With energy costs reaching record highs this winter, University of Wisconsin students are feeling the pinch. To combat utility bills, Madison Gas and Electric advises renters to turn their thermostats down, and students are doing just that.

"Keep the thermostat down, especially when you're gone or sleeping," Jonathan Beers, residential services manager, said.

Still, UW junior Leigh Godin and her five roommates have had their share of high energy costs, with last month's utility bill hitting around $560.

"Don't live in a house," Godin jokingly said of her Mifflin Street residence. "But if you do, turn your heat down because we had ours way too high. We thought, 'We'll be warm and pay more,' but, no, it's not worth it."

Godin and her roommates plan to turn their thermostat down to between 65 and 68 degrees, much lower than the 73 degrees they had recently kept it at, which Godin admitted was part of the high bill. The residents also hope to be strict with lights.

But even with newly installed house siding and new windows, Godin said her residence still feels drafty. To stop the cold air, Godin and her roommates may winterize some windows with shrink-filled plastic.

Doing this to windows, as well as removing window air conditioners and remembering to turn off lights, are other simple ways to reduce energy cost, according to Beers.

"Ideally, with current fuel prices, winterizing is not a bad idea," Beers said, adding that while not everyone likes the look, this is a temporary measure to curb energy costs.

Renters can also use rope caulk to plug up drafts in insulation — a temporary and cheap option, he said.

"This is not as good as shrink-filled plastic, but it can help," Beers said.

Renters should also have landlords check furnace filters and make sure air ducts are cleared for blocked airflow. Storm windows should also be closed and latched for both security reasons and energy efficiency, Beers noted.

But Godin, even with the furnace filter cleaned and checked, said that turning the heat down is the biggest option she and her roommates must consider. According to Godin, the highest utility bill the former residents had was around $450 last year.

"We're just going to have to turn the heat down. We're going to all freeze, but we're living here next year again," she said. "Even with the bills, I still wouldn't want to move. I love this house."

UW junior Caitlin Beduhn and her roommates shared similar frustration when they believed their last month's bill was incorrect and called MG&E only to find it was, in fact, correct.

"We really thought we had a double bill or something," Beduhn said.

Utilities for their South Bassett Street residence cost about $570 for their four-bedroom house.

Beduhn and her five roommates kept the temperature around 62 degrees, but she said there were times when several layers of clothing and blankets were not enough.

"We're energy-efficient girls, and we're very conscious about [utilities]," Beduhn said, "but there's a point where you can only take so much."

To help combat their rising bills, Beduhn's landlord brought them shrink-filled plastic to winterize windows, which Beduhn said has already seemed to make a difference.

"We have an old house that the wind really moves through," Beduhn said. "Many students live in old houses where there's not a lot of insulation. … I recommend covering your windows and sucking it up."

According to MG&E, energy costs break down as such:

– heating — 40 percent
– appliances/other — 24 percent
– water heating — 15 percent
– cooling — 8 percent
– refrigerators/freezers — 7 percent
– lighting — 6 percent