Want to reduce your electricity and gas bill and reduce your environmental impact? Insulating your home is a great way to make it more comfortable and save money at the same time.
However, you don’t always have the option or means to do a massive home makeover. And, as a tenant, your options seem limited when you don’t want to invest in something that isn’t yours.
I looked into all the best options for insulation and thermal comfort. Most of these you can easily install yourself and take with you should you decide to move.
Finding leaks and applying draught strips as well as insulative curtains or window film can insulate your windows. Additionally, floor insulation or carpet improves the insulation capacity of your floor. Other thermal comfort options are a radiator ventilator or floor heating mats.
First, ask your landlord
Before you buy anything yourself, try talking to the landlord to see if they are willing to invest in a more comfortable and eco-friendly apartment. Additionally, you should confirm with your landlord that you are allowed to make any changes to the appartment.
Additionally, you can look if there are legislations in your region for minimal insulation requirements. For example, in New Zealand, ceiling and underfloor insulation is compulsory, as stated in the Residential Tenancies Act. Landlords who do not have the correct insulation installed may be liable for exemplary damages. Try to find out if something similar applies to your region.
Easy to install removable insulation options
Windows are often the primary source of heat loss in any home. So while large windows can be beautiful, they come at a cost. There are two ways your window can be leaking heat.
First, check if your windows close sufficiently or if there are leaks that produce a draught. You might need to try the following since leaks are not always immediately visible. Light a stick of incense or light a match and blow it out to create some smoke. See if the smoke is rising naturally or if it is picked up by a draught. This method is particularly effective on a windy day.
Second, when your window is only a single pane of glass, the insulation capacity is quite low. Luckily, there are easy ways to improve this without replacing the entire window.
The first thing you should consider is sealing leaks. Once you have found them using the method described above, you can apply draught strips. These are rubber foam or plastic strips that can be taped along your window to prevent air from entering your home.
Another option is to apply a weatherstrip on your window. A weatherstrip is installed inside the window frame and functions similarly to a draught strip. Installing a weatherstrip takes a bit more effort than applying a draught strip, but does not change the look of your window.
Other than windows, doors can let through quite a bit of air. A door snake or sweep is an excellent and affordable solution.
Window insulation film
Insulating window film is an inexpensive, easy to install way to improve your single pane windows insulation capacity. A window insulation film is a plastic sheet that covers your window and increases the insulation capacity. We covered all the different aspects of wind film in our complete guide to single pane window insulation.
Another excellent option for better insulation are thermal curtains. Thermal curtains are specifically designed for insulation and are an aesthetic way to improve your comfort.
However, thermal curtains only provide maximum insulation when closed. Therefore they are most effective in bedrooms or during the evenings. If most of your time spent in the living room is during the early mornings and evenings, thermal curtains are an excellent option.
The thermal curtains below are an excellent and aesthetic option available on dhgate.com.
You can read more on thermal curtains in our complete guide to single pane window insulation.
Floor insulation options
Laminate flooring insulation
Laminate flooring can often be quite cold, especially if your floor is not well insulated. Placing carpet on top is an easy way to increase your thermal comfort. However, carpet changes the look and feel of your room, so you might want to consider other options.
An excellent option is to install an insulating underlayment. Applying a high-quality underlayment can make a big difference in your thermal comfort.
However, there are many types of floor underlays available. Most of these products function as a vapor barrier and provide sound reduction, including less creaking. They are, however, not advertised as an insulating material.
Some products are specifically designed to provide good insulation to your flooring.
Insulation under floorboards on the ground floor can save you about 50 dollars per year, according to the UK's Energy Saving Trust.
If you have a relatively cold floor and tend to wear shoes or slippers indoors, a carpet can vastly increase your thermal comfort. To increase your carpeted floors insulation capacity, you can apply insulation material underneath your carpet.
An excellent option is felt carpet underlay. This rug pad will increase your thermal comfort, provide cushioning, and reduce sound.
We are especially excited about carpets made by the company Interface. Interface carpets are highly sustainable and fully recyclable. Additionally, they are carbon-neutral, meaning they do not emit any greenhouse gasses.
A scarcely insulated loft can be one of the main contributors to heat loss in your apartment. One option is to go for ceiling insulation. Ceiling insulation, however, takes some effort to install and tends to reduce the available space. Therefore, the easiest insulation option to install and remove in your loft is a layer of floor insulation, as discussed in the floor insulation section of this article.
If you live in the United Kingdom, check if you qualify for free or subsidized loft insulation via the government's ECO scheme.
How much insulation do I need?
The size of your apartment, as well as the local climate, play a decisive role in determining the amount and thickness of the insulation material you need. Therefore, we recommend to find out what to insulate first. Then, consider investing in a product such as insulative curtains that is both aesthetic and has a host of other purposes.
If you want to find out how much insulation is recommended for your region, try to gather information from local authorities. For the United States, a map is available that shows the recommended insulation values (R-values) for your region. The map can be found at the governmental website energy.gov.
In your search for the best way to save energy in your home you might have come across the R-value, or thermal insulation value. This is the thermal resistance per unit of area of the insulation material and your wall or window.
The R-value you need depends on your local climate. In some countries governmental or scientific organizations might advise which R-value is desirable for your region.
Take into account the units of the R-value, as sometimes SI (metric) units can be used, and sometimes I-P (inch-pound) units. This can be confusing when choosing which R-value is suitable for your house and how to achieve this. Units are not always given, so find out which country your source is from and what units are generally used there.
In case you need to convert the R-value: 1 R-value in I-P units is about 5.68 SI unit. R-value (I-P) = R-value (SI) * 5,68
The general assumption is that the R-value is linearly related to the thickness. The insulation value differs only slightly between common materials, so it largely depends on the thickness of the insulation layer.
Alternative thermal comfort options
A radiator ventilator
Next to insulation, there are several other options for improving thermal comfort. One of which is installing a radiator ventilator. A radiator ventilator or booster is a cheap and effective way of increasing your indoor heat distribution.
Normally, heat from your radiator rises towards the ceiling and spreads naturally across the room. A radiator booster speeds up the heat distribution in your room, lowering the time for your place to heat up.
A radiator ventilator does, of course, use some electricity. The yearly electricity costs, however, are negligible at less than $0.25 per year. On top of that, by reducing your electricity bill, a heat fan will quickly pay for itself.
Additionally, a radiator booster is classified as noise-free, producing sound lower than 20 decibels. That is lower than the rustling of leaves and will likely go unnoticed. A radiator booster is a cheap, easy to install, fully automatic system that increases your thermal comfort considerably.
I looked around the internet for a radiator booster but it was quite difficult to find. I did, however, find one on ethicalsuperstore.com.
Floor heating mats
Another option is to go for a heating mat underneath your flooring. Heated flooring vastly increases your thermal comfort, especially when you prefer not to wear shoes or slippers indoors.
Heating mats need to be installed underneath tiles or wooden floors and actively heat your flooring. They are available in ranges from taking off the chill to being the primary heating system in your home.
What doesn't work
When looking for insulation materials on the internet, you might have come across insulative paint. But, other than filling some cracks that were letting through unwanted air, there seems to be no evidence that adding paint to your walls increases their insulation capacity.
Insulation is not only dependant on the type of material but also on its thickness. Paint will not help improve your insulation capacity since it only adds a very thin layer compared to the centimeters thick insulation material that is already inside your walls.
Beware of marketing claims
It is easy to get sold on a product because of some too good to be true marketing claim. Therefore, I recommend being on the lookout for suspicious claims such as a (high) percentage of effectiveness that is not backed up by anything.
For example, some insulation materials claim to reduce your energy bill by a certain percentage. However, this percentage is dependent on many different factors and therefore highly unlikely to be true.
For example, the size of the room, the amount of insulation material, your local climate, and of course, your energy use all play a role in determining the effectiveness of insulation material.
Additionally, the mentioned percentage is likely based on a limited study and does not apply to your unique personal situation. Adjust your expectations accordingly.