Save energy and money while renting

Keep energy savings in mind when house or apartment hunting; also take measures that save once you've found the right home.

If you are renting a house or apartment, you have fewer energy-saving options than a homeowner, but you can still save money on energy and be as comfortable as possible by making good decisions.

The initial decision comes when you are looking for a place to rent. Talk to the landlord or leasing agent about utilities and appliances. What is included in the monthly rent – heat, lights and water? What kind of heat is used – gas, electric, oil or water? What are average heating and electric bills for the unit? What is the water bill if you are responsible for it? What appliances are in the unit? Do appliances have Energy Star labels and are therefore less expensive to operate? Is the stove and oven gas or electric? If there is a washer and dryer in the unit; do they operate with gas or electricity? In general, electric heat and electric appliances cost more to operate than gas.

Also look at the available places. Upstairs apartments are warmer in the winter and summer. An end unit may have more privacy, but also may be more affected by the weather where an inner unit is protected from the weather but will have less air flow. What direction does the apartment or house face? Will there be shade in the summer? Will there be cold winds in the winter? Make a decision about what apartment or house to rent based in part on the utility and appliance costs.

Next, talk to the landlord or manager about potential energy improvements. Ask about sealing air leaks with caulking and weather stripping, fixing leaky faucets and toilets, replacing furnace filters and adding storm windows and doors as well as a programmable thermostat.

As a renter, you can have the most impact on your energy costs through energy conservation – making personal, daily decisions to use less energy.

  • Adjust the thermostat to between 75 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and 68 F in the winter.
  • Manage sun exposure. During the summer, keep the drapes drawn during the day to reflect heat. During the winter, keep the drapes open during the day to allow the sunlight in and shut during the night to prevent heat loss.
  • Do not use the oven to heat your apartment. It is a fire hazard and can increase carbon dioxide levels.
  • Run the dishwasher only when full and use the energy-saving setting.
  • Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs which last longer and use less energy. You will save $3.60 per bulb per year in on-going energy costs.
  • If you purchase a room air conditioner, choose one with an Energy Star label and an Energy Efficiency Ratio of at least 10.7. Although the initial cost is higher, the on-going costs will be lower. Place the air conditioner in a shaded window or on the north side of the building. Weather strip around it.
  • If you are getting a new television, VCR, CD, DVD player or computer, purchase one with an Energy Star logo. Unplug small appliances, chargers and electronics when not in use. Use a power strip.
  • Make sure that you do not block registers and cold air returns with furniture or drapes because you need air flow in a room.

Living in an apartment can be an economical choice if you factor in fixed energy costs based on building, utility and appliance characteristics, develop a good working relationship with the landlord or building manger and make daily, personal decisions to conserve energy in inexpensive ways.

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