I have lived many winters without ever needing to put plastic insulation over my windows. If this sentence makes no sense to you, well, congratulations on not living in shitty or old apartment or house in a frigid midwestern or generally northern US state. Or, you know, anywhere else in the world where the outside doesn’t get so cold in the winter that it can leech through every exterior surface of your dwelling to steal every drop of warmth you posses but also so warm in the summer that an unattended egg can cook in thirty minutes of sunlight or less.
Most of my life, I have had the privilege living where the heat was either free or my dwelling was well-insulated. I grew up in a home with heavy, insulated windows and a family whose comfortable temperature was a lot higher than mine, so I got used to blocking heat vents and cracking windows when I was a teenager and had my own room. In college, the individual rooms I live in three of those four years had no control over their individual temperatures so I did a lot of window opening. There were many things wrong with my college, but at least they recognized the truth that being in Wisconsin meant keeping the heat up.
My first few apartments after I graduated either included heat in the cost of rent or were very well insulated and efficient systems, so it was never much of a problem. In the house I lived in for three years, getting the rest of the house to the right temperature meant my room was boiling, so I still slept with the window open most nights.
My current apartment is none of these things. Because of the growing rent in the area I live in, where apartments I rented five years ago for $800 are now going for $1100 despite being worse places to live because they aren’t maintained well, it has started becoming increasingly difficult to find an apartment that includes heat in the cost of rent. Every tax season you can get a rebate for rent that doesn’t include heating, but that’s a once-a-year thing that doesn’t always adequately redress the costs of heating. Especially in the horribly inefficient building I live in now.
Thanks to the bizarre building choices that were made during construction (okay, really cheap and cost-saving because I live in a capitalist hellscape that has been a capitalist hellscape for decades now), most of the floors sap heat like I’m walking on concrete. The walls bleed heat almost as badly, but both of those are still better than the external door I have that, no joke, can freeze water on the colder days. It is a solid metal doorway, installed for who knows what reason, that radiates so much cold during the winter that it’s worse than standing in front of the fridge and freezer with both doors open.
Last year, I didn’t think on it much and just turned the heaters on because I was told they were testing some efficient and effective wall-mounted heating units. They worked great for the end of fall and early winter, but then I got hit with an over $200 electric bill (more than three times what I had paid the month prior). Then the cold really set in, and temperatures dropped into and below the single digits and the only way to keep my apartment warm was to buy a space heater and turn on all the old, inefficient baseboard heaters. With made my electric bill jump up another $200.
This year, I’m prepared. My requests for additional wall units was never fulfilled (they just plug into an outlet, so they should have been easy to add) and, if I’m honest, I’d rather get something that will actually work without running up my electric bill to $400+ heights it hit last year. A space heater and using an AC/Heater unit instead of an AC unit is doing a great job of heating my whole apartment right now. I’ve also spent about $150 on various rugs to cover the tile parts of the floor (tile sitting on concrete, so far as I can tell) and bought a bunch of window insulating plastic that I’m learning to set up properly, one mistake at a time. Once all of this is done and I find a way to cover my metal front door so that it’s not just frozen metal exposed to the open air of my apartment, I should be good to go! All ready to burrow in for another freezing Wisconsin Winter.