How to cool down a sweltering apartment in the winter
Despite the cold weather, many New Yorkers struggle with a climate equal to the Sahara in their apartments.
This is a common problem when residents can't control their heat, which many buildings put on full blast to make sure no one is freezing.
Aja Heinlein, for example, lives in a small three-bedroom on the fourth floor of an East Village building that emits steam heat.
"My room seems to be the hottest of all the rooms, so usually I'll wake up in the middle of the night sweating to death," she said.
Lydia Kanuga, a publicist who lives in a first-floor apartment in Astoria, has a similar problem.
"In the winter, honestly, there's no happy medium - it's either freezing or it's so hot, I'm sweating," she said. "I'm dying in my apartment every winter."
While we can't persuade your landlords to turn down thermostats, we spoke with experts who can help you beat the heat.
Betsy Helmuth, of Affordable Interior Design said, that since heat rises, dwellers on the higher floors tend to be especially oppressed by high temps.
"We know to open the window," she said, "but there are other [solutions] that are less obvious." For example, she suggested capping your radiator, a method that is not permanent and will only affect your apartment.
"You can call your super or you can call your plumbing company that will put a cap on the pipe," she explained, "so you keep the radiator in storage or in your closet, so you can put it back when you move."
"It's really easy," she added.
Opening a window doesn't work for everybody.
If your bed is next to a window, your surroundings can go from a desert to an icebox in less than an hour.
Heinlein said her window doesn't face the street and therefore doesn't get much of a breeze.
Since turning on an air conditioner is pricey and not recommended for the winter months, Helmuth said, small window fans are a good solution.
"They have a setting that carries the air out of the apartment," she said. "You want to put it so it carries the hot air out."
Another option, she said, is to replace your overhead light with a ceiling fan.
But, "this does require a pretty savvy super or an electrician," she warned.
Overstock.com, Home Depot and Lowe's offer affordable and energy efficient ceiling fans.
However, Kanuga said her fan doesn't accomplish much. "I've used ceiling fans, regular plug-in fans; it just doesn't work," she said. "It just rotates and circulates the hot air, and it just gets worse."
Patricia O'Shaughnessy, a Manhattan-based interior designer, said some residents need to go heavy duty.
"Heat distribution is often the issue," she explained. "Sometimes it's a matter of using ceiling fans (or other fans) to move the air from the hot rooms, or pushing the hot air down from the ceiling to cooler areas."
For this, she recommends the large ceiling fans sold by bigassfans.com.
The Haiku fan is her personal favorite.
Adding moisture to the air can also help, since apartments often get very dry from the excessive heat, our experts said.
One method is to put a bowl of water on top of a radiator.
Another is to buy a hot or cool-air humidifier.
"Adding humidity is especially important for babies and small children," O'Shaughnessy advised. "The hot, dry air is so irritating to little bronchial passage ways."
But which kind should you choose - cool or hot air?
Dr. Lisa Kaufman, an East Village pediatrician, warned that hot air humidifiers can be dangerous for young children because they can get burned.
But, "the bottom line is, in terms of just humidifying the air, either one of them works," she said.
"It's better for everyone, especially kids, to have some humidity in the air."
Another option O'Shaughnessy recommended is adding a water feature to your decor, such as a small fountain, "to sort of counteract the feeling or sense of dryness," she said.
Creating the sense of a spa in the home is common in the Southwest, she explained, where the air is dry all year round.
Stoneforest.com and Kineticfountains.com to are good to search for products, or try treating yourself to a day at the spa for inspiration, O'Shaughnessy said.