Senior Moments from H.O.M.E.

How to prepare for winter weather

Posted by Tom Sahagian on Oct 22, 2018 9:59:00 AM

Today's guest blogger is Tom Sahagian. Tom has more than 30 years of multifamily energy efficiency experience, including stints in the Weatherization Assistance Program, New York City government and various engineering firms.  Now retired, he writes and lectures widely.  This is his first blog post for Senior Moments, but we hope it will not be his last. 

Sahagian_NSH-roof_20180928_092030Chicago’s official heating season began on September 15, and although there have been a few surprisingly warm days since then, we know that cold weather is definitely on its way.  So now is a good time to take a few moments to prepare for what’s ahead.

Every winter a building’s maintenance staff has a difficult balancing act – keep everyone comfortable but contribute as little as possible to climate change.  I had the pleasure of visiting all three of H.O.M.E.’s buildings a few weeks ago and spoke to a few of the residents.  I learned that even at well-maintained buildings like these, some residents occasionally still experience discomfort.  Sometimes the issue is with the heating system; other times, simple changes in what residents do can make a big difference.

At one building I met a resident who had been cold last winter.  This was not a complete surprise, because her apartment is one of the farthest from the boiler.  But she still should have received sufficient heat, so the H.O.M.E. staff and I poked around a bit and discovered that some of the steam pipe insulation in the basement was damaged.  We concluded that if the insulation were replaced the resident should be much warmer this winter, and the repair has begun.

Sahagian-Jim-Kara_PCH_20180928_110501All buildings should make sure that the heating system is tuned up and ready to perform before September 15.  Not only is this important for resident comfort, but it helps save money too.


What Residents Can Do

Building staff have a lot of responsibility, but residents can and must help the staff do their job by taking the following steps:

  1. Alert staff when your apartment is too cold or too hot so they can respond appropriately. Resident feedback is critical!
  2. Locate sources of chilling drafts so they can be sealed up. This, by the way, is the reason some buildings remove all window air conditioners in the winter; chilly air sneaking past an AC unit can make even a warm apartment feel cold!
  3. At night, draw your shades or curtains so that your body “sees” a warmer temperature and thus radiates less heat away from itself.
  4. Make sure your windows are completely closed. If they’re open even a crack cold air will sweep right in.
  5. Keep furniture and other items from blocking the heat sources in your apartment.
  6. Summer’s over, so wear a layer or two of clothing, especially socks – your perception of comfort is heavily influenced by how cold your feet are.

Mable_2We know that sometimes residents are so overheated they open the windows.  This is perfectly understandable, but a better approach would be to alert the staff so they can “balance” the heat (see item 1 above).  This way your comfort is enhanced and the planet is spared a bit of unnecessary combustion.

If we all work together we can enjoy a comfortable, planet-conscious winter.

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Topics: safety, affordable housing