Energy efficiency isn’t just for those who own homes or carry mortgages. Being more efficient can make a big difference in comfort and energy bills for those who rent homes or apartments, too.
“There are simple actions renters can take that are either cost free or very low cost and can reduce the size of energy bills, keeping a renter’s money in the bank,” says Molly Hall, executive director of the Energy Education Council.
Here are some simple steps you can take in your rental home or apartment to make a difference in your utility bills:
- Turn down the thermostat a few degrees, especially if you are gone during the day.
- Turn off lights when you leave a room.
- Use sunlight’s natural heat to your best advantage in the winter. Open curtains and blinds on sunny days to let the sunlight warm your home, and close them on gloomy days and at night to keep the heat inside.
- Disconnect or unplug unused or unnecessary equipment.
- Check the fridge for a leaky gasket. If you feel cold air around a closed door, ask your landlord to replace the gasket.
- Use the energy saver setting for your refrigerator if it has one.
- As long as there’s a cold air return, you can close the vent and door for rooms you don’t use. Experts say without a cold air return, closing off a room can build up pressures that cause the furnace to work harder.
- Use electronic timers for lamps and appliances. Timers can be used to automatically turn appliances on and off. This is especially useful for those times of the day that you are out of the home.
Some efficiency measures cost little and pay for themselves with savings. Check with your landlord to see if he or she will pay for or take care of some of these projects. If utility costs are included in your rent, implementing some of these changes may make it possible to negotiate a lower rent with the landlord.
- Replace incandescent light bulbs with more efficient compact fluorescent bulbs.
- If you have older or leaky windows, consider temporary fixes, such as plastic film kits that create the effect of an interior storm window.
- Weather stripping is relatively easy and available at your local home improvement store. Stop drafts from coming in and heat from leaking out of your home through drafty doors and windows. You could save up to 10 percent of your heating costs by eliminating those leaks.
- Use caulk to seal gaps in the walls of your home or apartment. Wherever different building materials meet or wiring comes out of a wall, there are gaps that may contribute to the loss of heat in your home.
- Fix leaky faucets and toilets to conserve water.
If you are searching for a new apartment and want to find the most energy efficient one possible, here is a checklist of things to look for. (Source: Gainesville Regional Utilities)
- Insulation/Weatherization – Check for strong drafts or any holes or gaps around the doors, windows, pipes, or fixtures. Rentals that are well insulated and sealed use less energy to heat and cool.
- Heating and Cooling Systems – Investigate the age and condition of the unit’s heating and air conditioning systems. Older HVAC and heat-pump systems are often less efficient and more costly.
- Thermostats – Check to see if the thermostat is level, free of dust, and firmly attached to the wall. If not, ask the landlord if he or she would be willing to repair or replace it with a programmable thermostat before you move in. Proper use of a programmable thermostat is one of the easiest ways to save energy and money.
- Appliances – Ask about the age of and maintenance routine for the major appliances, such as the refrigerator, dishwasher, washer/dryer, room air conditioners, stove, and water heater. Older models or those in poor repair will use more energy than newer ENERGY STAR® models.
- Water Heater – Ask the landlord what the temperature is set to in the water heater. Not only will a setting above 120° F cost more, the hot water could scald you.
- Lighting – Check to see if Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) are used in the unit. If not, ask the landlord to change them out or if it is okay for you to do it. Although CFLs are more expensive than standard light bulbs initially, they cost much less to operate and last 10 times longer.
If you are a landlord considering the cost effectiveness of making efficiency improvements, results from a recent survey might help you make your decision. The results show that 56 percent of renters say “energy-efficiency” features are important and 42 percent say “environmental friendliness” features are important when considering which apartment to rent. The survey also reported 53 percent of renters would consider paying an extra amount per month for their apartment to have “environmentally friendly” features and 8 percent said they definitely would.
Find a checklist for renters at Colorado State University.
Energy Star tips for renters
View Touchstone Energy's 101 Energy Efficiency Tips