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I live in an old rental house with 12 foot ceilings and zero ceiling fans. I am trying to conserve as much energy as possible as heating costs are expensive. I have placed plastic on all of my windows and close doors, etc. but I am wanting to do more. My question is this, if I hang items from my ceiling, will that help keep my energy costs down? I am not sure what I would hang but almost like panels of some kind. The intent behind hanging panels from the ceiling is to help keep the heat from rising to ceiling level. My landlord is not likely to install ceiling fans. Would it make a difference even if I don't do a whole complete "drop-down" ceiling? Like, if I hang 2 or 3 panels, will that help in the slightest?

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There are two general approaches to reducing heating costs:

  • Reduce the amount of space/floor area/volume that needs heating.
  • Improve the insulating value of the enclosure (eg. plastic on windows)

Suspended Panels

It sounds like your primary concern here is the 12" high ceilings, and you are wondering if you can effectively reduce the volume of the room by suspending panels as a way to divide the room.

I'm mostly just guessing here, but I don't think suspending panels would help much at all. A successful outcome would result in the high-ceiling area having a lower temperature (closer to the outdoor temperature) and that seems incredibly unlikely because heat likes to rise. Gaps will facilitate convection, and the panels themselves would conduct heat readily unless they were already efficient insulators (at which point, why suspend them instead of using them as insulation).

Alternatives

It is worth noting that raised flooring (such as Korean Ondol) is a recurring architectural element that helps maintain comfortable warmth inside a home, but that's probably too severe a retrofit to consider for your space.

Closing doors between rooms is a more common and effective way of reducing the heating area. If you have some rooms that don't need heat, isolating that room by closing the door, closing heat vents, turning off baseboard heaters etc. can make a big difference.

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Single panels will not do very much at all, they just reduce air circulation and slightly increase the thermal mass of the room.

Two effective strategies I've used are: buy cheap cloth (ideally not flammable, just for safety) and hang that right across the room. You want to make it as close to a complete ceiling as possible. If you can, two layers will work better. Wall hangings might also help if you have cold walls (I did this in one awful rented flat), ideally hung a couple of centimetres out from the wall (it's the air that insulates). Adding proper curtains and pelmets often helps as well.

I've also build draped/four poster beds, once with thermal drapes and polystyrene on the roof. Those are very effective because the contained volume is tiny. But obviously only useful while you're actually in bed.

It's also possible to pitch a dome tent inside the room, and that will help. Those are cheap, but also very flammable. That means no candles, but also taking care not to get any other accidental flames near them. It's worth thinking about whether you're impeding your fire exits when doing this sort of thing.

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