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When it comes to energy efficiency, many recommendations focus on structural changes to a building, such as insulation, window upgrades, and air sealing, among others. But while renters are generally unable to make these changes on their own, there are plenty of smart choices renters can take to reduce energy costs and improve comfort.
What Can I Do as a Renter?
Based on the areas where renters use the most energy, the top three things you can do are:
to Reduce Energy Use
Heating and Cooling - 58% of annual energy use
Program your thermostat to 78 in summer and 68 in winter.
Why waste energy on heating and cooling your home when you're not there? Manually change the temperature when you leave home for the day, or
watch this video for step-by-step instructions on how to program your thermostat if you have a programmable thermostat.
Energy Star recommends these temperatures to save about $180 (estimated for a single family home) on your energy bill every year!
Don't be too thrifty, and remember to protect your pipes from freezing by never setting your thermostat below 55॰F in the winter, even if you'll be away from home for a long period of time.
Keep window blinds or thick drapes closed to trap energy in.
Did you know that 30% of a home's heating energy is lost through windows? In winter, drapes can reduce heat loss from a warm room up to 10%!
Be safe with electric space heaters.
While space heaters can be an efficient option to supplement poor heating in one room, they cause more than 1,7000 residential fires every year. If you have to use one, make sure you buy a vented, electric space heater with an Underwriter's Laboratory (UL) safety label, and keep it away from children and pets when in use.
Water Heating - 19% of annual energy use
Wash your clothes in cold water.
90% of the energy used by washing machines during laundry goes towards heating the water. Washing clothes in cold water will save energy while protecting the colors from fading and clothes from shrinking.
Take shorter showers and change your showerhead.
By taking shorter showers and showering at a lower temperature, you can reduce the amount of energy needed to heat up the water. Also, efficient showerheads can cut down on the amount of water and energy your shower uses while experiencing the same level of comfort. Tenants should discuss with their landlord prior to changing the showerhead.
Lighting and Appliances - 23% of annual energy use
Unplug your TV, computer, and phone chargers when not in use.
Did you know that
leaving a computer on all day can waste about $75 per year? Additionally, devices that are turned off but plugged-in still draw power, referred to as vampire power, which has been shown to be responsible for up to 10% of residential power usage. Make sure to unplug phone chargers, TVs, and other appliances when not in use.
You can make this task easier by
learning how to use smart power strips, which will switch off power to all unused devices at once on that strip. For example, when you turn off your TV, the smart strip will also switch off power to video game consoles.
Schedule a free home energy assessment.
DTE offers free home energy assessments if you rent a single-family home, duplex, or condominium (and not a multi-unit or apartment building). After the assessment, you could receive free LED light bulbs, a programmable thermostat, an energy efficient showerhead, and/or other small retrofits to help you save energy.
Switch to LEDs.
Do you know what kind of lightbulbs are in your home? LEDs, especially Energy Star rated products, use at least
75% less energy than incandescent lighting. Plus, they last up to 25 times longer, so you'll have to replace them much less frequently!
Only do full loads of dishes or laundry.
Full loads ensure that you are not wasting water, and air drying your clothes and laundry or drying on the lowest heat setting reduces the amount of energy used by your appliances. As a bonus, air drying and low heat settings can also protect your clothes from wearing out.
Use a portable induction cooktop.
If you have a gas stove, consider a portable induction cooktop. These efficient cooktops can plug in to any outlet, giving you a non-gas alternative for cooking that uses less energy and improves your indoor air quality.
For more tips on saving energy, check out the Department of Energy's Energy Saver Guide.
What if you don’t control the heat?
If your landlord controls your thermostat, make sure they know what a comfortable temperature feels like to you. If it's too hot in the wintertime, don't let opening your windows to let cold air in (and wasted energy out!) be your first move.
Try these actions instead:
Establish a process in the lease for resolving temperature change requests.
Coming to an agreement with your landlord about how they would like to be contacted to adjust the temperature before any issues arise can help make this process easier and less stressful. If you've already signed your lease, consider making a lease amendment.
Contact your landlord to request a temperature change.
Try calling, texting, or emailing your landlord to explain that you are uncomfortable and have been needing to open the windows or use a space heater to change the temperature. Both are less efficient fixes than adjusting the thermostat, thus causing them to spend more energy on your heating bill.
Know your rights as a renter to a warm living space.
If the temperature in your unit isn't warm enough to meet your basic needs, property owners are accountable for an
implied warranty of habitability. Try to remind your landlord of their responsibility to keep you warm before taking external action.
Apartment Hunting Tips
When searching for an apartment, consider asking these questions to get a good sense of how energy efficient an apartment is and roughly how much you can expect to spend on utility bills:
How will your future utility bill compare to other options?
How relatively energy efficient is the unit?
Is the building well insulated and air sealed? When was the last time the weather stripping was replaced? (replacing this every 2-5 years is good practice)
Does this unit have any Energy Star appliances or LED light bulbs?
What is your role in setting energy-saving temperatures?
Additionally, be aware of your rights as a renter:
Rental units are inspected to ensure tenant safety every 2.5-3.5 years. You can check to make sure an apartment has passed inspection (look for a CoC or Certificate of Compliance) before you sign a lease using these platforms:
You have a right to a warm home as a renter in Ann Arbor:
Section 8.528 of Chapter 105 (Housing Code) requires basic weatherization of rental units in Ann Arbor
If you notice any large holes or cracks around your windows or doors where cold air is coming through, this section of the housing code requires your landlord to seal these gaps or cracks in the windows and doors.
If you live in an on-campus residence hall, while some of these tips still apply, there are some strategies that might not be applicable. While you might not be directly paying for your energy, it is on all of us as we work to equitably achieve carbon neutrality by 2030. Consider these tips to help:
Get the most efficient model of items you need
While the first step should be to only bring what you truly need, for what you do need to bring, make sure they are
ENERGY STAR rated to ensure they are the as efficient as possible.
Be smart with blinds and curtains
Blinds and curtains add insulation to your windows, meaning when you close them it will keep your room cooler in the summer or warmer at night in the winter. Conversely, keep them open during sunny winter days to help heat the room. Lastly, when possible, use the natural day light instead of relying on other lighting.
While you might not control your overhead lighting, use LEDs if you have a desk lamp or other lighting. LEDs use less energy and last longer than traditional lighting options.
Turn your laptop off
Not only is leaving your laptop on all the time bad for the laptop itself, it also uses a lot of energy, generally resulting in student's biggest energy source. A good rule of thumb is to set your computer to sleep if you will not be using it for 20 minutes or more and to turn if off if you will be away for two or more hours.
Unplug devices that are not in use
Make sure to unplug phone chargers, TVs, and other appliances when not in use. You can make this task easier by learning how to use smart power strips, which will switch off power to all unused devices at once on that strip. For example, when you turn off your TV, the smart strip will also switch off power to video game consoles.
For more tips you can use in your room, check out
Shrink Your Dorm Print.
Additional OSI Resources
Green Rental Housing Program
The City of Ann Arbor is working to develop a Green Rental Housing program to improve the health, safety, comfort, and energy efficiency of rentals. This program aims to establish a minimum level of energy efficiency in all rentals, transparency in the average cost of utilities, appliance efficiency improvements, and greater ability for renters to make weatherization upgrades to their units.
Multifamily Electric Vehicle Charging
Ann Arbor’s Office of Sustainability and Innovations is rapidly
expanding publicly accessible electric vehicle charging stations
throughout the city, and we want to keep renters in mind as we do so. If you are interested in EV charging at or near your place of residence, please email Simi Barr at [email protected].
Sustainable Energy Utility and Renters
The Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU), which is currently under review, would provide electricity from local solar and battery storage systems installed on homes and businesses throughout the city. Renters would be eligible to participate and receive renewable electricity generated within the city of Ann Arbor, either through direct installation of renewable energy on rental sites (with landlord approval) or by participating in programs offered by the SEU, such as community solar. For more information about the proposed SEU, please visit the
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