I live with roommates, and am only a renter not owner. I'm looking for ways to help with energy conservation despite this. We have one roommate who is wasteful about leaving lights on and, in particular leaving the bathroom window open in a heated house for some reason, and I try to address that. General tips for helping my roommates to save power use are always good.

However, my main concern is in heat. My room is smaller then the rest and as a side effect grows warm much faster. I'm very hot and wake up with a dry throat, and can only think how much energy is being wasted on something I don't want. However, we don't have individual thermostats or any way to close my floor vent; and my roommates don't want to lower the heat since they are comfortable where they are.

Is there a good way for me to divert the heat away from my room, both for my own comfort and for saving energy. The obvious idea would be to cover the vent with a blanket or something, but I think I read this is bad for the heating system as a whole due to the build up of pressure on the closed off vent? Any other tips for diverting the heat? Or convincing the roommates to just lower it.

  • Could you please describe the heating system being used? I understand that it is some kind of a central heating. Is it based on hot water circulation through radiators? There is a single thermostat in a certain room and simple (static) valves on individual radiators? – pabouk Nov 27 '13 at 8:45
  • If you are going to cover your vent, be safe and don't use a blanket (or any other material that may burn). Better use metal or foil. – THelper Nov 27 '13 at 9:43
  • 2
    Covering the vent is probably viable, but I fear that this is a primarily a getting-along-with-housemates problem rather than a technical one: You want to convince them to turn the heating down. Is the issue just overnight? If so, you could buy them warmer duvets for Christmas... ;-) – Flyto Nov 27 '13 at 10:01

Your second question is the easy one: it's fine to block off one register, partly or completely. The problem comes when too many of them are blocked off (the furnace can't push enough air to work effectively). If you also have an exit vent in your room a door snake will help keep the warm air from the rest of the house out, once you've partly closed off the register.

The first question is much harder. I've lived in share houses for 20 years or so, and have not found a reliable answer. Which is especially odd given that most of those houses have been full of explicitly eco-friendly folk. The answers are the same as any political campaign or social change movement, but applied to a very small group of people (your roommates).

It sounds as though you've already done the "ask them" step, and probably the "explain why" step. If not, do that. Saving money is usually the big win.

You'd probably be better addressing the highest cost areas first. Lights are usually minor, especially if you're using compact fluorescent bulbs or LEDs already. Heat loss is where the money goes, and leaving a window open when the heating on is going to really hurt you. I suspect you will find they do it to get rid of the steam, and the usual solution is an extractor fan linked to the light switch. But it's not your house so that's not an option. If you have a mould prblem you could speak to your landlord about that, and see if they will install a fan. But regardless, the real solution is to persuade the roommate not to leave the window open.

First make sure the roommates, especially the window-opening one, understand the problem of heat loss, that it costs money, and makes the house colder in that area. Ideally get some of them on side, because peer pressure works. In the worst case, if everyone except that person is annoyed enough you can kick the problem person out.

Next you just have to work on the behaviour change. There's lots of tips for behaviour change around (it's a whole major area of scientific research as well).

There's a group called Green Renters in Melbourne but I can't find anything similar in the US (Australia is mostly a cooling climate so GR don't have much on heating).

  • Bathroom: Get a small fan, and try getting people to turn the fan on to exchange air with the rest of the house instead of opening the window. This also requires people learning to leave the bathroom door open when not in use. – Sherwood Botsford Feb 18 '14 at 13:59

Regarding the bathroom window, if there's no ventilation fan or equivalent then it's not a simple task to get a balance between avoiding dampness/mould and losing heat. As a general rule, I go by this: if the condensation has evaporated off the walls and ceiling, then it's time to close the window (at least, mostly close it). If you keep an eye on how long this takes, you (or your roommate) could use a timer to remember to shut it, though it will differ somewhat depending on weather conditions.

Of course, a ventilation fan may cause even more heat loss than an open window, but you might feel it elsewhere depending on where it draws in cold air from.

Running a dehumidifier and leaving the window shut might be a good compromise? The waste heat from it will help heat the house too!

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