Cost Effective Energy Conservation Tips for Tenants
Conserving the Energy You Use. Save Money, too!
If your landlord wishes to improve your home and the environment, and increase the value of the accommodation, please recommend our page for apartment owners.
If you are like most renters, you will probably not have a receptive ear from your landlord! Even knowing that your landlord could save money, have higher quality tenants, and increase revenues, he or she may not be willing to add to the investment of a higher efficiency home/apartment.
So here are some free tips for you. All of them can be done fairly inexpensively, depending upon what kind of building you’re living in. This information is designed to help you feel more comfortable in your home, save energy (and the environment), and ultimately save you money, too!
There are two main places where energy is used in your home: for (A) heating, and for (B) appliances and lighting. Let’s begin with heating, especially how heat losses can be minimized.
A. PREVENT HEAT LOSS
There are two types of heat losses: 1) air loss and 2) radiation through surfaces.
- Air loss is through cracks in the walls, floors and ceiling of the upper floor. (Anywhere the house meets the elements.)
- Radiation heat loss (heat working its way through a solid surface) is mainly lost through the windows, but includes the walls, floors, and ceiling surfaces.
1. Heat Loss Through Air Loss
- Any building acts as a system that mimics a chimney, meaning air is escaping through the upper floor into the attic, which is replaced by air coming in to the other floors. The more floors, the greater the effect.
- Sealing those cracks up reduces the “chimney effect,” and makes for a much less drafty home. Burn some incense on a windy day and/or when you have all the fans (bathroom, kitchen) operating to see where the air is going and coming from. All of these supplies can be cheaply bought in a hardware store.
- Spray foam into cracks around doorways and windows. Also look for gaps around pipes that go through outside walls and ceiling, and gaps around wires that go through outer walls. Use gloves and protective eye -wear when spraying!
- Caulk smaller gaps, such as around window frames and where air might be going through into ceiling light fixtures on the top floor. If you live in an apartment, why send your warm air to the next apartment up?
- Use foam insulators on outlets and switches found located on the inside of outer walls.
- Allow for some fresh air to come into your home. Too little air will create mold and other air quality problems.
- If you have a fireplace or older wood stove: if you can’t afford to buy an efficient stove (insert or free standing unit) install one of our very efficient fireplace draft-stoppers. The cover needs to have some insulation on the backside, and seals well against the fireplace. One of the biggest heat-suckers in your home. Older stove? Check all the seals on the door, and replace as needed.
- Cover leaky windows with a thin plastic “window kit.” Many rental units have old aluminum single-pane slider windows, or very drafty older wooden ones which are the leakiest, coldest surface in your home! Putting on the window kits will make a huge difference on these windows. These pay for themselves in the winter within a month’s time, possibly as short as a week’s time. Big difference in terms of draft! If done well there is virtually no light loss, and they look okay.
Have a furnace? Check the filter and clean it often. If the fan motor is one that needs lubrication, make sure it is done yearly. Having a heat specialist check over your furnace and water heater is smart, because the units may need servicing. Your landlord should be paying for this maintenance.
2. Heat Loss Through Radiation Loss
- The biggest single factor of heat loss is likely your windows, especially if they are single-pane windows. See suggestions above.
- Insulate your water heater with a “blanket.” They say that one should avoid covering the top of the heater, or the cover to the pilot light. The blanket can pay for itself in a month. In our part of the world hot water is the single largest user of energy in a typical house, but even in an apartment it is a significant user of energy.
- If accessible, put foam pipe insulators over your hot water pipes, especially close to the water heater. This is even more important in an unheated basement or crawl space. This measure can pay for itself in a month.
B. POWER REDUCTION
Appliances & Lighting
- Fridge (one of the biggest energy users): short of replacing it with a newer, more efficient model, you can clean the cooling coils (back or bottom of unit) and use an old toothbrush to clean along the ridges of the top door seals. If there is space between the fridge and the walls you could also put solid foam between them and on top of the fridge. But first make sure that those surfaces do not feel warm (this may be a sign that cooling coils are found behind these surfaces). And do not cover the coils, exposed or otherwise!
- Dry your clothes outside. Dryers use a lot of energy. Clothes dried outside smell a lot better. If you want to fluff them up after having them on the line then use your dryer for that (on the no-heat setting). Live in an apartment or don’t have a dryer? Portable racks can be set up in the bathroom, balcony, or where fresh air can get to the clothes.
- Replace some or all of your incandescent lighting with fluorescent lighting. You could save 10% or more on your hydro bill right there. Especially important to do in areas where the lights are kept on for longer periods of time. The newer ones don’t flicker when turning on. And tri-light compact florescent lights are now available.
- Get rid of your old “holiday” lights and replace them with LED lights.
- Use dimmers, timers, photocells, and motion sensors to control the duration and power use of lighting. Be careful not to use dimmers on florescent lighting not designed for dimming.
- If possible use programmable thermostats on heating equipment. Make sure that the thermostat closely controls the temperature, as this maximises efficiencies. Such thermostats will be labelled “Energy Star.”
- Flush your hot water tank once a year. Instructions on this can be found on the BC Hydro’s website (see below).
- Replace shower heads with high-efficient shower heads. The new efficient ones are much better than the old ones as you get a real shower with them, while saving a lot of hot water. Keep the old shower head for when you move, and take your efficient one with you!
- Take showers rather than baths.
- Fix drippy taps. A leaky faucet can lose over 10,000 litres of water (hot or cold) a year.
- Wash your clothes at the lowest temperature possible. Using more expensive laundry detergent that can wash at cold temperatures will more than pay for itself. The Soap Exchange or other eco-sensitive stores are worth checking out.
- Use your dishwasher or washing machine only when full.
- Check out BC Hydro’s website for more tips, and for a way to calculate your energy use.
- Most electronic devices use power even when they are “off.” This includes your T.V., stereo, DVD player, computers and related equipment, etc. Virtually anything that’s plugged in. By putting most of these on power bars that can be switched off or by using programmable power bars you can save yourself enough to have dinner out at least once a year!
- Rent or buy a power meter. You will be surprised to see just how much power you are using on various devices!
- Ideas supplemented by BC Hydro
For more tips on how to reduce your energy bills, go to the Canada Mortgage and Housing website