There are many ideas on how to save energy and reduce heating and cooling costs for your home, but many of these ideas or tips to save energy include purchasing and installing items within the home that are permanent. This makes many home improvements an unlikely choice for somebody who is renting the home and has no desire to sink money into something they do not own.
"You can reduce your home energy costs, even if you rent. If you are paying for heat, air conditioning, electricity or hot water, you could reduce these costs by making energy saving home improvements that pay you back with lower energy bills."
When renting a home, if you are paying for the heat and/or air conditioning, the landlord has little or no motivation to better seal and insulate the home. With this being the case, you could choose to make these improvements on your own and save energy or you could choose to not do anything because it's not your home, while eventually spending more money on wasted energy that it would have cost you to fix the problems in the first place. The bottom line is that it's not helpful to purposely not improve the home just to spite the landlord or future tenants, especially if the money you spend on improvements will return to you in savings and comfort.
Simply put, unless you know you are leaving the rental home within a year, think of the home as your home and allow yourself to realize that you will benefit by making improvements to how the home uses energy. Don't let it matter if the landlord will reimburse you or not, because you could immediately benefit from the improvements, so don't allow anything to hinder your choice to reduce your energy consumption.
Renting For One to Two Years
- Immediately replace all bulbs with CFL's (compact florescent lights). This will reduce your electric consumption and offer improved lighting ability at lower cost.
- If you are paying for your water and/or your heating of water, replace your shower heads with water saving shower heads.
- Place rolled up towels or draft stoppers at the base of all outside doors during the winter.
- Place a thermometer near your thermostat to help determine how accurate the device is and then make sure you do not set your temperature above 65 degrees in the winter (60 degrees when nobody is home) or below 75 degrees in the summer (85 degrees when nobody is home).
- Install heat shrinkable window seal kits on any window that is drafty or is single pane and has no storm windows.
- Be sure to remove all window air conditioners by Thanksgiving.
- Bleed the air from any hot water radiators or baseboard heating systems at least once per year. (baseboard heating systems may require a plumber to help with bleeding)
- Clean radiators or baseboard heaters to ensure better heat flow.
- Vacuum out the coils under your refrigerator at least once per year to reduce running time.
- Run a humidifier in the winter to help increase the homes humidity. This increases the capacity for the heat to remain in the home and also feels more comfortable, especially when sleeping.
- Utilize a ceramic style space heater in the room that includes your primary house thermostat and spend more of your time in this area. The rest of the home will be cooler since the heat will not run as often, reducing your energy consumption.
Renting For Three Years or More
- Follow the steps already covered previously for the one to two year renters.
- Caulk around the inside and outside of all windows and doors to seal cracks and reduce air flow
- Install new door seals around your exterior doors.
- If you have radiators, purchase large sheets of half inch to one inch foam board that has at least one aluminum side and cut them to be one inch smaller in size than your radiator. Place the reflectors behind your radiators with the aluminum side facing forward, towards the radiator.
- If you have a basement, purchase one or more rolls of R-13 insulation and cut pieces that will fit between the joist spaces at the point where your basement wall top ends and the wooden part of the floor and walls meet.
- If you have attic access via attic pull down stairs, install an attic stair cover to seal and insulate the opening.
- Find the hot water piping in your basement and install foam insulation over the pipes.
- If you have a gas or electric tank style water heater, buy and install a water heater wrapping kit.
- If you have an older boiler, encase it with foam board that has aluminum on one side or more.
- Install a dryer vent seal to reduce cold air from backing into the home when the dryer is not in use.
- Consider replacing your thermostat(s) with programmable types.
You can opt to go even further with any energy saving home improvement, especially if you have some of the skills to install things on your own. For example, many years ago, I moved into a rental property that had an unfinished basement. Due to the properties landscape, the basement depth at the front and left side of the house was almost entirely underground, but the back and right side of the basement were almost entirely above the ground. My heating and air conditioning experience made it easy to see that heat was just going to be sucked through those block walls in the winter and would make it difficult to utilize the basement for anything other than simple storage.
Having determined that I would be renting the place for at least three years, I chose to insulate the basement walls by gluing 3/4 inch foam board to the walls. With an R-Value of 5, the foam board immediately reduced my heating loss in the basement by 60 to 70%, saving me money on heating the rest of the house and making the basement suitable for more than just storage.
It cost me several hundred dollars to make this home improvement to a home I didn't even own, but within the next two years, I got all that money back due to reduced heating costs for the home, plus I was now able to utilize more square footage of the home for an office and playroom for the kids... without an increase in rent.
The key thought I will leave you with is to set aside any unproductive thoughts about how the landlord may benefit later by any improvements you make today, and just focus on how this will help you save money. If you are paying for the heat, water or electricity, you will definitely benefit by making these improvements and you will save money by reducing your energy consumption. After you leave, the landlord and future tenants may benefit as well, but allow yourself to consider that to be a good thing. Our world needs to reduce its energy consumption, so if you could be a part of helping this happen, while also getting all or more of your money back in energy savings, everyone wins ... and it's great to know you are a part of that.