For homeowners, making energy upgrades is as simple as having an energy audit, choosing which upgrades to make, and implementing those changes. But for renters, it's a bit more complicated – because you don't own the property you live in, you often don't have the ability to make certain energy upgrades, such as installing rooftop solar panels, adding insulation, replacing windows, and more. However, as a renter, there are steps you can take to reduce your carbon footprint and save money on utility bills. Here are just a few options:
Are you still using traditional incandescent light bulbs for your lighting needs? Replacing old lightbulbs out with new halogen incandescent bulbs, compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), or light-emitting diode bulbs (LEDs) is one of the easiest ways to decrease your electricity consumption and save. These light bulbs typically use 25 to 80 percent less electricity than traditional bulbs. Additionally, energy-efficient light bulbs often last 3 to 25 times longer than traditional light bulbs; while they may be slightly more expensive up front, they help you save time, energy, and, therefore, money in the long run. If you have a more unique lighting situation and your landlord is responsible for replacing bulbs, it's worth putting in a request for energy-efficient options!
Most renters can't take advantage of rooftop solar since you need to own your roof or land to install any solar equipment on it. Fortunately, renters can still go solar - the benefits of solar power are becoming increasingly accessible thanks to community solar.
Community solar allows you to take advantage of solar power generated by a remote solar farm. When these projects produce solar electricity, they send it to the grid, and community solar subscribers receive credits on their electric bill from their utility company for their share of the solar farm produced. If you join a community solar program, you need to pay the community solar company or developer for your subscription or purchase, but what you pay should cost less than the price you'd otherwise pay your utility for the same amount of electricity.
However, community solar is not yet available in every state – you can visit EnergySage's Community Solar Marketplace to see projects currently available near you.
If you're a customer of a utility that has demand charges or you're on a time-of-use (TOU) rate plan, you can save money by running your dishwasher, washing machines, and more during off-peak hours. These are times when the overall demand for electricity is lower and, as a result, electricity rates are lower. For most areas, this time will be early morning hours or late at night.
But you don't have to wait around your apartment, condo, or house to run appliances during these times; today, many modern appliances come with scheduling functionality so that you can run them at various times of the day (even if you're not home).
If you leave the house each day for work or just spend regular hours away from your home, a programmable thermostat can help you decrease your annual heating and cooling costs.
Smart or programmable thermostats have software that can automatically adjust the heating and cooling settings in your home, helping you to save money either when you’re not around your home or when you’re sleeping. Some smart thermostats even come with geofencing capabilities that can sense when you’re on your way home and can start heating or cooling your house for your return.
These devices can help you save up to 10 percent on your heating and cooling costs. As a bonus, they help keep your home comfortable, saving you from periods of discomfort when your home is too hot or too cold once you get home.
However, it’s a good idea to check your lease agreement before buying a smart thermostat: some leases may have restrictions against drilling into walls or updating the wiring. If that's the case, you should get permission from your landlord before proceeding.
This may seem like an obvious suggestion, but as a renter, you can reduce your carbon footprint and save on energy costs by simply changing your day-to-day habits.
As just a few examples, ensuring that the lights are off when you leave a room, only running the dishwasher when it's full, not leaving the fridge door wide open for too long, or hang drying your clothes instead of running the dryer.
These are not only easy steps to take, but they don’t cost any money upfront, so you’ll start benefiting from energy reductions immediately.
It may surprise you to learn just how much energy many appliances use even when they're not turned on. In fact, many modern-day appliances now have "standby" modes that keep them partially powered even when they're not in use. These are sometimes referred to as vampire appliances. Smart home devices, cable boxes, DVRs, and microwaves are just a few examples of some vampire appliances.
Studies have shown that vampire appliances can account for up to 10 percent of home electricity usage. While this may not seem like a lot, these costs can add up over the course of the year (especially if you live in an area with particularly high electricity rates).
Your windows are a gateway for thermal energy: during the winter, keeping your windows free of obstruction can help let sunlight in to naturally heat your home. While this energy may not be sufficient to heat your home entirely, it can certainly help warm it up, decreasing the amount of energy you need to run your home heating system. However, if you live in a particularly old building with drafty windows, it may be more beneficial to go the other way and invest in insulated curtains to help trap any cold air seeping through.
Curtains and shades can also help reduce your cooling costs during the summer: by keeping your windows closed and the shades down on particularly hot and humid days, you can block sunlight and warmer air from entering your, which helps maintain lower temperatures inside.
If you're using older appliances in your apartment, condo, or house, they're likely consuming a good amount of energy. Swapping these out for new, energy-efficient appliances can help you reduce your energy consumption and save on monthly utility bills.
As you or your landlord are searching for new appliances to buy, keep an eye out for ENERGY STAR certifications: this is the gold standard for energy efficiency, and only appliances that meet the U.S. Department of Energy's energy-efficiency standard receive the certification. On average, an ENERGY STAR certified appliance uses 10 to 50 percent less energy than a non-energy efficient equivalent.
If you currently have couches, tables, beds, or other furniture situated in close proximity to your radiators or vents, they're probably absorbing a good amount of heat. This makes it more difficult to heat the room at large. Shifting your furniture to free up space near vents and radiators can allow for more heat flow throughout the room and reduce how much energy you need to heat your home.
Community Solar provides many of the benefits of rooftop solar, but there are no upfront costs and less commitment required. Go solar by subscribing to a local community solar farm: you'll still reduce your electric bill and your climate impact without installing a single solar panel! Visit our Visit our community solar marketplace to find a farm near you.