55% of Ann Arbor’s housing stock are rental units, and the median year built for Ann Arbor rentals is 1964. Since there were no energy efficiency requirements in Michigan prior to 1977, many rentals were constructed without energy efficiency being considered in the design. Additionally, upgrades in rental units can be neglected more often than in owner-occupied homes, due to renters having limited ability to make these beneficial changes. Sincelandlords do not always live in the building and may have limited experience in the daily operation of the home, they might not notice issues related to the comfort of the home.
What Can I Do as a Renter?
All this can make it difficult to effect change in your electric bills. But many small changes can be made to the way you use energy and water within your unit that can make a difference in your monthly energy bills. Read on to learn about energy efficiency improvements you can make to put money back in your pocket while making your living space more comfortable.
Strategies to Reduce Energy Use
Turn off lights when not in use.
Keep your thermometer at the highest comfortable temperature in the summer, and the lowest comfortable temperature in the winter.
You can save as much as 10% per year on heating and cooling by turning your thermostat down 7°-10°F for eight hours a day.
Some thermostats have automated settings to lower temperatures in the evenings.
Use a ceiling fan if you have one. A ceiling fan costs less to run per hour, and can help adjust your temperature by as much as 4°F. So, if you like to set the temperature to 72°F, you could set your thermostat to 76°F and get the same temperature with a ceiling fan for less cost and less energy.
Use window blinds, drapes, or other window coverings to help maintain indoor temperatures and reduce variation due to extreme temperatures outside.
Reduce water temperatures and use less water by:
Taking shorter showers.
Running your clothes washer with cold water.
Running the dishwasher or washing machine only when you have full loads or adjusting the size of the load accordingly.
Use a dishwasher instead of handwashing. When using a dishwasher, just scrape the dishes before putting them in rather than rinsing them.
Use efficient appliances and electronics
When purchasing a new appliance or electronic device, look for the ENERGY STAR label. These products can reduce energy usage by as much as 75%, with most of these devices using about half the electricity as their standard counterparts.
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.
Use appliances and electronics more efficiently
Run clothes dryers on the lowest temperature setting (or better yet, air drying your clothes where you can) and make sure the lint trap is clean before use.
If you don't have a high efficiency washer, run a second spin cycle to cut down on drying time.
Let dishes air dry instead of using your dishwasher's heated dry setting.
Let your computer and other electronics go to sleep after a period of inactivity and shut them off when you are done using them.
There is a small surge in energy when a computer starts up, but this is less than the amount of energy used if it were to continue running.
A good rule of thumb is to enable sleep mode if you are not going to use your computer for at least 20 minutes and switch it off if you won't be using it for two or more hours.
Unplug electronics that you do not use on a regular basis. Devices that are turned off but plugged-in still draw power, referred to as vampire power, which has been shown to be responsible for approximately 10% of residential power usage.
You can also a smart power strip that will switch off power to all unused devices at once on that strip. For example, when you turn your TV, off the smart strip will also switch off power to video game consoles.
Simple Home Improvements
Caulk. Use caulk to seal ¼ inch or smaller gaps in the exterior walls of a home that may be letting in air. Some locations that benefit from caulking include:
Baseboards along exterior walls
Crown molding along the ceiling
Cracks in frames around windows and doors
Any other place in your home where two different building materials meet and leave a gap
Weather Stripping. This involves installing an insulating material to help block drafts due to gaps in doors and windows. These are relatively simple to install and can reduce drafts within a home. Use this weather-stripping guide for selection and installation tips.
LED light bulbs. LEDs use up to 90% less energy and last up to 25 times longer than traditional bulbs. This is a cheap and quick change that can lead to quick savings.
Some of these improvements may require approval from your landlord, so please be sure to check with your landlord before starting.
For more ideas on how to improve your rental’s energy efficiency, check out The Department of Energy’s Energy Saving Guide or other online resources for renters.
You can also ask your landlord to consider increasing your rental unit’s efficiency, especially for upgrades that you are unable to make. They might not be aware of the discomfort you are experiencing.
A Landlord's Role
Much of the efficiency of a home is due to the tightness of the building envelope, as well as the appliances that are contained within a home. As a landlord, providing tenets opportunities to perform small upgrades in their rental units can increase comfort and reduce energy costs. It also could lead to a greater sense of ownership for the renter, resulting in a better cared-for home. Improving the efficiency of a home and allowing renters to play a part in this can improve the living experience for your tenets.
Some energy efficiency upgrades must be performed by landlords, as they are more time consuming or expensive than the general strategies listed above. Landlords can consider implementing these measures. If you are a renter, you may want to ask your landlord to consider the following:
Incorporate transparency by providing renters the cost of utilities before signing the lease. Prospective renters can also call the local utility and ask for the average cost of utilities at the address of interest.
Provide a guide on how to use energy and water efficiently within a home, especially when renting to first time renters.
Allow renters to perform simple weatherization upgrades that you have agreed on. If possible, an agreed upon budget to purchase improvement supplies would remove financial barriers to performing this upgrade.
Replace older appliances with more energy efficient ones. We recommend upgrading appliances to electric models with an ENERGY STAR rating.
Learn more about the
Green Rental Housing program and support its implementation (see below for more details).
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]
Green Rental Housing Policy
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 establishes 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.
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 SEU webpage.
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