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Easy Energy Tips for Apartments or Rental Homes

October 6, 2008 - 12:08pm

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Over the last few weeks we've talked about things like energy audits and energy-saving incentives, and now that we're in the midst of Energy Awareness Month we're going to be talking about ways to save energy this winter. But there's just one problem with all these super-cool resources: What if you don't actually own your home?

If you're a renter like me, then you're probably looking at all of these tips and wondering what it all means for you. You probably can't make drastic changes to your living space, and thus are limited in what you can do to make your home more energy efficient.

But that doesn't mean there's nothing you can do to reduce your apartment's energy costs this winter!

First off, the EERE's Consumer site has a small page on saving energy in apartments that you might find useful. And if you're limited by how much you can do in your rental home or apartment, you might find yourself limited to these:

  • Reducing your electricity use. That means, on top of all the normal ways of keeping your electrical use down (like turning off the lights or changing your light bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs), you should consider keeping your thermostat at 68 degrees—and even lower when you're asleep or out of the house.
  • Reducing your hot water usage. Shorter showers are good. So is running your washing machine with cold water.
  • Leaving the blinds or curtains open during the day to help warm your house with the sun. This is especially good for south-facing windows.

These are not, I admit, particularly exciting ways to save energy. So, if you do want to make some small improvements to your apartment, you will probably want to look into getting window treatments or weatherstripping your home.

Weatherstripping is, essentially, anything you can use to seal the air leaks in your doors and windows. And this is important: If cold air is leaking into your home, you'll not only have an uncomforatble home. You'll also be paying more money to keep your apartment heated.

If you don't own your apartment, you probably can't make any changes without consulting your landlord. If you have windows and doors that gush air, your first task is to go educate yourself. Most forms of weatherstripping require some sort of special installation, and may even require a contractor to install. Check your local hardware store and see what options are out there and what work they require. And if you want to learn about weatherstripping options for your windows, be sure to go in knowing whether you have aluminum or vinyl windows, how big they are, and how much trim is around them—I ended up having to make two trips, since I never paid any attention to my windows.

In any case, first you have to figure out what sort of work is required to install the option you want. Then go talk to your landlord and see if they'll make the changes for you. If not, then see if they'll approve you to make the changes yourself.

That's all there is to it! You might not be in control of the home you own, but you can always make smarter choices to reduce your energy costs.

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