Sometimes when renting, it can feel like you don’t have much control over your space, not to mention its environmental footprint. Renters often need permission for changes like painting the walls or even swapping out light fixtures. If you rent, it’s likely your apartment didn’t come with Energy Star appliances or even a recycling bin when you moved in. Landlords often skip major eco-upgrades that could be saving you money, so being proactive about greening your rental may be up to you.
According to a recent survey by Rent.com, renters are three times more likely than non-renters to say eco-friendly features are a must-have when looking for a home. If you’re already settled into your place but want to make some environmentally conscious changes, consider some of these suggestions.
1. Use Draft Stoppers to Keep the Heat In
It can be easy to forget about doors that let just a teeny, tiny bit of air in during winter, but even slow leaks can mean extra work for your heating unit. Rolling a towel up and placing it at the base of the door can help cover the air gap, but you might find it easier to make a permanent one that stays tightly rolled up.
You can also seal gaps around your windows with foam or shrink-wrap during the winter to keep cold air out.
2. Unplug Energy Drainers
Electronics and small appliances like TVs, hair dryers and coffee makers can often use just as much energy when idle than when turned on and in use. Next time you reach to unplug your cell phone from the charger, go ahead and unplug it from the wall as well. This can be even easier if you use a power strip that you simply turn to ‘off’ before leaving home. In the case of heat-giving appliances like toasters, hair straighteners and irons, unplugging can also reduce the risk of a house fire.
3. Keep the Refrigerator Tidy
By keeping your refrigerator fan free of dust, you reduce its need to work as hard to keep the fridge cool. You can also use a vacuum to clean dust from coils on the back of your refrigerator. To keep air flowing properly, you should do this once a year. Because the fridge runs all day, its best to keep it as full as possible, that way it isn’t running just to keep the air inside cool.
4. Commit to Reusables at Home
You can lower the overall environmental impact your rental makes by purchasing as many reusable products as possible. Opt for cloth napkins instead of paper towels, rechargeable batteries instead of disposables, and plastic plates instead of paper ones. You’ll produce less trash by cutting out disposable utensils, plastic storage bags and other one-use items. By committing to items that can be reused, you’ll save all that extra money you’ve literally been throwing away.
5. Use Less Water (the easy way)
Try waiting until your dishwasher or washing machine is full before running a load. It takes the same amount of water and energy to run regardless of how full the washer is, so maximizing each load will save money over time. If your washer lets you choose between water levels, setting to ‘low’ can reduce water waste. You can also allow just a few more dishes to pile up before washing them, this way the kitchen faucet runs less often. Try low-flow shower heads and reduce your shower times to save water and money. Finally, when you give your pets fresh water, consider using the old water on your indoor plants.
Tip: Check out My Green Birmingham’s easy DIY instructions for installing a dual flush converter on your toilet
6. Use Energy Efficient Light Bulbs
Compact fluorescent (CF) bulbs last about 10 times longer than standard bulbs, and use over 60% less energy. Eartheasy.com has a detailed list of the different types of CF and LCD bulbs, making it easy to find the size, style and energy benefits that are right for you. Obviously, you can also save energy by turning off lights when you leave a room, or by setting timers on outdoor lights to turn off after you’ve gone to bed. Motion lights are also a practical energy-saver.
7. Check the Water Heater
If you ever find yourself with scalding showers and tap water, ask your landlord to check the water heater’s temp setting. It may be set too high–burning you and wasting valuable energy!
8. Upgrade to a Programmable Thermostat
If you’re living in a rental that doesn’t have a programmable thermostat, consider asking your landlord if they are willing to install one. This type allows you to program your ideal temperature and set times for the heating or cooling unit to kick on. Because of this, your house won’t be heated or cooled all day while you’re at work, but you can still come home to comfortable temperatures. It can also allow you to better predict your energy bills. While you can purchase one yourself, you may not be able to remove it or receive compensation for it when you move out. It’s best to ask your landlord for permission and, when necessary, for help with the install.
9. Install a Ceiling Fan in the Most-Used Rooms
A ceiling fan will increase the cooling efficiency in your apartment by circulating air throughout the space. During warm months, you can save money by turning on the ceiling fan before deciding to turn up the AC unit. Usually this is enough to keep small rooms cool. It’s also important to make sure your fans are spinning in the right direction, depending on the season. Most boxed window fans will serve the same purpose, and while they take up more room, they are another great alternative to keeping your space cool.
10. Hang Window Shades & Black-out Curtains
Using shades and black-out curtains is a great way to reduce energy costs while also keeping your place warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It’s a lost-lasting investment that you can take with you when you move out. In addition to blocking light and heat, blackout curtains also reduce outside noise and serve as an extra privacy measure.