How to Keep Your Apartment Warm

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This post is by Bernie Carr,

This week, a cold front, AKA polar vortex is coming to town.  Indeed, it was much colder getting out of work this afternoon than it was early this morning.

Our apartment windows are very flimsy.  They are single paned aluminum windows that let in the frigid air.  You can really feel the cold air seeping in as you get closer to the windows.  We had to come up with ideas to keep the apartment warm without doing any major work.  These are the options we considered:

Option 1:  Install window films.

Because we rent, we cannot do anything that involves major alterations, and we want to make sure we get our security deposit back if we move.  Window films are hard to remove, and after pricing them out, we found that window films were also far above the budget.

In a pinch, you can try using clear plastic wrap- just stick it around your windows to keep the draft out.

Option 2:  Plastic Trash Bags

On the opposite side of expensive, some people use plastic trash bags to line the cracks and the windows.  Sounds like it can work, but that would be too unsightly.  It is our windows after all, and I don’t think I want to look at plastic trash bags for several days.

Option 3:  Bubble Wrap

We opted for the middle ground:  bubble wrap insulation.  It is temporary but not so ugly.  Please keep in mind this works because there’s trapped air between the bubble wrap and the window.  If the window is leaking around the frame, this will not work and the window would need caulking instead.

If you are planning to do a project like this, please research the various options carefully.  I am not an expert in insulation or window reinforcements, so your results may vary.  You may find something else that works better in your situation.  Just sharing what worked for us.

Here is how we did it:

We went to the home improvement store and bought several rolls of bubble wrap.  We spent about $28 total for 2 large rolls of bubble wrap and a couple more dollars for painters tape.  Upon returning home, we raised the blinds and started lining the windows with bubble wrap.  We then taped the bubble wrap to the window sill with the painters tape.  We lined each window of the bedrooms with the bubble wrap, making sure the drafty crack between the windows and window sills were covered.

The result was great!  You can really tell the difference in the room temperature.  The cold air stays out, and you can no longer feel the temperature drop and you approach the windows.  From the outside, the bubble wrap does not look obvious so the apartment management won’t notice anything odd.  As you can see from the photo above, the downside is, you can’t see the outside too clearly.   This is only temporary though.  In a few weeks, normal warm temperatures should come back, and the bubble wrap insulation will come off.  Then I can recycle the bubble wrap as packing material.

What are other ways to keep your apartment warm?

  • Space heater.  A small space heater may help, if you set it up in the room you are in.  If you are worried about heating when there is no power, a good possible choice is a propane heater such as Mr. Heater.  However there are precautions that need to be taken when setting it up.  I have not tried it personally, so I can’t tell you how well it works, but see this review from
  • Dress in layers.  When it’s this cold, and I have to go outside, I wear a tank top, a T-shirt, a turtleneck and a jacket.  Am I bulky?  You betcha!  But it works and I don’t like to be cold so I put up with it.
  • Rearrange your sheets.    Cotton sheets are meant to keep you cool, but that is not what you need in a cold snap.  Place the fleece or micro fiber blanket closest to you.  It really works.  Flannel sheets work just as well.
  • Warm up your bed before getting in Use a blowdryer and warm up your bed right before getting in.  If you have a dog or a cat have them snuggle in the foot of your bed – they help keep you warm as well!
  • Hang old comforters or quilted blankets  Readers have suggested hanging comforters or quilted blankets as curtains.
  • Set up a warm room  If you have no power, it’s best to congregate in one room and make it the warmest one.  Set up tents and sleeping bags in the middle of the room.
  • Layer on the blankets.  We place several blankets in addition to the comforter on all the beds in the house.
  • Drink warm liquids.   Sip some herb tea and warm up.  Make a nice pot of soup.
  • Rice heating pad.   Just pour uncooked rice into an old sock, sew it closed.  Microwave it until hot and use it as a warmer.
  • Run electric appliances during the day.  Run the dishwasher, cook and bake during the day.  They all help warm up the house.

Caution:  Always make sure your room is well ventilated.  Always have a carbon monoxide detector.  Never turn on gas stoves for heat.

Each winter, I receive emails from apartment dwellers asking for ideas on warming up their space during a cold snap.  Hopefully the tips above help out.  Stay warm!

About the author:

Bernie Carr is the founder of Apartment Prepper. She has written several books including the best-selling Prepper’s Pocket Guide, Jake and Miller’s Big Adventure, The Penny-Pinching Prepper and How to Prepare for Most Emergencies on a $50 a Month Budget. Her work appears in sites such as the Allstate Blog and, as well as print magazines such as Backwoods Survival Guide and Prepper Survival Guide. She has been featured in national publications such as Fox Business and Popular Mechanics. Learn more about Bernie here.



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  1. If your power goes out and you have no heat, another thing you can do is put on a stocking cap when you go to bed at night.

  2. This is perfect timing for us, as we just turned on the heat this morning, thank you! I especially appreciate the reminder about sheets… we only have one set of cotton sheets, and I think it’s time to get some flannels!

    In addition to following some of the above suggestions, we have inexpensive insulating blackout curtains, which (in addition to making our bedroom as dark as a good hotel room at night) help keep the heat out in the summer, and in during the cold months.

    I’m looking forward to a festive and frugal winter!

    1. Hi Elizabeth, Blackout curtains are great – they keep the bright lights outside from interrupting our sleep. You’re right, they keep the cold out too. Thanks for the comment.

  3. we have a large gap along the locking side of the front door to the apt. we’ve found that blue painter’s tape along the gap keeps out quite a bit of cold air. door can still be opened without removing the tape in an emergency, no damage to painted surface.

    we also hang a king size sheet or blanket (from thrift store) along the lower half of balcony glass sliding door — really stops draft from north wind. use large clothes clips to clip to the locking bar (ours is located in the center of the door) and to the sliding door handle. we’d have to move the lock bar to go on to the balcony anyway, and this lets light in from top half of sliding door while helping prevent cold feet and shivery pets.

    never underestimate the power of a good pair of wool socks! stay warm !!

  4. as someone who nearly froze to death last winter because my southern californian apartment “doesn’t need a heater” according to management, I’ve learned a couple of things for keeping warm. Granted my “freezing to death” is a warm day for most of you in the winter but here’s a couple of things that might help:

    1) like Elizabeth said above, thicker curtains helps a lot. Plus they also help keep the heat out in the summer! I have sheers & lined curtains that overlap the windows (except for the kitchen & bath) & it helps a lot.

    2) rugs. I have hard wood flooring but once I added a rug or two it warmed things up a bit

    3) space heaters are nice but use with caution. My folks got me one for Christmas. I plugged it in & took out power for the whole buliding (but now I know where the outside breaker switch is since the inside one didn’t work)! So now I have a fan/heater combo from bed bath & beyond. Not nearly as powerful (you basically have to stand in front of it) but it makes getting ready in the morning possible.

    4) flannel sheets instead of regular cotton, etc. That helps warm things up considerably. I have winter bedding & summer bedding. My winter bedding also includes a down comforter

    5) insulation. There isn’t much but I’ve done some myself. I like your idea of the bubble wrap (especially considering I think I have some that has sticky on it already) but I did 2 things to my doors. I have a draft “wiener dog” at the front door – a stuffed animal that’s long & covers the crack at the bottom. also discourages insects from getting in at night. & I bought some 3M insulation from Target & put it in the door jam in the kitchen. It’s cheap (especially when I had a coupon & it was on clearance) & it only lasted a year. but wow, did it make a difference!

    6) as mentioned above, get an olde fashioned sleeping cap. I ended up buying a woolen beanie from CVS. that as well as socks & mittens helped a lot (get the mittens that let you use a smartphone!)

    7) as a last resort at night, I got a body pillow & slept on top of it or beside it. it sucked up my body heat & it retained it very well under the covers.

    8) give your clothes an iron & put them on immediately afterwards. Another method (that you have to be *very* careful about because you don’t want to leave it unattended & start a fire!) is to lay clothes (like socks) on or in front of your heater. Then put on the clothing immediately after.

    1. Hi Sk8r, Sounds like you have a lot of experience in this subject. I know what you mean, Houston cold, like SoCal is not cold for a lot of people but it is for us. Space heaters can be tricky and I have had one short out after I plugged it-that is why I don’t recommend them I like your stuffed animal weiner dog idea for covering up cracks. Thanks for all the tips!

  5. To help us sleep better in winter, we invested in an electric blanket that we turn on about twenty minutes before bedtime just to warm up the bedding. When we’re ready for bed, we turn off the blanket and it helps us to fall asleep quickly. By morning there’s enough body heat generated to keep us cozy, and reluctant to get out of bed lol.

    We also have a strong, direct winter wind that blows at one of our bedroom windows (which needs replacing when we can afford the cost and time to install). As a temporary measure, we bought a sheet of special styrofoam with foil on one side, plastic on the other, cut it to size, then trimmed the edges with scrap wood trim to keep it snug in the window. Also added knobs for easier removal. Once night sets in, we install the styro piece, then remove it in morning so the moisture that gathers overnight can dry out. It’s worked out very well so far.

    1. Hi Gloria, I like that special styrofoam idea- sounds like both the electric blanket and styrofoam work well. Thanks for the comment.

  6. Hi There – great ideas. Just wondered if you had seen any of the clay pot/candle heaters. This link – has other ideas and links. I have tried the one with loaf pans and tea lights and it works. Have them handy – just in case!!!
    In old days they heated bricks and put them in the bed – or those long handled bed warming pans. If power was on – could try heating a brick in the oven and place in foot of bed – before snuggling under.
    I think good old water bottles are handy to keep on hand too.

    1. Hi Marg, I had just seen the clay pot heater = very clever! I am going to try making one. Water bottles work really well too. Thanks for the comment!

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