Insulation for an Old House?

We rent our home that was built in 1900. The house has very little insulation. We kept towels under doors, covered the windows with plastic, and used space heaters. Our city bill was still almost $300 every month during the winter (Iowa), and it's supposed to be an even colder winter yet. What can we do that doesn't cost a lot (it is a rental) to help insulate it? For example, the walk-in closets are freezing and the upstairs bathroom and one of the bedrooms has no heat source at ALL.
  12 answers
  • Adrianne C Adrianne C on Aug 29, 2014
    You need to talk to the owner about this. Insulating the house may be an expensive project that they may not be able to finance. I'd find out just how much it would cost to have it insulated, and go from there. Perhaps something could be worked out.

  • Carole Carole on Aug 29, 2014
    Talk to the landlord. He/she may be able to install a tastic in the bathroom - one of those fan/light/heated bulb things that is mounted on the ceiling. Once installed it will keep the damp out of the bathroom while you bath or shower and keep you warm while you use the bathroom. I don't believe these are expensive to buy/install. Draught excluders that attach to the bottoms of the doors leading to outside are very cheap and simple to install too. For the windows, if you have curtains, get them lined. Using heavier curtains in winter will keep draughts out. Also ensure that if you have curtains, the curtain rail extends beyond the window so that there is coverage where the window ends and the walls begin. Draughts creep in here too. If you have blinds rather than curtains ask the landlord if you can install curtain rods over the windows so that you can hang heavy curtains in winter to keep draughts out. Windows should also be properly sealed. If there are gaps, there may be scope to put some draught excluder around the window frames. Electric throws are good for the lounge when you are sitting in front of the tv - plug in and they warm up quick and keep you cosy and better still you can take these with you when you move house. I would also get someone out to quote for central heating or storage heaters and then when you speak to the landlord you already have your facts to hand as to how much it would cost them to install. They may recoup the cost by increasing the rental a little but it might work out for both parties. Good luck and stay warm!

  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Aug 30, 2014
    The only real answer is to weatherproof the house by putting insulation, weather stripping around doors and windows. You might can help a bit by putting in some caulking around the windows inside and out if the owner will allow it. Old houses can be expensive. But in the end, nothing much is going to help without insulation and double/tripple pane windows. The beauty of an old house might not be worth the cost!

  • Sheila Pack Sheila Pack on Aug 30, 2014
    I don't know what the answer is, but I can advise you what NOT to do. We spent a fairly large amount of money (for us) having foam insulation put into our exterior walls. The holes were made on the outside, expanding foam was injected, and the holes were resealed with caulking. Unfortunately, the expansion 'blew out' the drywall in several places, but since my hubby was handy with repairs, we didn't consider that more than an unfortunate inconvenience. Our heat bill went down for the first two years... but then the third year, the bills were high again, and when we broke into an exterior wall for a bathroom remodel the following Spring, we discovered why. The foam insulation had SHRUNK, pulling away from the 2x4s, rendering the foam useless. It actually was worse than it had been before the injection, because during its initial expansion, it flattened the existing 'pink fiberglass' batting insulation. Then, when the foam shrank, it left HUGE gaps where there was no effective insulation AT ALL. The foam company came back, and reinjected the walls (again, blowing out more drywall when too much was shot in), but who knows if the 'new formula' will indeed resist shrinkage and remain effective?? So, stay away from injected foam insulation, it doesn't last and IS NOT WORTH THE MONEY!

  • Greg Greg on Aug 30, 2014
    move to a better rental. My electric is at peak 165$ that's heat and ac I have electric heat. Those space heaters are very expensive to run. Good luck in whatever you do

  • Energy Wise Mfg. Energy Wise Mfg. on Aug 30, 2014
    I understand your predicament, with a rental it's tough. I read your blog, it was inspiring. Here's what we would do for you, let me know how many feet of that shrink film you need for all of your windows in the house and we will send it to you no charge. Let me know if you'd like to take us up on our offer. Energy Wise Mfg.

    • See 4 previous
    • Judy Cowen Judy Cowen on Dec 10, 2014
      @Energy Wise Mfg. Sorry Energy Wise Mfg. just got your message from August!! You were wondering if you should message her - I would if I were you. By the way, if you have any insulation that you are about to give away/throw away I am like Idyllic Pursuit in that my house is old and in dire need of insulation. Thanks!!

  • Angelique H Angelique H on Aug 30, 2014
    Chaulk!!!! Around all windows and doors inside and out. I did this while renting an old farm house and cut our heating bill by a third. The landlord would not do any insulating. I also bagged up leaves in the fall and stacked them around the back of the house (the wind blew in that direction) at the base of the wall and the lawn. It really did make a big difference. Good luck!!

  • Angelique H Angelique H on Aug 30, 2014
    Sorry almost forgot the other IMPORTANT STEP put up window film!

  • Pat Pat on Aug 30, 2014
    You can apply bubble wrap to the windows. It would still let in some light. Check around to find the best cost (Walmart, Lowes, Home Depot' etc). It should be under $20 a roll. Cut to fit. It will be in pieces since bubble wrap is not very wide. The first year, I used small bubble wrap. Last year, I used the bigger bubbles and the area by the window was warmer than the previous year. Next, use a spray bottle of water. Spray the window. Pat on each bubble wrap piece. It should hold through the season. If not, just spray and pat again. It also cuts down on the condensation on a window. I have used it on the lower part of garage windows, too, as a security measure. What you cannot not of interest. Lots easier than the shrink wrap insulation on a window!!!! Hope this helps.

  • Darla Darla on Aug 30, 2014
    This may sound strange, but if you can hang old quilts on the inside of your walls that will help. You could even get a roll of Tyvek and attach it all around the inside of your house's outer walls. Ugly but anything to add a barrier to the cold.

    • Kate Kate on Aug 02, 2016
      And that's what old fashioned tapestries and wall hangings were for!

  • Helen Mays Helen Mays on Aug 31, 2014
    If you have the inclination, get old wool carpet and staple it across the floor joists underneath the house. Watch out for any electric wires.. You can get wool carpet for free from carpet shops, as when they lay new carpet they have to pay to have the old carpet dumped. You can use just underlay, or the carpet itself. It makes a difference to the warmth of the house. Also, hang cheap quilting or old blankets on the inside of your curtains. I got some from an arts recycling shop for a couple of dollars. You can also use bubble wrap between the curtain and the lining,

  • Christine Brown Christine Brown on Aug 31, 2014
    @home talk. Do your self a big favor and use foam insulaton . termite wont eat, cant burn,seal it perfect. They have a close foam for out walls that has been done. Saved me just 600.00 a month. I spray outer walls and base boards. The additon was so cold with rated R 19 insulation under that part, no basement under there so I spray all flooring. No outside air again. I use a pro to do it, it is costly but your bills will go down wiith in a year, you have payed for it. If your house is ten years old they need to be replaced,even if you can do one at a time.