If you haven’t spent a winter in NYC, know this: January and February can be particularly chilly. Get ahead of the cold by making sure your apartment is prepared to tackle the impending arctic blast.
Make Sure Your Heat is Working
First things first: Make sure your heat is on and functioning properly. NYC’s “heat season” runs from Oct. 1 through May 1 and landlords/owners are required to provide tenants heat. If the outside temperature falls below 55 degrees between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., the inside temperature must be at least 68 degrees. If the temperature outside falls below 40 degrees between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., the inside temperature must be at least 55 degrees. If your landlord refuses to comply, you can call 311 or file a complaint online.
Check Your Windows
Older apartments tend to have drafty windows. Be sure to look for any cracks and if possible, have them repaired. In addition to caulking them, you could also install heavier window dressings to prevent the cold air from making its way through your apartment. Another option would be honeycomb shades, which are made from a pleated fabric that creates honeycomb shaped compartments. The compartments help trap air, which provides insulation. (More on drapes below). Another trick is to use a door/window draft stopper. Be aware if you buy one filled with sand, you could have quite a mess on your hands if it tears or there is a leak in the fabric.
Space heaters are great for supplementing your apartment’s heat, but they shouldn’t be used as the primary source of heat. While they are efficient and affordable, they can be fire hazards. First fire safety tip: Do not jack them all the way up for long periods of time because they can get overheated. Second, always plug your space heater directly into the wall as extension cords and power strips can also overheat. Third, keep space heaters at least three feet away from anything that is combustible. Fourth, never leave the apartment with the space heater on!
Here are two reliable and affordable space heaters on Amazon:
- Just a foot high and with two basic settings, this Vornado VH10 model is simple, lightweight and effective ($77.60).
- The DeLonghi EW7707CM is an oil-filled radiator-style heater that has three settings and is on wheels to facilitate mobility. ($78.12)
They might remind you of your little old Grannie, but electric blankets really pack a wallop when it comes to staying warm in a drafty apartment. Again be careful with how you use them because they can pose fire hazards. Leaving it on overnight while you sleep is not safe so instead, pre-heat your bed before tucking in. Turn it on about a half hour before you go to bed, then turn it off once you’re in. Or, buy an electric blanket with an automatic shutoff. Electric blankets are not recommended for pet owners as dogs and cats may scratch or chew the wires, posing an electric shock risk.
Electric blanket suggestions on Amazon include:
- The SoftHeat Luxury Micro-Fleece blanket ($179.06) features ultra-thin heating wires and is soft and plush. Just an FYI that shipping can take up to four weeks, so if you are considering an electric blanket, hurry before spring arrives.
- The Sunbeam Quilted Fleece ($44.69) is a more affordable option that ships in under a week. Worth noting is the texture is not as soft as SoftHeat and the wires can be felt.
Heavy Drapes to Keep Out the Cold
All window textiles are not created equal. To cut down on the draft, you’ll need heavier fabrics. Think suede, velvet, tweed blend or two layer curtains. Buying insulated curtains is also a thing now. Just make sure these curtains are not blocking airflow from your radiator.
Be Careful of Your Furnace
Do not store anything in your mechanical, furnace or boiler rooms. Junking up these spaces, especially with flammable items like paint, is a major fire hazard.
Avoid Frozen Pipes
Because water expands as it freezes, it can put pressure on your pipes and cause them to crack or burst. Most susceptible are pipes along the exterior walls that lack insulation or outside hose hookups. To help prevent frozen pipes, keep your home temperature at least 55 degrees. If temperatures drop below freezing, it will be necessary to let your pipes run with a slow drip. You can find more information on preventing damage from frozen pipes here.
Use Your Oven to Your Advantage
Winter time is prime time for whipping up hearty meals or baked goods. Embracing your inner chef can also help warm up a small apartment. Roast veggies, try out a casserole or lasagna or bake a pumpkin spice flavored dish. You’ll fill your tummy and enjoy the heat generated from cooking. Important: Do not use your oven to help heat your apartment as it could lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
Stock Up on Non-Perishable Food
There will come a time when you don’t want to leave the house to grocery shop and the weather is too bad to order in. That’s why it’s a good idea to have some soup, chili, or noodles on hand. Plus you’ll avoid the snowpocalypse shopping crowds when there’s a real blizzard.
Play in the Snow at Your Own Risk
NYC isn’t the suburbs. Snow gets really dirty, really fast in such an urban environment. In poor weather, people are lax about picking up after their dogs and if it’s really bad, garbage won’t get picked up either. What you get is a combination of poopsicles and frozen garbage. Gross.
Bundle up and steer clear of yellow snow!