Energy saving tips for renters

Make sure your walls and attic are well insulated. Upgrade or replace old windows.  Create shade by planting strategically-placed trees and shrubs around your house. These are the kind of suggestions you often find when searching for ways to improve energy efficiency. These are great options for homeowners, but if you live in a rental property, many of these suggestions aren’t viable options.

Don’t lose hope. There are plenty of ways renters can lower energy usage and save money this summer. Small changes in these five key areas can add up to big savings:

Energy Saver 1: Air Conditioning

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, heating and cooling costs are the largest energy expense for most homes. In a typical U.S. home, these expenses account for more than half of the energy used.  Follow these simple steps to cool your home and keep your energy bill reasonable.

Install and set a programmable thermostat. By programming your thermostat to only reach cool temperatures during times when you’re home, you can lower your electric bill by up to 15 percent. A typical schedule during warmer months looks like this: Your thermostat should cool your home 20 to 30 minutes before you wake up, shut down the air conditioning when you leave the house or go to work, return your home to a cooler temperature a few minutes prior to your return home and increase the temperature when you turn in for the night. Most thermostats also allow you to set different programs for weekdays and weekends.

Many rental properties come with programmable thermostats already installed. If your home doesn’t, talk to your landlord. There’s no harm in asking for upgrades that will save you money and increase the value of the property. If the answer you get back is “no,” ask if it’s okay for you to still make some changes yourself.

Use a fan. Fans are a great way to get air circulating which often makes the room feel cooler. By using a fan, you can actually increase the thermostat setting by about 4 degrees without impacting your comfort.

Only cool the rooms that need cooling. Determine for yourself if your unfinished basement, crawl space, attic, and extra room need to be the same temperature as the rest of your home.  If those are spaces you don’t use regularly, close the door and cut those spaces off from the rest of the house.

Don’t put furniture in front of or over your vents. Keep an eye on the placement of your vents when you are moving in and any time you’re rearranging furniture. Covering a vent can block or redirect air to travel to areas where you don’t need it. Cooling the wall behind your couch probably isn’t at the top of your priority list, nor is it worth your hard earned cash.

Select home décor that does double duty. Hang light-colored curtains or blinds to reflect the sun and keep heat out during warmer months. Rugs can also help keep cool or warm air from escaping your apartment. A few strategic décor items can add up to big benefits over time.

Energy Saver 2: Lighting

Lighting is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to save energy. Traditional incandescent bulbs produce a lot of heat. During the summer months, that means you’re not only using electricity to light up the room, but your cooling system is also working overtime to counteract the heat that those inefficient bulbs are giving off. CFL and LED bulbs are affordable and have many added benefits. They’re more efficient, provide a better quality light and help keep your home cooler. Wins all around!

Energy Saver 3: Appliances and Electronics

There are a couple of ways you can save some of the energy your appliances and electronics are using. First, purchase ENERGY STAR-certified products. Not only are these products tested for quality, but they also use less energy than other models on the market. ENERGY STAR-certified products include everything from refrigerators and washing machines to laptops and lightbulbs. While these products can be slightly more expensive than other versions, the amount that you save can make ENERGY STAR the most affordable option in the long run. Do your research before buying.

If you aren’t looking to purchase any new appliances or electronics, there is still a way to save energy with the versions you already have. For many appliances, plugging them in means they are using energy; even when they are turned off or not in use. The energy wasted in this way is often referred to as a phantom load. In the United States, phantom loads can add 10 percent or more to your monthly energy bill. To eliminate these costs, unplug any items that you don’t use regularly or that you only use at certain parts of the day. Examples of this include cell phone chargers, coffee machines and toasters. For items that are larger, are more difficult to reach, or that all share a common space, try grouping them together on power strips. With the flip of one switch, you may be able to cut or restore power to your TV, DVD player, DVR recorder, and gaming system.  Just be careful not to overload the power strip.

Energy Saver 4: Taking Advantage of the Seasons

Whether it’s summer or winter, heating and cooling costs make up a big chunk of your energy bill each month.  An easy way to save a few dollars is to let the season work in your favor. In the colder months, take advantage of the warmth from the sun’s rays. Leave drapes and curtains open during daylight hours and the sun will help to warm your apartment. To keep out the heat of the summer sun, close drapes and curtains in warm weather.

Energy Saver 5: Water

Energy efficiency and water conservation are big topics of discussion for those interested in being environmentally conscious. Here are a few tips to help save energy while using water wisely.

In the bathroom…

Go for taking a shower over a bath. A 10-minute shower can use less water than a full bath and your water heater uses less electricity because the volume it has to heat is lower.  A typical bath uses 30 gallons of water and many low-flow shower heads use only 2.5 gallons of water per minute. In a race a 10-minute shower would use 5 gallons less water.

In the laundry room…

Wash your laundry in cold water whenever possible and don’t over dry your clothes. During warmer months, you can even invest in a clothesline to dry clothes outdoors, saving you even more.

In the kitchen…

When cleaning dishes, scrape food from plates instead of rinsing it and only start the dishwasher when it is full. Using the air dry option will also save you a few dollars.

For more information about saving energy during summer months, visit the U.S. Department of Energy’s website.