of your lease is key to saving you money and aggravation if any issues should arise.

You will receive a copy of your lease that, of course, you should keep on file in a safe place. When you first receive that copy, you should look it over and refresh yourself on the important points:

  • The amount of your rent, when it’s due, and how you are to pay and where you should send/bring it
  • Late fees, fees for bad checks, and other charges you could incur
  • What utilities are included in rent and what you need to pay yourself
  • The duration of the lease, especially the exact end date
  • Rules about renewing your lease and when you can expect to receive a renewal notice
  • Rules about ending your lease early in the event of a job transfer or other situation
  • Parking regulations
  • How to report maintenance issues and other concerns
  • What, if anything, your are responsible for by way of repairs (most commonly, renters are responsible for changing light bulbs and batteries in smoke detectors)
  • Your landlord’s contact information
  • Your exact address
  • Stipulations regarding your security deposit (when will it be returned, and what do you have to do when you move out to ensure its return)

Yes, some of these points are basic, but you’d be surprised what can slip your mind amidst the chaos of moving. Plus, if you give everything a second look right away, you’ll be more likely to remember it later on when things like renewing your lease become a more immediate concern. When you come across phone numbers for maintenance and your landlord’s office, save them in your phone and also write them down in an address book or save them in some other secondary location.

If you have a question for your landlord about something, take a moment to pull your lease out of its safe spot and see if anything written in it answers your question. If not, call your landlord and ask. If you’re even the least bit unsure about what your lease states about a certain issue, such as under what conditions you would be allowed to end the lease early, call your landlord for clarification and write yourself a note to attach to the lease for future reference. When you’re done, remember to put the lease back in its safe spot.

Knowing your lease is the key to having a good experience renting, so if it’s been a while since you looked at yours and you’re fuzzy on the terms, pull it out and give it a read.

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?

Winter is around the corner: are you ready?

Mid-September might seem a bit early to discuss prepping for winter, but according to the Farmers’ Almanac, we’re in for a cold, snowy one as well as a white Thanksgiving. Here are some tips to help you get ready.

  • Take out window ac units. Lots of cold air seeps in around an ac, so remove it before it gets cold to cut back on energy costs. Plus, if you like a tidy home, time is running out to clean your windows inside and out, so why not tackle it all at once.

    Prep before snow falls on Pittsburgh
    Steel City will be covered in a blanket of white soon enough. Is your home ready?
  • Insulate windows. We’ve mentioned window insulating kits before as a means of saving energy, but it can’t be repeated enough that the cheap, easy to use kits are well worth it. Even if heat and other utilities are included in your rent, rising energy costs lead to rising rent, so it still pays to insulate.
  • Sweep out your garage. Those fallen leaves are accumulating and you  won’t want to deal with them once there’s snow on the ground. Remember to keep the door shut so animals looking for a cozy spot don’t get any ideas.
  • Rent a garage. For those of you who aren’t already taking advantage of covered parking opportunities, now is the time to look into it. You’ll be thankful come November that you’re not stuck outside scraping ice off the windshield.
  • Make any necessary calls to maintenance. You probably have a small thing or two that needs attention: a drain that’s not clogged but running slowly, a sticky door handle, or something else that isn’t an immediate concern. The sooner you call maintenance the better because with the first snow fall, even a robust crew will be busy.
  • Buy rock salt and a shovel. Even if you rent and don’t have to worry about clearing sidewalks or driveways, it’s smart to have a bag of rock salt in the trunk of your car in case you get stuck somewhere. And that shovel will come in handy if the plow piles snow against your car as it clears the road. (That garage sure is sounding nice, isn’t it?)

Fall is a nice time to move: beat the heat of summer AND the chill of winter. Contact Prudential Realty Company for our current availability.

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.

Easy ways to conserve energy and save money

Two weeks ago, we shared some ways to stay warm and safe in extreme cold. In that post, we missed one key method of optimizing your heat: move your furniture away from radiators and air vents so the hot air doesn’t get trapped. So now that we’re on the subject again, why not talk about conserving and saving with the rest of your utilities?

Water

  • Report any leaks, dripping faucets, malfunctioning toilets, etc. to maintenance immediately if you rent or call a plumber if you own. You wouldn’t believe the amount of water wasted by a broken toilet.
  • Turn off the tap when you’re not using water, like while brushing your teeth. Yes, this one is old hat, but it’s an important one to remember.
  • Recycle old water for other things. When your cat’s water bowl needs a change, don’t dump the old stuff down the drain, use it to water your plants. Don’t have a cat? Put a bucket in the shower to collect the water as it heats up. Even just-boiled water from cooking pasta can be used as an herbicide on weeds.
  • A short shower actually saves more water than a bath, another tried and true water conservation tip.
  • If you don’t have a double basin sink, get a rinsing tub to set into your basin, turning it into a double sink. When washing dishes, fill the tub for soaking and run the faucet in the other half of the sink only when rinsing.

Electricity

  • Charge devices conservatively. Your cell phone likely tells you when it’s fully charged and recommends that you unplug it and the charger to conserve energy. Listen to that prompt. Do the same with your tablets, digital cameras, laptops, and other devices.
  • Know your device and how to conserve its charge so you don’t have to plug in as often. A darker screen uses less energy, so dim your screen and set wallpapers and color themes to darker hues. You can use Google-powered blackle.com to save wattage while searching.
  • Because laptops run on battery, they use less electricity than a desktop, so if you’re on the market, consider the portable option.
  • Turn out the lights when you leave a room, and rely on natural light as much as possible to extend the life of light bulbs and conserve electricity. The same goes for your TV, fan, and other electrical appliances.
  • Replace incandescent bulbs with fluorescent or LED bulbs. Even though they’re initially more expensive, fluorescents and LEDs pay off in the long-run by saving money on your electric bill and lasting longer than traditional incandescent bulbs.

Contact Prudential Realty Company to find out about what utilities are included in rent as well as our current availability.

Pittsburgh’s cold winter calls for special precautions

We’ve just had a serious cold snap here in the Pittsburgh area, and since winter’s nowhere close to over, now is a good time to talk about conserving energy while staying warm.

Whether or not your rent includes utilities like gas, electricity, or heat, conserving energy is good for the planet as well as your wallet (exorbitant utility bills can drive rent up from year to year).

Pittsburgh winter
Even in the cold and snow, Pittsburgh is a pretty city.

Here are some quick tips:

  1. Make sure all windows and doors are properly insulated. A rolled up towel against the base of a drafty door is great in a pinch. Window insulation kits are cheap, easy to use, and work miracles.
  2. Take out all window air conditioning units and make sure all windows are fully closed.
  3. Keep all the doors inside your home open so the air can circulate and heat everything evenly.
  4. Never use your oven to heat your home, this is dangerous, especially with gas stoves.
  5. Contact maintenance if your heat isn’t working properly, a good maintenance service will take care of any issues—both too hot and too cold—in a timely manner and even provide space heaters in emergencies.
  6. Never open a window over a radiator in cold weather: this can crack the radiator and flood your home, and you will likely be charged for the water damage as well as the replacement of the radiator.
  7. When moving, find a home with new windows and doors, and check for drafts when touring rentals if possible.
  8. Never forget the tried and true practice of layering up with cozy sweaters and socks. Hot beverages warm you from the inside out, so while you wait for maintenance, have a cup of tea or hot cocoa.

As long as we’re on the subject of winter and heat, be sure to take precautions for your pipes during extreme cold. Open the cupboard and vanity doors under all sinks so warm air can circulate to them. Keep your water dripping so it doesn’t freeze inside the pipes.

Contact Prudential Realty Company for our current availability and to get information on the heating systems on our properties as well as what’s included in rent.