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How to Be Energy-Efficient When You Rent

Renting poses unique challenges for the eco-conscious set. As much as you want to make sustainable upgrades, you might not have the ability or pocketbook to improve someone else’s property. 

However, you can take measures and modify everyday habits to decrease your carbon footprint. Here are 10 ways to be energy-efficient when you rent and strike a sustainable balance between your conscience and economic reality. 

1. Ask About Insulation


When it comes to home improvements, insulation might do the most to ensure your comfort while costing the least. Unfortunately, your landlord might not realize when it needs to be replaced since they don’t dwell in the unit, shivering as their feet sit on their uninsulated garage floor. 

Perform an inspection to determine whether yours needs to be replaced. Make sure you have a vapor barrier installed under attic insulation, and if not, consider using special paint to reduce the amount of heat that can pass through your ceiling. Test the seals around pipes, exhaust vents and windows. 

Your garage is one of the least insulated areas of your home and can cause a draft each time you open the interior door. An insulated door can cut your costs considerably and protect your vehicle from temperature extremes. 

However, if your landlord won’t foot the bill, insulating the area with the pink stuff will still safeguard your car from temperature extremes. It will also keep your feet cozier if your home office is directly above by keeping the floor warmer. 

Another energy vampire often lurks by your doors and windows. If you catch a chill while sitting by a window, it’s time to get out the caulk gun. If you can see sunlight through the cracks of your front door, it’s time for new weatherstripping. Both projects cost little but can make a considerable difference in monthly heating and cooling costs. 

Your landlord or letting agent should perform minor repairs for you. However, if your property manager falls more on the absentee side of the scale, you can undertake some maintenance yourself and deduct the costs from your rent. Many states allow reasonable charges, but check with your local jurisdiction to verify your rights. 

The bottom line: Since insulation is so affordable, renters might want to DIY to improve energy efficiency. However, it still promotes harmonious relationships to communicate your plans to your landlord in advance, even if you don’t expect a reply. 

2. Dim the Lights


Unless you rent a bedroom in a private home, your landlord probably doesn’t supply lightbulbs — and they might not even if you share an abode. You can increase your energy efficiency when you rent by replacing burned-out bulbs with LEDs. Energy Star-rated versions use at least 75% less energy than incandescents. 

Their longevity gives them considerable other advantages for renters. You can pick up LED puck-lights to illuminate your counter space without flipping a wall switch when preparing meals. You can also replace plain white models with interesting colors — a soft blue or green tone in the bedroom sets the mood for relaxation and meditation. 

Another rent-deductible swap to consider is replacing some of your standard wall switches with dimmer versions. These devices save energy by reducing the flow of electricity to the bulb. They also make it possible for you to create a restaurant-like ambiance when you sit down to dinner. 

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3. Make Use of Natural Lighting


While curtain rods and blinds are considered fixtures in the real estate world, curtains are personal property because they can slide off the end. As a renter, this means you don’t have to live with those heavy velvet blackout numbers that make your pad look like a funeral parlor. 

Get rid of heavy curtains and roll up your blinds to let in the sunshine. An inexpensive upgrade to consider is one-way window film. This substance performs multiple roles. It can help insulate your windows, protect your furnishings from damaging UV radiation and prevent miscreants from seeing inside while allowing maximum natural light to enter. 

If you don’t have pets, you might be able to create a screen door-like effect to admit even more light. You can find inexpensive magnetic screen doors that install in seconds and keep bugs at bay. 

4. Go Low-Flow


Here’s one pricier upgrade where using logic might help you have better success with your landlord. According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense Calculator, switching to a low-flow toilet from one manufactured before 1998 can save 27,000 gallons and $230 a year in utilities. If your landlord foots the water bill, they likely want to lower their expenses. 

If you have minimal handyman skills, you can replace your showerhead with a low-flow model and save more money. This repair might fall into the DIY category, although it’s always wise to get your landlord’s OK before making upgrades. 

Always report any water leaks to your property manager or landlord immediately, even if it’s only a drippy faucet. If you cover utilities, it costs you money each month. Plus, it can lead to toxic mold development, which can affect your health. 

5. Turn Off the Water

You don’t use any water at all when you shut it off at the tap. Follow these best practices when it comes to water use in your home to become more energy-efficient: 

  • Turn it off when you brush your teeth and shave: You can save even more by putting an inch of water in the basin when you shave and using that instead of the faucet to wash your razor. 

  • Use your dishwasher: It sounds counterintuitive, but your dishwasher can do a more efficient job of cleaning your plates than you do. However, you have to wait until it reaches critical mass to reap the benefits. 

  • Take a bath: If you fill it to the brim, you won’t save water, but a partial pour uses a fraction of all but the shortest showers. 

  • Time your showers: Try to keep your showers to four minutes or less. You can pick up an automatic timer that attaches to your showerhead if you tend to dawdle. 

  • Check your meter: Even if your landlord pays your utility bills, you should keep an eye on your water meter. Read it before and after a two-hour period during which you use no water. If the levels aren’t the same, you know you have to call your landlord to report a leak. 

  • Keep a bottle of water in your toilet: If you can’t persuade your landlord to upgrade despite potential savings, placing a water bottle inside your tank will decrease the amount you use with each flush. 

  • Put water in your fridge, and make ice: If you stand by the faucet waiting for the water to cool, you’re sending precious droplets down the drain. Keep a bottle in your fridge and have ice on hand for cooling down beverages in the summer months. 

6. Use Your Appliances Wisely

Your oven is one of the most energy-sucking appliances in your home. However, unless you’re baking a cake, you probably don’t need to preheat it. Your roast might turn out better if you let it heat naturally as if you were using a pit oven in the old days. 

Another trick is to plan your baking for the wee morning hours when temperatures are lowest. The radiant heat will up your apartment’s internal temperature slightly, keeping you comfortable even if you turn down the thermostat. Plus, you know you finished one of your chores before the chickens even rise. 

Whenever possible, use your microwave or air fryer. Smaller appliances cost less to operate than your oven-and-cooktop combo. 

If you stand in front of your open fridge door while you ponder what to eat, you’re wasting power and money. To become a more energy-efficient renter, take a quick inventory if you must, then shut the door before making your dinner decision. 

When it comes time for laundry day, wait until you have a full load before starting the washing machine. Line-dried clothing and sheets smell heavenly while saving a ton of dryer energy and cash. You can find outdoor clothes drying racks that fit the smallest balconies and won’t violate any HOA restrictions. 

7. Consider Portable Solar Panels

Renters, rejoice for the miracle of technology. It’s now possible to power a small bedroom without being on the grid through portable solar technology. All you’ll need are a panel, a battery for storage, a controller, an inverter and the required wiring. 

If you rent a single-family home, you might be able to reduce costs by convincing your landlord of solar’s value. They can still take advantage of energy efficiency tax credits for making such upgrades, but these benefits will expire unless Congress renews them. 

A third option is investing in community solar. In such arrangements, a small group or neighborhood bands together to develop a solar installation on private land. They then push the energy to the grid, and community members enjoy considerable savings. They also sleep more soundly, knowing they’re doing their part to protect the environment. 

8. Change Your Filters


The COVID-19 pandemic reminded folks of the importance of protecting indoor air quality. However, there’s another reason you should take care of your apartment’s HVAC system besides preventing illness. Frequently changing your filters can increase overall energy efficiency. 

When your filter becomes clogged, your system must work harder to pull cool or warm air into the room. Most experts recommend changing your filters every three months, but you must consider your home’s unique conditions. If you smoke, have pets or use inexpensive fiberglass filters, you’ll need to swap them out more frequently. 

9. Unplug When Not in Use


Your appliances continue to draw energy from your wall sockets when not in use, even if you power them down. To maximize energy efficiency in your rental, unplug items like computers and other electronics while not in use. 

It can be burdensome to run around shutting everything off. One low-cost, time-saving solution is to invest in power strips. You can plug multiple devices in and protect them from surges while giving yourself only one cord to disconnect at day’s end. 

A lazier idea is to invest in home automation so you can ensure everything stays powered off when not in use, even from a distance. Such systems use little more than voice commands to adjust everything from your thermostat to your lights. They also use apps to let you control them from the office or that hot dinner date.

Some even let you do things like lock your doors from a smartphone app, ensuring that you never leave your property unprotected. Wireless versions mean you can take your investment with you when you move.

10. Adjust Your Thermostat


If you aren’t into home automation, you can still save a considerable amount on your heating costs by switching to a programmable thermostat. You also improve your comfort level. 

You probably don’t relish coming home from work to a freezing apartment on a blustery day, but you also don’t need heat blasting while you aren’t there. A programmable version cranks things up and makes it toasty right before you return without wasting money keeping your ficus toasty while you’re at work. 

Dropping your thermostat a few degrees might even help you sleep more soundly. According to the Sleep Foundation, 65 F is the ideal temperature for slumber. However, if the thought of getting out of bed in the cold and dark doesn’t appeal to you, you can program it to increase before your alarm sounds. 

You can also use your ceiling fans to decrease heating and cooling costs. In the winter, you should set the blades to rotate clockwise to pull cool air upward, forcing warmer air down. Reverse the blade direction in the summertime for the opposite effect. 

Be More Energy-Efficient When You Rent With These Tips


If you rent, there’s no need to throw up your hands when it comes to sustainable living. You can become more energy-efficient by following the 10 tips above.

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