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Why “Heat Included” Isn’t Such a Hot Deal

For the renter who has “heat-included” in their lease, we first have an urgent plea:  Stop wearing your shorts in your apartment.

Instead, put on some pants, throw on the sweater, and help us save heat and energy.

Now the obvious response from the “heat included” folks will be, “Why should I turn down my thermostat?” If heat is included in your lease, then obviously you’ve paid for it, and you should use it, right?

Well, that’s partially true.  But there are two very good reasons why you should join us in an ongoing effort to keep our Madison Apartments energy bills under control, and it’s not just because it’s fun to get warm under a blankie with a cup of cocoa:

  1. You may actually be contributing to a rent increase for future renters or your renewal.
  2. You’re missing out on an opportunity to halt greenhouse gases and get onboard with the UW’s We Conserve efforts.

Let’s take a closer look at both of these reasons.

“Heat Included” Does Not Mean “Free Heat”

girl_with_cap-resized-600In life, as in apartment heating, there is no free lunch.  The same holds true for apartments where heat is included.  As you’ve probably guessed, a landlord isn’t providing you with a free utility out of the goodness of his/her heart.

Many landlords use the allure of “heat included” as a marketing tool to attract renters.  Potential residents usually see this “free” amenity as some sort of added bonus.

That’s not really the case, however.  Rent for these apartments is generally adjusted to include heating costs, based on the actual usage from previous years (at best) or based on highest estimate usage (at worst). Either way, they’re not heating your apartment for free.

In the worst-case scenario, if you plan on renting with a landlord again, the rent may go up if you use excessive amounts of heat and cause the utility bills to skyrocket.

Here are some tips for avoiding excessive heat usage in your apartment:

  • Opening a window is not a great solution when the heat is too high.  If it’s too hot in your apartment and you don’t control the thermostat, don’t open your window for relief.  Call your landlord, and ask questions to find out if there is a more comfortable solution.
  • Close those storm windows.  Most apartments include storm windows that provide an extra layer of protection from the elements.  Check to see that they’re closed.
  • Install covers on air conditioners.  Cold air finds a way in, and warm air finds a way out, especially when you have a through-the-wall air conditioner.  Cover it if possible—ask your landlord, it may be something they’ll do for you.
  • Close the drapes and shades at night, but keep them open during the day.  Heavy drapes will prevent heat from escaping through your window.  During the day, let the sun shine in and warm your apartment by leaving shades and drapes open on the east, south and west windows.
  • Control the temperature and the humidity.  Regularly lowering your thermostat will save you money.  Just lowering the thermostat one-degree (all day, all night, every day) can saves three percent on your heating bill.  Two degrees saves six percent.

You can also save another one percent for every degree you lower your thermostat for each 8-hour period you’re asleep or away at work.  Aim to keep your temperature from exceeding 72 degrees F when people are at home, and lower it to 65 degrees F or less when you are sleeping or no one is at home.

  • Turn down the baseboard heat in unused rooms.  If you have baseboard heat, why heat a vacant room?
  • Don’t buy into the “making the furnace work harder” myth.  A commonly held myth is that you make your furnace work harder when set back the thermostat at night, and then raise it during the day.

That’s simply not true.  You save energy because the house uses less energy to maintain the lower temperature.  Here’s a great article that provides an in-depth explanation.

  • When you leave your apartment for winter break, turn down the temperature.  We’d recommend turning down the thermostat to 60 degrees, and unplugging any computers or electronics.  They still draw electricity, even when they’re not on.

Helping Conserve Energy Makes You a Steward of the Environmentbe_the_we-resized-600We want to use this space to send some kudos to the UW-Madison and its We Conserve program.  The program, launched in 2006, set out to reduce UW’s annual energy consumption and environmental footprint by 20% relative to 2006 levels.  They achieved their goals in 2010.

Big on conservation and waste prevention, the UW’s We Conserve program is summed up nicely in this video.  It shows how the UW is extending their efforts to a personal level – and its shortcomings.  An authentic, candid look, as the title indicates.


How can you become a steward of the program, or “Be the We?”  To put the energy consumption in perspective, We Conserve passes along some startling numbers about HVAC usage alone on campus:

  • HVAC costs account for over 70% of the campus energy costs.
  • 3600 fans use over 26,000 horsepower to push 28,000,000 cubic feet of air per minute to and from the campus buildings.
  • The average cost of conditioning one cubic foot of air entering from outside is over $4.25 per year.
  • Over 640 major air-handling systems are monitored and scheduled for energy conservation using our building automation system.

Check out the suggestions listed on the We Conserve page for “HVAC” (heating).
These are their recommendations when you’re in campus buildings:

  Dress to the season
  Set your room thermostat sensibly
  Adjust your thermostat lower to minimize waste during unoccupied periods
  Unplug electric space heaters and foot warmers
  Make sure entry and vestibule doors are closed
  Make sure storm windows are closed
  Close shades during unoccupied periods
  Report defective thermostats and over/under heated rooms

Looks like what we mentioned at the beginning of the article, right?  What works on the UW Campus will work in your apartment building, too.  So lower that thermostat and throw on a sweater, because the small changes you make can have a big impact on the world around you.
“We have not inherited the world from our forefathers.  We have borrowed it from our children.”  – Kashmiri Proverb


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