Energy thiefs!

The weather is getting colder in Virginia, and the past week has been especially dreary.

In California, we didn’t have central heat (or air conditioning), so when the temperature went down, we’d just pile on sweaters and maybe put on the space heater.   The only time it was a problem was at night, but even then, it was a simple matter of adding a few blankets to the bed.

This week, despite the cold temperatures outside, we didn’t put the heat on.  It’s just not something we think to do.  It has been about 65o in our apartment, and that hasn’t been uncomfortable at all.

But it has occurred to me that perhaps there’s more than just our adaptability at play.  You see, we have people living on 2 sides of our apartment, and there is an apartment below ours as well.  It’s likely that those neighbors do have their heat on, and that heat is rising up to our apartment.

We’re comfortable, and we don’t have to pay for heat, but is that ethical?

If we ran our heat, those neighbors would probably save money on their electric bills, and we’d pay a little more.  I don’t know how much of a difference it would make in the temperature since we have high ceilings and we’d probably lose a bit through the roof.  Maybe we wouldn’t need the blankets that we usually have thrown on our laps.

Complicating matters is that sometimes, it’s too warm.  A few nights, even with the wicked cold outside, I slept with the bedroom fan on because it was too hot to sleep.  If those downstairs neighbors are heating our apartment, it’s costing us more money to run that fan.

Furthering my confusion is that this summer, we ran our air conditioning. Those same neighbors probably benefited from that if you assume the same heat transfer mechanisms are at play.

We haven’t met these neighbors, so it feels a little awkward to knock on the door and say, “Hey we think we might be leeching heat off you.  How do you feel about that?”

Is there some sort of solution that I haven’t thought of, or should we just accept that this exchange of energy is an consequence of apartment living from which we are currently benefitting?

5 Responses

  1. I’d just accept it. I think it is totally normal and i have heard people in the midwest talking about how they were glad to have a non-corner apartment for this very reason.

    I’m interested to see what others think.

    PS – i use the heat all the time in my apartment. I’m a wimp

  2. This is really something you don’t need to worry about. Because of the way buildings are built, some apartments wind up being warmer or cooler than others. It’s sort of a luck of the draw where you wind up in most cases, so you don’t owe your neighbors anything since you benefit from their heat. And I certainly wouldn’t turn your heat on just to “even it out” if you’re comfortable with the temperature. That’s just using energy to use it up, which doesn’t benefit anyone.

    For what it’s worth, air conditioning doesn’t travel between apartments quite the same way that heat does, and given the way it sounds like your building is set up, it’s doubtful that you running your heater would provide any benefit to your neighbors anyway (particularly the one below you). I’d just run with it, and think of it as karma for someday in the future when you’re in the apartment that might be keeping someone else a little warmer.

  3. That’s apartment living… it’s give and take. They heat your apartment, you cool theirs.

  4. You’re definitely overthinking it, it’s just a side effect of apartment living. There has to be some benefit from the lack of privacy. You can have my drafty house instead, though here in LA it’s not so bad. I don’t miss those Virginia winters, I don’t think I could stand them anymore after living here for so long. Wait till January/February, fall isn’t so bad.

  5. Hehe, you’re so cute! I wouldn’t worry about it. Sounds like it will all even out.

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