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How to Increase Efficiency When You Are Renting

February 26, 2013 Written by  Comments Print
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At greeNEWit, we’re determined to make energy efficiency simple and understandable. With the cost of renting going up, we want to help you keep your energy bills down. Before we can get into some of the ways you can reduce energy consumption, it's important to understand energy and look at the house as a system. The performance of one component is dependent on its relationship with others.

Over time, we have defined a set of concepts that we believe encompass the residential energy paradigm. This is a simple way to look at your house as a system so that you may better understand how to cut energy costs.

1. Building Systems – are the systems used to heat, cool, operate and entertain our busy lives. They include lighting, appliances, electronics, water heating, space heating and space cooling.

2. Building Shell – is the envelope of your home that separates inside space from outside space and is made up of walls, ceilings, attics, floors, windows and doors.

3. Behavioral – is the human decisions made about how we interact with our environment and consume energy.

While there are obvious differences if you live in a home or rent an apartment, the energy efficiency principles remain the same. Lighting, appliances, electronics, water heating, space heating, space cooling and building shell are all present whether you are live in a home or apartment. But the difference is that renters don't always have control over all aspects of these eight areas. In this case, renters should focus on areas they do have control of. Below we’ll explore some do-it-yourself tips to help you increase energy efficiency while you’re renting.

Improve the Operation of Existing Systems

Within each category of energy consumption (lighting, appliances, electronics, water heating, HVAC), we want to help you identify things that are within your control. We understand that as a renter you can’t always replace appliances, water heating or HVAC equipment, but you can control things like lighting and plumbing fixtures for example.

We recommend that you don’t wait to make the switch to efficient lighting options. According to the winter 2013 issue of State and Local Energy Report, lighting efficiency standards spur innovation. There is a new 100-watt equivalent LED bulb that is supposed to save consumers $220 over its life, compared to incandescent bulbs. The suggested retail price is $49.98, compared to $3 for CFLs and $1.50 for advanced incandescent bulbs. Also, the new standard requires that common light bulbs use at least 25% less energy than traditional bulbs.

Water heating can also be a big expense in your monthly utility bills. You can do things to conserve water like repairing leaky faucets, reducing water through efficient appliance use and by installing efficient-flow showerheads and aerators.

Building Shell - Do Minor Repairs Yourself

The building envelope helps to protect your home from exterior elements such as rain, wind and snow and also serves to keep heat inside your home in the winter and prevents heat from entering your home in the summer. To reduce how much energy you use for heating and cooling, it’s important for your building envelope to be well sealed and have proper levels of insulation. You can be proactive and seal small air leaks that affect comfort yourself. Caulk around window and door frames. Weather-strip windows and doors. If it feels cold near windows in winter, utilize heavy drapes. For heating, keep window coverings open during the day and closed at night. In the summer, closing window coverings helps reduce cooling demands.

We realize that as a renter it may not be feasible for you to add insulation or seal large leaks in your building’s envelope, so we encourage you and your neighbors to communicate with your landlord or property manager if you feel like larger opportunities exist to make the building shell more energy efficient.

Change Your Behavior

It's important to recognize that behavior is a big part of our overall energy consumption. Homeowners and renters can do several things to operate houses in a more efficient manner. Here are some ideas aimed to inspire you to make a change.

When leaving the house, be sure to turn off any lamps or fans. Consider investing in a fan to use in place of an air conditioner when you can. Thinking of re-arranging? The way your furniture is set up may actually affect your energy bill. Any furniture that is blocking your heating/cooling units may obstruct airflow and cause your bill to be higher than it needs to be.

Another important behavioral tip we suggest is to use appliances thoughtfully. For example, only run the dishwasher or washers and dryers when you have a full load.

If you live in Maryland and have an active utility bill, we encourage you to take advantage of a Quick Home Energy Check-up (QHEC). It’s a program put in place by the local utilities as a result of the Empower Maryland Energy Efficiency Act to reduce energy consumption by 15% by 2015.  The QHEC allows you to get energy efficient products such as CFLs, efficient-flow showerheads, smart strips and more installed at no additional cost to your usual utility bills.

A certified energy analyst from greeNEWit will perform the QHEC and also identify the areas in your home where energy is being wasted and recommends additional ways to improve efficiency, air quality and health and safety within your living environment.

The Bottom Dollar

Since owners of multi-family properties and apartment complexes are also looking to reduce energy and water consumption, the hope it is that it will be a collective effort moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, in a healthier environment for all.   

Click the link to view our recent blog: Can You Get Tax Credits for Energy Efficiency in 2013? or check back next week for more energy saving tips.