Homeowners have a number of ways to make energy-efficiency improvements to their home and save money, but what about folks who are renting or don’t have a lot of money to spend? While not everyone can replace their furnace with an air-source heat pump, here are seven low-cost efficiency tips that can help reduce your energy bills.
- Mind the thermostat. You can trim your energy bill by managing the temperature in your home. The Department of Energy suggests setting your thermostat to 68 F in winter. If that’s too cool, try other ways to stay warm, such as layering with an extra sweater. You can save more energy by turning down the thermostat even lower at night or when no one is home. The same principle works in reverse during summer months. Set the thermostat higher to reduce your energy use for air conditioning.
- Go programmable. If you don’t always remember to adjust your thermostat manually, you could benefit from a programmable model. In the right situation, set correctly, programmable thermostats can save $150 a year. Some programmable thermostats can be managed from your smartphone or other devices. Before you buy and install a programmable thermostat, make sure your landlord approves.
- Try zone heating. If you don’t mind less-used rooms being colder, you might be able to save energy and money by using zone heating. Electric baseboards make it easy because they typically have thermostat settings on the units in each room. Portable electric space heaters can also be a good tool for zone heating if used safely and wisely in the area you spend the most time. Keep in mind, if you’re using space heaters, you need to reduce the heating you supply to the rest of the home. Space heaters that are used incorrectly can be dangerous and increase energy costs. If your heating system needs to be replaced, talk to your landlord about installing a mini-split system, which is perfect for zone heating and cooling, and easier to install than a new duct and furnace system.
- Stop air leaks. Small gaps around windows, doors, wiring and plumbing penetrations can be major sources of energy loss. This problem can be alleviated with a little weatherstripping and caulk, but check with your landlord before you get started. Better yet, convince the landlord to do the work! A $10 door draft stopper—also known as a door snake—is a simple way to block gaps underneath exterior doors. Sealing air leaks around your home could shave up to one-fifth of your heating and cooling bills.
- Manage your windows and window coverings. Your windows may be letting heat out during the winter and letting heat in during the summer. Medium or heavy-weight curtains and thermal blinds can help. On cold winter days, window coverings can keep warmth inside and improve comfort. Opening window coverings when you are receiving direct sunlight is a passive solar technique that can help cut your heating costs. In winter, cover windows with clear plastic to reduce heat loss and air leaks. During the summer, keep window coverings closed to block the sun and keep windows from heating the cooler indoor air.
- Look for energy wasters. There are small steps you can take every day to reduce your energy use. Water heaters should be kept at the warm setting of 120 F. Wash dishes and clothes on the most economical settings that will do the job, and always wash full loads. Use the microwave instead of the oven when possible.
- Ask landlords—and others—for help. Consider talking to your landlord about additional ways to save, such as installing better insulation, energy-efficient windows or heating systems. Many landlords make these types of investments to add appeal to their rental properties, which ultimately improves the value of the property. A home energy audit is the best way to identify areas for energy-efficiency improvements, and to start a conversation with your landlord about potential improvements. Check with your electric utility to see if it offers energy audits or can recommend someone.