Managing Bedroom Temperatures and Sleeping

How can you control the temperature in your child's bedroom to be comfortable for winter sleeping - especially in New York City where come winter time, apartment temperatures can vary from an ice box to a sauna. One parent asks:

"We rent a 2BR in a pre-war apartment building and are having a really hard time controlling the temperature in our 1-year-old son's room, which is heated by a steam radiator. In general, it's way too hot (85+ degrees if the heat is on) so we balance it by opening the ​window a tiny crack. But the heat unpredictably cycles off at night and the temperature will go down to the mid 70s, which feels cold for a baby sleeping without a blanket. We also tried turning the furnace off and it made a really loud banging noise throughout the entire night and he woke up frequently. So basically every night we are scrambling to try to keep the room at a comfortable temperature and it's causing us a ton of stress as the temperature of the room is regularly fluctuating 10+ degrees."

In addition, the parent wants to know...

"Does the landlord have any responsibility to help us out here? Is there even anything in their power to do? Or should we just start giving him a blanket in the crib? I've done this a couple times already when it was really cold in there and he just kicks it off, so I'm worried he doesn't instinctively know how to use it even if it is safe to give him a blanket at this point. I also thought about leaving the heat on and re-installing an AC in his room to regulate the temperature, but that seems like a huge waste of money/energy."

 

Responses and recap:

 

Summary: 

Thanks to everyone who responded! I got so much helpful advice. Full responses below, but the two main points were:

1) radiator valves come in different sizes and you can buy a piece that lets out less steam and won't make the room as hot

2) cooler temps better for babies, buy a warm sleep sack (with leg holes for toddlers) so baby will stay warm while sleeping.

 

Responses:

 

Bundle up with a sleep sack, and extra blankets if need be:

  • "We'd use a Halo fleece sleepsack wearable blanket to keep our son warm even when he was 1 1/2 and it worked out well last winter.  They make them up to like 3T I think.  We left the window closed-- it was too warm at first (like 7:30 bedtime) but he was able to sleep (he got used to it) and then it cooled off at night.  I let him keep the blanket in the crib now at 2+ but it never stays on him."
  • "Have you tried a sleep sack? We like Baby deedee and Woolino. Also, we have a dyson fan/heater. It's self regulating so if you can leave it on all night. It's an expensive choice the unit is about $300 and about $25 for electricity. but it is a temporary solution for an unusual issue."
  • "They make wearable baby blankets (also called "sleep sacks") for just this purpose.  You should Google it.  Our daughter used these until she was in a toddler bed.  They're great.  Hope this is helpful."
  • "My youngest's bedroom also has a wide range of temperatures! Starts out quite warm but can dip down to 65 once it gets really cold out. I use a merino wool sleepsack with her and love it. She's 2 now but we used one with her last year as well. We bought it on Amazon. It was spendy (way more than I'd ever imagine spending on a sleep sack) but worth every penny. I no longer had to worry - is she too cold? Too hot? And on and on. Now we put a blanket in there too in case she wants to use it but really is fine in just the sleepsack. She regularly sleeps 12-13 hours which I know she wouldn't do if she were cold or hot! It comes in sizes 0-2 and 2-4. We used the baby sized for 2 years and it held up beautifullly. Now she has the larger size. It's large enough that she can walk around in it so I don't worry about it restricting her movement or anything like that. If your LO won't wear a sleep sack you might consider wool pajamas which are great at keeping warm but not getting too hot. The only tricky thing is that they are hand wash only so if there are any diaper blowouts - it could be a problem. Speaking from experience - poop all over expensive wool pajamas is pretty frustrating to say the least! Now we have a new rule on our house - no wool jammies until you are totally potty trained."

Check the valve/ vent system, and expect to go to a hardware store for parts:

  • "Please look at the silver vent on the side of the radiator.  It is sized either 4,5,6,C,D.  A room that is hot should go down to a #4.   These screw on,off pretty easily.  You should turn off the radiator before you do this.  The folks at the hardware store can help you with this.   These vents (not valves) are around $15-$20.   If you have a #4 already, there is a thermostatic valve that you can get online or at the plumbing supply on 4th ave or Park Slope Plumbing on 5th and 16th.   This is around $50.00 but it will turn itself off and come back on."
  • "You might ask for them to change the vent valve. They come in differ "letters" That control when room gets heat and for how long. More expensive one have a thermostat you can set and change - I never used them but they look more flexible."

 

Play around with temperature settings:

  • "One is, can you turn the radiator in his room off or down? I'd do that if so. The other is that a mobile one-year-old is absolutely safe with a blanket (I started using blankets long before that age)... but he's very unlikely to keep it on. How about keeping the radiator down and putting him to sleep in super-warm footie pajamas or blanket sleeper?"

 

Get the radiator replaced:

  • "Other options are to have the radiator replaced with a smaller one.  $100 plus the cost of the plumber."  

 

Box the radiator:

  • "Boxing in the radiator will also slow down the heat, and make it safer to the touch.  The victorians used to cover them with quilts to do the same thing."

 

A longer reply about heat:

  1. Steam heat is a binary system. There is on and there is off, no in between. Therefore the boiler  MUST cycle on and off throughout the day--and night --to average out the room temperature.
  2. 70 degrees isn't cold. In fact "normal" room temperature is often considered 68.
  3. The only control you have in each room is to change the air vent. (That's the small cylindrical device at the top of the radiator, usually on the side opposite the inlet valve. ). WHEN THE HEAT IS OFF, remove that vent , take it to a reputable hardware store, and ask them for one that makes the room cooler.
  4. Do not try to control the room temperature by turning the inlet valve. That must be all the way open or all the way closed. Other wise you get loud banging noises inside the pipes. And less efficient heat and sometimes leaks.

I'm confused by your statement that "turning the furnace off and it made a really loud banging noise throughout the entire night." If you turned the furnace off there would be no heat and no banging. Did you mean you turned the radiator "off." If so, see number 4.

 

Related Reading:

How to Winterize Your Home

Steam Pipe Radiator Covers and Keeping Kids Safe from Radiators

Recommendations for Radiator Covers