7 creative ways to save energy costs, even in your rental!

Guest post by Cass

energy-costs-obhlI am a serial renter. I have rented nine rooms, apartments, or homes in the last six years. That means I have gotten to see a lot of nasty, old-school building, heating, flooring and wiring that comes with student housing.

With a little practice, I have been able to save around 20% on my energy usage each month. Imagine if your electric bill for your one-bedroom apartment is $100 in the winter. These few tricks will save $20 right away, which means an extra $240 in your yearly budget. You could do things like: treat yourself to a nice dinner out, buy yourself that fancy new tablet, or just load up on the geeky swag of your choice!

There are basically two ways to save on your energy use:

  1. Use less energy. (This is where things like wearing a sweater in the winter, using CFL or LED lightbulbs, and turning off lights in rooms you’re not using comes in.)
  2. Be more efficient with the energy you do use.

The first method is much less sexy than the second method, but putting them both together gains the best benefit. Here are some things you may not have thought of to help you use less in your rental, and they’d also work in your home…

1. Install a programmable thermostat.

One of these babies will set you back about $30, and you might need someone to help you install it. But the upside is that you may be able to get your rent discounted for your out-of-pocket expense. And you can program the heat or air conditioning to turn off during the day when you are at work or school, and then it automatically kicks on to just the right temperature 15 minutes before you get home! Or utilize it to cool your digs at night to help you get better sleep. All while helping you use less and save your moolah.

2. Use that crock pot your grandma gave you.

Did you know that using an electric stove-top burner for 30 minutes (think about how long that dinner skillet takes!) uses the same amount of energy as your crock pot uses in eight hours? And crock pots are so easy, helping you make one-pot dishes that save on prep time and cleanup. So go ahead, roast that brisket all day, and save on your electric bills.

3. Think about the sun.

Depending on your light-exposure, you may be needlessly heating and cooling your apartment with electricity. Is it cold and winter right now? Open your shades during the sunniest part of the day to let in heat. Is it blistering hot outside and you need some respite from all that heat? Close your shades and keep the sun’s incidental heat out of your home.

4. Use a door draft jam to keep the air you want in, and the air you don’t want out.

Right now I live in an apartment building with a shared enclosed hallway between living spaces. My neighbor likes to smoke indoors, and that smoke comes right in my apartment. But NO MORE! A draft jam helps keep his smoking habits out of my home. And an added benefit, my heat stays in my apartment, while the cool air of the hallway stays out there, helping regulate the temperature and stop leaks.

5. Put up thermal curtains.

Check with your lease if you can install curtains or window treatments in your apartment. But thermal curtains, again the principle much like the draft dodger, helps keep drafts from the window. It can also help with #3, keeping the sun out on hot days, or keep warm air in on cool nights. As an extra perk, many of these block out light, helping you get some extra shut-eye when the sun rises earlier than you do.

Read this post and the money you spend on the most awesome thermostat ever might be able to be totally recouped in your energy bill savings!
Read this post and the money you spend on the most awesome thermostate ever, might be able to be totally recouped in your energy bill savings!

6. Keep your refrigerator full.

Remember that lesson in high school physics about water’s heat capacity? Well, employ that same principle with your fridge! If you live with just you, or you and a partner, one large fridge may be more than you actually use. So if you find your fridge looking empty come grocery day, add some jugs of water. You can hack this yet further by keeping filled water bottles in your fridge. Not only are they helping keep your fridge temperature nice and steady, but you have a nice, cool bottle of water to bring to the gym. You have my permission to use other liquids, too: juice, beer, stock from that chicken you cooked in your crock pot (see #2).

7. Extra credit for you science nerds: pay attention to the air flows in your space.

Check the vents to see if they are pointed optimally to get your heating/cooling to just where you want. If you find your vent register situation lacking, look into using a fan to boost the air flow. If there is a particularly hot or cold space in your home, consider how the air is supposed to go there or leave there. A fan may be an easy solution to even out the temperature of your home. And if you’ve got register heaters from 1980 — stop using those. Modern space heaters are so much more efficient than register heat. You can either use one big heater for your whole space, which uses more energy, or you can use a smaller, more efficient space heater and bring it room-to-room with you.

Any other serial renters out there with good tips?

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