Renters needn't depend on simply turning down the thermostat to reduce home-energy costs. Even though most energy-saving tips are written for homeowners, there are many ways renters can save money without making major home modifications.
Begin by talking with your landlord about winterizing older windows, installing a programmable thermostat and replacing furnace filters throughout the winter. Ask your county or city government if they offer free programs to install these and more energy-saving devices. Some offer free energy audits that can help convince your landlord to make upgrades.
As a renter, your priority is to reduce energy costs quickly and inexpensively. Here are some ways to save energy in your rental home.
1. Regularly change filters: Ask your landlord to inspect the furnace or air conditioning units and to clean or replace the air filters at least every three months. If he's unwilling to replace the filters, ask for permission to do so yourself. Changing filters is inexpensive and a huge energy saver, not to mention it reduces dust throughout the home.
2. Manage sun exposure: Keep window shades, blinds or curtains open during the day in winter to heat things up with sunlight. Close them in the evening to retain that heat.
In the summer, keep those same shades, blinds or curtains closed during the day to prevent sunlight from heating your home. Lightly colored materials make the most effective window covers in summer. Keep windows closed during the day when it's hot outside to prevent outside air from entering your home, then open them up on cool late spring or early fall nights and use a window fan to blow in that cool air.
3. Adjust the thermostat: In winter, keep the thermostat set around 68 degrees F when home, and 60 degrees F at night or while out of the house. In summer, set the thermostat around 78 degrees F. You might use high-efficiency fans to help you be more comfortable during hot summer days.
If you're going to be away from home for an extended period of time, set the temperature even higher in summer and lower in winter. It doesn't take long to heat or cool your home back to your preferred temperature.
4. Install a programmable thermostat: If you don't have a programmable thermostat, talk to your landlord about installing one. A programmable thermostat allows you to program different temperatures at different times of the day, giving you greater control over energy use and comfort without having to remember to make manual changes. A programmable thermostat is particularly handy in winter, to warm up before you get out of bed or return home in the evening. Most of these thermostats have a manual override, so you can make short-term adjustments on particularly hot or cold days.
5. Install low-flow faucets: Low-flow faucets save both water and water-heating costs when installed in both sinks and showers. Turning off the shower while you soap up also reduces the amount of hot water you'll use. Don't forget to save the standard faucets and take the low-flow faucets when you move.
6. Use the dishwasher: Fully loaded dishwashers use less hot water than hand-washing all those dishes. Save even more energy by turning the dishwasher off for the dry cycle and air drying the dishes.
7. Wash clothes in cold: The majority of clothes will clean just as well in cold as in hot water, with the exception of stained items. Clothes also will last longer and you'll see less shrinkage.
8. Use compact fluorescent lamps: Install Energy Star qualified lighting, such as compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), instead of incandescent light bulbs in all light fixtures. While CFLs cost more than incandescent bulbs, they last much longer and consume less energy. Some stores and utility departments offer exchange programs, so you can replace your bulbs at a reduced price or for free. Remember to take the CFLs with you when you leave and replace them with the incandescent bulbs you earlier removed (and stored).
Of course, it always pays to turn off the lights when not in use. Don't forget to turn off the light on your front porch.
9. Weatherize: Weatherizing is an inexpensive way to lower your energy bills. Ask your landlord about such simple measures as adding weather stripping and caulking cracks around doors and windows. Home improvement and hardware stores carry kits to winterize your windows with plastic, either on the inside or outside. These kits can greatly reduce your heating bill and are easy to apply. It's wise to get written consent from your landlord before doing any weatherization yourself.
10. Manage water heater and leaky faucets: If you have access to the water heater, turn the temperature setting down to normal (120 degrees F). If the dishwasher doesn't have a booster heater, set the water heater at 140 degrees F. Remember to also turn down the water heater if you're going to be away for an extended period of time. Ask your landlord to promptly fix any leaky faucets, which are particularly wasteful and costly.
11. Select an efficient room air conditioner: If your rental doesn't include air conditioning but your landlord will allow you to add a window-unit, buy an Energy Star model sized appropriately for the area you would like to cool. You may want to consider only cooling your bedroom if you don't live in a particularly hot climate. If practical, put the unit in a window that faces north.
12. Buy Energy Star home electronics: Look for the Energy Star logo when purchasing a TV, CD player, DVD player or computer to find a model that uses less energy and will save money in the long run.
Remember to turn electronics off when not in use, especially your computer (if you won't use it in the next two hours) or at least the computer monitor. The typical desktop computer uses about 65 to 250 watts while an Energy Star computer in sleep mode uses only 15 watts.