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With temperatures dropping and heating costs on the rise, how do renters stay warm on a budget?

The first thing to do is use a simple thermometer to check the temperature in the home. If the thermostat is set to 70 and it feels too cold, or the heater never shuts off, it could indicate a faulty thermostat that needs to be reported for maintenance.

Windows and exterior doors should be checked for drafts. If you feel a draft, ask the landlord if it’s possible to install weather stripping or a door sweep.

To cut back on drafts, a rolled-up bath towel fastened with rubber bands can be placed at the bottom of a door. For windows, clothesline clips can be used to attach towels to a curtain rod inside the normal coverings.

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Neither of these options may look pretty, but during cold snaps like the region recently experienced, they can be very effective — and at no extra cost to a renter.

Adequate space around heat registers is also vital to ensure that the heat can flow evenly, and to prevent fire hazards.

For personal warmth, there are efficient ways to stay warm around the house without cranking the thermostat up to 75.

A hot drink in a mug large enough to wrap your hands around is a quick way to warm up. Layering up in fleece and microfiber clothes, hats and blankets can help you to stay warm. Wearing shoes or slippers with a sole to insulate from the cold floor is also a good idea.

The use of area rugs and runners in hallways will also greatly reduce chill experienced from the ground up.

Space heaters are popular for adding an extra burst to supplement the heat in a small area. But remember to never leave them unattended, to unplug them when they’re not in use, and to use devices with an automatic shut-off feature.

If using electric blankets or heating pads, make sure they have automatic shut-offs. Never fold them; this can break the coil and cause electrical burns.

A source of quick heat in the kitchen is to leave the oven door open after use for 10 to 15 minutes. Take caution to ensure that children and pets aren’t at risk of being burned.

What if your heat source is lost? Being prepared for winter emergencies before they happen is extremely important.

Know where the water shut-offs are and how to use them in case of a burst pipe. Have flashlights ready with fresh batteries in them in the event of a power outage. Keep extra blankets available in case heat sources are temporarily lost. Make sure to have food available that does not require cooking, and have a supply of several days’ worth of bottled water.

Power outages can lead to the temptation of bringing a barbecue into the home or garage to use as a cooking source. Tenants should never do this due to the deadly risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Be sure to discuss options with your landlord to make sure the most effective solutions are being used. If placing a work request, submit it in writing, including permission to enter your unit or options for a predetermined date and time for the work to be done.

Sue Lewis works for the Rental Housing Association of Washington, a not-for-profit association of more than 5,000 landlord members statewide. Rental Resource is the organization’s biweekly column. For more information for landlords or tenants, visit

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