Cheapest way to heat my apartment?

Currently in our lovely city of Chicago the temperatures are dropping to about freezing or below. The wind is vicious. I live in an apartment (about 1100 square feet, with big windows) which I love but at the moment it’s a virtual icebox. This is due to the astronomical cost of gas for use in heating (I don’t have any cites for the cost right now; give me a little time). I am reticent to turn the heat on, since it’s not completely incapacitating when I have on socks, sweatpants, a shirt, sweatshirt, and huddle under a thick blanket on the couch. But lately, I’ve been concerned about getting sick and whatnot if it’s too cold, and sometimes I shiver when walking around.

At any rate, is it cheaper to turn the gas on and off (as in lighting the pilot and turning on the furnace for a few hours before I go to bed to let the place warm up and then turn off the pilot and the electricity to the furnace) or to just turn the heat to off and leave the pilot burning when I’m warm enough? Or am I just fooling myself? My gas bill is an unreliable source for comparison right now because I haven’t had the heat on all winter, save for maybe a total of 10-14 non-continuous days.

OK, instead of “cheapest,” I’m more interested in “more/most efficient, in terms of not breaking the bank paying the gas bill.”

Generally speaking, yes, it does save on the bills to turn the heat down at night, but you don’t need to turn it all the way off, as in shutting off the pilot light and everything.

What does make a difference is those windows. Do you have storm windows? You’re renting? Can you get some of that plastic film and stick it on over the windows (inside if it’s an upper-story apartment)? Anything that creates dead air space between the actual glass and the room will help to insulate and keep the warmth in, even big heavy drapes will help (keep them closed).

Also, shivering is the first warning sign of hypothermia, so if you’re shivering while you’re walking around, that’s a Bad Thing. Turn the heat up a bit. Don’t become a Statistic. :wink:

Are you a Low-Income Person? There is Home Heating Assistance available.

I mean, turn the heat all the way down, like with the thermostat to 55 or 60, but you don’t need to shut down the whole furnace completely.

If you’re turning the furnace completely off at night, so the room drops to the outside ambient temperature, which is like 15 degrees, then yes, that’s Bad, and you’re going to get sick, or frozen. Plus your pipes are going to freeze, plus you’re not helping your neighbors’ pipes to not freeze by not contributing your apartment’s share of warmth to the whole building.

Just turn it down, not “off”. :wink:

You have to balance practical needs with the needs of the checkbook and the gas bill.

And did I mention that the Power Company sucks? :smiley:

If the temperature is only now dropping to below freezing in Chicago, then you guys have had one mild winter.

I didn’t think that gas was that expensive a way to heat. But if you’re worried about what the * pilot light * consumes, you are clearly on a very tight budget. In general, you should never be fooling around with the pilot light. Turning the heat to off will reduce your consumption to something barely measurable.

Your best bet is to make sure that you are not losing a lot of heat through those big windows. If they are not airtight, cover them with plastic.

Damn, there goes my smartass comment about a 3-foot deep wall-to-wall layer of compost covered with a plastic tarp.

From having to replace my ng furnance a few months ago, I take it that it’s been some time since pilot lights have been a feature of furnances. The newer ones are a lot more efficent.

I think there are energy programs that may help pay for the new models. You might look into that.

I thought this was going to be another “does it cost more to heat the house if you let it cool down thread” :smiley:

I have dealt with the issue of staying warm while trying to save money myself. Here are some things you may consider:

The smaller the space you need to heat the better. I used to let the entire house drop to 60F and would keep one room where I spent most of my time toasty warm. This is much more efficient and comfortable than keeping the whole house at 68F.

An electric blanket on the bed and plenty of covers is a hugely efficient way of keeping yourself warm for close to nothing.

If you are sitting at a table or desk working you can put a skirt around it and put a heater underneath. This will keep your legs warm. Just be careful the way you set it up so you don’t start any fires.

As has been mentioned, insulation helps.

I doubt this is feasible or practical in an apartment but in a house I used to rig a wood-burning stove in one room. In DC you can find all the wood you want, just for the taking. You have to be careful and understand what you are doing or you might end up burning the house.

I’m a big fan of those plastic window insulating sheets you can get at Home Depot or other places. 3M makes good ones.

I used to live in a big apartment in the Chicago area with a big floor-to-ceiling window in my bedroom. Even though we kept the thermostat (in the living room) at a comfortable 67F, my room was always freezing.

I got some of that insulating wrap for a few dollars, affixed it to the window with the double-sticky tape provided, went over the whole thing with the hair dryer (shrinks the plastic to make a tight seal), and done.

It made a huge difference. And it was nearly invisible, too – I was afraid it would be an eyesore but it wasn’t bad.

We currently use K1 kerosene/electric to heat our place.

Kerosene heaters cost $60-100 for the heater. We go through $10 worth of K1 in 2-3 days.

We put sheets of plastic up in the doorways so the heat dosn’t go down the hallways, where we are not. I also think the sheets of plastic keep the smell in the one room where the heater is. Nice because it is only turned on during the day when someone is home. One in the kitchen only on when cooking is going on.
We switch to small electric heaters in the bedrooms at night. (our landlord pays the electric) We use the oil heaters that look like old time wall radiators. We like them because they are thermostaticly controlled, give a choice of heat levels (600,900 or both) and have no exposed heating elements. One of these runs constantly in our bathroom so we don’t get frozen pipes.(Not to mention a warm bum)

Don’t forget about going out and getting a bit of caulk. It does wonders for those drafts off of doorways, windows, and cracks around them.Turn off your lights and look for spots of light coming thorough where they shouldn’t be. Anywhere light sneeks in cold sneeks in as well. Weather stripping helps here too! Also look around the floors for a settled foundation under an old building can create some hellacious drafts. (problem we have)

Roll up blankets or towels and put them at the bottom of the doors. Lots of cold sneeks in under them. If you aren’t using your back door, staple a blanket around it into the trim, cutting off any flow. (yup, we did this)

I live on lake Erie so I can understand what yer going through. The great Lakes area is no place to be playing around with NO heat.

BTW, I would never use any combustion heater that was not vented to the outside. I prefer to breathe clean air. But that’s just me.

Plastic film is great. I used it in an old Victorian house in Elgin. Worked like a charm.

We turn the heat down to 63 during the day when we’re at work. I turn it up to 70 for the few hours after work when we’re moving about the house. Then down to 65 while we sleep. Our bills aren’t bad at all.

When my son was a baby, we had NO HEAT for a while one winter. Luckily I had a gas stove. We closed off the bedrooms completely and slept in the living room. We actually stayed warm enough.

Thanks everyone for your replies, and sorry for pulling the rug out from under you, Larry Mudd. :smiley: (That’s me smiling, not my teeth chattering.)
DDG, I don’t think I qualify for Low-Income Heating, but thanks for the link. I’ll total up my paychecks and see what gives.
sailor, I covet the wood-burning stove. My sister and her husband have one and it’s amazing.

I do have storm windows, and now that all the windows were replaced last year there’s a big difference in the amount of heat that escapes. I don’t know how the condo association feels about the plastic (which I’d forgotten about despite having numerous friends who use it, so thanks to those who reminded me), but I’ll check the owner’s manual. So now I have a plan, thanks to chilly Dopers. I won’t be afraid of the pilot light anymore, and maybe I’ll get another pair of thermal socks. As far as good points go, the cold apartment has forced me to construct the warmest, coziest bed I’ve ever slept in: an egg-crate thingy on the bottom, covered by a feather bed, and then the fitted sheet. On top of that–or, rather, me–a top sheet, a down comforter in a flannel cover, a wool blanket, a second comforter, and a king-size top sheet. It’s toasty.

Sounds like something I used to do, my roommate called it my nest.

Also as a homeowner with a brick house I heartily second the plastic sheeting over the windows.

Also if you’re feeling handy with tools. You can purchase the plastic and some thin wooden trim strips. Build frames the size of your windows, staple plastic to frame, and hang over windows with hooks/screw eyes/u shaped nails. The couple little holes over the windows afer you move shouldnt be a serious issue. You could also paint the wood to match your walls to make them less visible or look like some kind of trim around he window opening. The weight of the frame will hold the whole assembly snug against the wall if you hang it right.

Done this way they can be stacked in a relatively small space (back of a closet maybe) in warmer weather

I just put in a ceiling fan, it pushes heat up there down & around the room. It’s especially nice when the fireplace is going… But I don’t suppose you have either one of those :slight_smile: