Insulation, geothermal heat pumps, ultra-efficient appliances and passive solar designs are all great ways at reducing energy usage at home, but these changes can’t be applied to rental.
Fortunately, that doesn’t make environmental consciousness the exclusive domain of home owners: There are plenty of ways to reduce the energy usage in a rental home, and that means lower energy bills.
1. Switch to CFLs
Compact fluorescent light bulbs have improved tremendously since they were first introduced, eliminating the slow light-up time, humming and poor harsh light normally associated with these bulbs.
While more expensive than traditional incandescent bulbs, the energy savings recoup the purchase price in around 9 months.
The Energy Star seal means more than efficiency: Bulbs with the seal have undergone testing for both overall life and unusually rough usage, meaning these are the most durable bulbs on the market.
Look for “soft white” bulbs to get light that’s closest to an incandescent bulb.
2. Get a Low Flow Showerhead
It takes a lot of energy to heat water, making hot water usage one of the biggest draws of power in the home. Switching to a low flow showerhead can cut these costs by about 40%.
Yet again, the EPA labeling is about more than efficiency: Watersense showerheads have to use no more than two gallons of water per minute while meeting industry-developed force and spray measurements.
Look for a fixture with multiple settings, providing maximum spray or maximum pressure with the same small amount of water.
3. Use Outside Air for Cooling
The coldest temperatures of the day occur in the early morning. By opening up the windows for a while, this air can bring the inside temperature down, helping the air conditioner keep the house cool for the rest of the day.
4. Adjust the Thermostat
Setting the thermostat one degree higher can reduce electricity used by the air conditioner 3-5%.
When no one is in the home, set the thermostat to 78 degrees in the summer and 58 degrees in winter: This minimizes power usage while away and lets the home come back to a comfortable temperature quickly when the thermostat is reset.
5. Control Where Air Circulates Inside the House
To get the most out of the air going through the a/c and heater, it needs to go where the people are. Make sure there isn’t anything blocking airflow from the vents, whether it’s clothing or furniture, and use fans can be used to direct air toward seating areas.
Ceiling fans have a switch on the side to change their direction: They can draw cold air up from the floor to keep people cool, or warm air from the ceiling to keep things warm. Remember that this only works for people in the room, not the whole house: shut off these fans when the room is empty.
Closets and cabinets should be kept shut to reduce the total space that is heated and cooled.
6. Stamp Out Standby Power
Even when off, many appliances still draw power. The worst offenders are battery chargers, TVs and DVRs, but any device that has a remote or lights a display or LED on when not on is drawing power.
Rarely used devices can be unplugged, while multiple devices can be turned off at the flick of a switch by putting them on a power strip.