7 Ways to Winterize Your Apartment or Rental Home

Even if you can’t make permanent changes, there are steps you can take to prepare your apartment or rental home for colder temperatures.
Deirdre Mundorf Avatar
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As a renter, there are limits to the changes you can make to your residence to prepare for the colder winter months. You’re at the mercy of your landlord or property management company when it comes to the types of tasks that are often recommended for winterizing a home, such as adding more insulation to the attic, hiring a technician to service the HVAC unit, sealing the ductwork, or flushing the water heater. However, this doesn’t mean that you’re completely powerless when it comes to winterizing your apartment or rental home. A few changes can help you get ready for colder weather without threatening your lease.

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Address Drafty Doors and Windows

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Drafty windows and doors let cold air into a home and allow the warm air to escape. Not only will this affect your comfort during the winter, but it will also cause the HVAC unit to work harder to maintain the set temperature. This draftiness can get expensive, and if you pay your own utilities, you’ll notice the higher heating bills. One smart step toward winterizing your home is to add weatherstripping along the tops and bottoms of windows, exterior doors, and door jambs. An even less invasive option for stopping drafts is to place a draft guard along the base of each door. We like this adjustable and removable door draft stopper at Amazon, a favorite in our list of best door draft stoppers for cooler months.

RELATED: How To: Weatherstrip a Door the Right Way

Turn Off the Outside Water and Drain Hoses

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Renters and homeowners alike often forget to winterproof the outside faucets, pipes, and hoses. Overlooking this step can lead to burst pipes and expensive repairs. While the cost of these repairs would probably be the responsibility of your landlord, water from a burst pipe can wreak havoc and damage your belongings. Fortunately, this is a simple problem to avoid. Before temperatures dip below freezing, turn off the water supply to your exterior faucets and open them up to drain the water. You should also disconnect and drain any exterior hoses and bring them inside for the winter when possible. If you’re unable to cut water off to the outdoor faucet, use an insulated cover, like this nylon-insulated fabric faucet sock at Lowes, to shield it from temperature extremes.

Hang Thermal Curtains

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You may not be able to do anything about the insulation in your rental unit, but there are other ways to hold heat in. Thermal curtains, also called insulated curtains, feature multiple layers that help prevent heat from escaping. In addition to the decorative surface that you actually see, thermal curtains have a high-density foam core that not only provides insulation but also helps absorb sounds, so your room will be both warmer and quieter. A vapor barrier behind the foam core protects the foam from condensation. Thermal curtains, like these blackout thermal insulated curtains at Amazon, can cut heat loss by as much as 25 percent, keeping heating bills down and your room temperature up.

RELATED: The Best Thermal Curtains Tested

Set Your Ceiling Fans to Rotate Clockwise

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One of the top ways to winterize your home on a budget is to set your ceiling fans to rotate clockwise. Remember, warm air rises. When you set your fans to rotate clockwise, they’ll send that warmer air from the ceiling to the floor, helping you to stay more comfortable.

If, however, you live in a hot apartment building and have no control over the thermostat, you’ll want to leave your ceiling fans running counterclockwise. This setting blows air down to cool the room. If you’re trying to cool down a space, it’s also helpful to open the top portion of the windows to allow some of the hot air to escape.

RELATED: 10 Things You Should Never Do in a Rental Home

Apply Window Insulation Film

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Window insulation film takes just minutes to apply and can help prevent heat loss through windows. The film, which is typically made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), has sticky edges that adhere to the frame of the window. Once installed, the film can help retain as much as 55 percent more heat.

Be forewarned that when you remove window insulation film, some of the paint may come off with it. Your landlord may deduct a portion of your security deposit to repaint the window when you move out. We recommend using a shrink film that adheres with double-sided tape, like this Duck Brand window insulation shrink film kit at Amazon, which can usually be removed without damaging the paint surface.

RELATED: Are Your Windows Drafty? Try These 12 Solutions for Every Budget

Use Throw Rugs and Runners

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Another simple idea to help you enjoy a warmer winter in your rental home or apartment is to cover the floors with throw rugs and runners. Hard floors, especially tile, marble, and other stone surfaces, can feel very cold under bare feet in the winter. While rugs won’t have a significant impact on the actual temperature of each room, they can help keep you (and your feet) more comfortable as you walk around or sit on your furniture.

Consider the thickness of each throw rug or runner as you shop for the best area rugs. Thicker rugs will provide a more substantial barrier between your feet and the cold floor. Also compare materials, as certain materials will do a better job of insulating your floors. Wool, for example, can be a very effective insulator, but it is also harder to dry and may not be the best option for homes with children or pets. Cotton rugs, on the other hand, add a layer of warmth and may be easier to keep clean, but offer less insulation. It’s a good idea to place insulated rug pads under existing rugs in your home, especially for thinner rugs.

RELATED: 11 Renter-Friendly Ideas for a Reversible Remodel

Cover the Radiator for Too Hot Apartments

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Some renters in urban locales like New York City have the opposite problem—their apartments are too hot in the winter. In many cases, a boiler in the basement keeps the entire building warm all winter long, and residents don’t have the ability to adjust the temperature in their individual units. As a result, their apartments can become unbearably hot.

In this situation, a radiator cover is a great way to lower the temperature. Covering the radiator with a cabinet helps block the heat and diminishes the flow of warm air throughout the room. In addition to cooling off the room a bit, a cover can also disguise an unsightly old radiator and protect pets and small children from the steaming-hot metal surfaces of a radiator going full blast.