While some solutions are obvious, most renters are unaware of the long list of options available. From changing lightbulbs to switching window shades, there are plenty of ways renters can keep their apartments cool when it's hot outside.
Here's a list of some of those options, from the cheap to the more expensive -- and with each solution we offer the pros, cons and approximate costs.
Simply unplugging unused appliances, computers, chargers, etc., gets rid of "phantom" loads that gobble electricity and product heat when they're plugged in. If this is too much to ask, turning off electronics and appliances that aren't being used can cut down your energy bill while cooling down your apartment.
- Pros: lower energy bills, good for the environment, opens your eyes to healthy/fulfilling activities
- Cons: bothersome, takes time/patience
- Costs: $0
- Payback: N/A
Close the gaps
If you have any gaps around your doors or windows, unwanted heat from outdoors might be sneaking into your apartment, and cool air from your air conditioner might be seeping out. Closing those gaps can be an easy way to keep your apartment a bit cooler during the hot summer months (and warmer during the winter), so ask your landlord to look into it.
- Pros: doesn't require much work on your part
- Cons: requires cooperation from your landlord
- Cost: $0
- Payback: N/A
Compact fluorescent lamps
Replace your old-fashioned incandescent lamps with compact fluorescent lamps "which provide comparable lumen output but consume much less heat-generating electricity," according to Terry Townsend, president of Townsend Engineering, Inc., and former president of ASHRAE. He says that this simple change, which surprises many who try it, cuts three-quarters of the heat generation during operation. Oh, and they're good for the environment.
- Pros: good for the environment, affordable, lower energy bills
- Cons: more expensive than traditional lightbulbs, might not fit all fixtures, may cause headaches
- Cost: $0-$50
- Payback: 1-2 years
Yes, plants can serve as a real way to help keep your apartment cool, and can also act as something of a placebo. Indoor plants that block windows during the day can serve as shade and help block out the heat. They can also be used to shade air conditioning units, which will use less energy as a result. Decorating with plants instead of rugs and carpets can also trick you into thinking that you feel cooler, so try that if you're in for getting duped -- in a good way.
- Pros: creates pleasing look and feel in your apartment, cleaner air
- Cons: might take up valuable room in smaller apartments
- Costs: $0-$50
- Payback: N/A
If your apartment has windows that let in the sun, close blinds or curtains when you're out during the day. Of course, this requires a good set of window shades to work. "I've lived in several apartments over the years and have found that one of the best ways to beat the heat is to get a good set of drapes and close them in the afternoon," says Kerry Taylor, who blogs about frugal living at Squawkfox.com. Insulated curtains with a white or heat-reflective color facing outdoors can also help keep the heat out of your apartment. Using cotton black-out shades worked for Cambria Bold, managing editor for Apartment Therapy Re-Nest. "It's made a considerable difference in bringing down the temperature of our apartment," she says. "When we get home from work, we pull them up to enjoy the light, and later in the evening if it's cooled down a bit, we'll open a window at the front and back of our apartment to circulate some air."
- Pros: small adjustment, relatively cheap
- Cons: requires not being forgetful
- Costs: $0-$100 (depending on need for curtains)
- Payback: 0-4 years
Portable fans are boring, but effective -- if used correctly. Plugging in a simple portable fan or turning on a ceiling fan helped Taylor survive hot temperatures. However, when used in a closed room or when an air conditioning unit isn't present, fans just blow hot air around the room. The key is to blow hot air out during the day (point fan outside), and bring cool air in at night (point fan inside). Fans used in conjunction with dehumidifiers are "especially effective," according to Townsend, who says that in Tennessee and Florida (where "weather conditions are comparable to a rain forest"), many individuals are surprised at how effective dehumidifiers are at lowering moisture and producing drier environments.
- Pros: can allow you to set higher thermostat set-points, brings about tangible coolness, uses less energy than an air conditioner, higher standard of living
- Cons: requires an investment, especially if you spring for fancier fans/dehumidifiers
- Cost: $25-$500
- Payback: 4-7 years
This is, of course, the most obvious solution to a hot apartment. However, it might not be the most cost-effective or eco-friendly approach to your problem. If you go this route, make sure you know how big a unit you'll need for your apartment. Also, don't use a dehumidifier at the same time as your A/C unit, as it will force the unit to use more energy and work harder. Maintenance is also key for A/C units, especially for older ones. Make sure that air filters are in good shape, that freon isn't leaking, that it's set at proper levels, and that all gaps are closed between the unit and the window it's situated in.
- Pros: quick and easy, guarantees a cooler apartment
- Cons: not the most eco-friendly solution, potentially noisy, expensive
- Costs: $75+
- Payback: 5+ years
*some information provided by Townsend Engineering, Inc.