Energy Efficient Apartment Dwelling
How to Make a Big Impact in Small Places!
If you rent an apartment or condo, you may feel pretty powerless when it comes to controlling your energy consumption. After all, most tenants are at the mercy of their landlords when it comes to things like selecting an HVAC system, water heater, or appliances. There are simple ways to change how much energy you use and reduce the cost of your utilities, though, regardless of your landlord’s choices.
The easiest place to start is with electricity. Figure out where and how you use electric power. This will help you evaluate your actual energy needs—Does your laptop really need to be plugged in and turned on all the time if you only use it to check email once a day? From there you can figure out ways to reduce your usage and increase efficiency. Whenever possible, purchase energy efficient appliances like washing machines, dryers, microwaves, TVs, stereos and computers. Look for the government’s Energy Star seal to help you identify brands that qualify. Use daylight as much as possible and only turn on lamps when absolutely necessary. Replace traditional incandescent light bulbs with compact florescent ones, and turn off lights when you’re not using them.
You probably don’t have much of a voice when it comes to the type of heating or cooling system your landlord has installed in your building, but you do have complete control over when and how much to use these units. In cold weather, turn your heat down a degree or two lower than what’s comfortable; raise the temperature of your air conditioner a few degrees higher in the summer. Use fans or open up windows in warm weather, and consider purchasing an energy efficient space heater to help supplement your apartments heating system in winter. Hanging thermal drapes can also help you save significant energy and money.
Another area that you may not have much control over is the kind of water heater that’s connected to your apartment, but you can try to reduce your hot water consumption. Take quick showers rather than long baths, run the dishwasher or washing machine only when you have a full load, and use cold water to wash clothes (it will get your stuff just as clean as hot water and is actually easier on the fabric). Turn off the water when you’re not using it, and be sure to notify your landlord or superintendent if you have a leaky faucet, running toilet, or other plumbing problem you aren’t able to fix yourself. If you do have access to your apartment’s hot water heater, turn the thermostat down to 120 degrees. Water at this temperature is hot enough to clean and to prevent bacteria from forming in the tank, but is more cost effective.
If you are hunting for a new apartment here are some very important items to consider:
Does your apartment building have multiple floors? If so, those who live on the upper floors usually save a little more money on heating bills in the winter months. That’s because they can take advantage of the residual heat that rises from the apartment units beneath them so they can lower their own thermostats a few degrees. The flip side of course is that apartment on top floors also tend to be warmer in the summertime due to both rising heat and to receiving more direct sunlight.
Most apartment hunters prefer a unit which faces south because they will get more sunlight over the course of a day. That’s fine in the winter time when you want your apartment to be as warm as possible…but in summer, watch out: that extra sunlight means that you will probably run your air conditioner much more than your neighbors who face east, west or north.
Apartment buildings with stone or brick facades tend to be much warmer than buildings with siding. They hold in much more heat generated by both your heating system and from the sun. That can be a blessing in the winter time; but in summer, these buildings can often bake like a brick oven.
One trick that you can do to save on both your heating and cooling costs is to keep your apartment door open whenever you can. Chances are that your landlord heats and cools the lobby and hallways. If you have neighbors who like to run their heaters and air conditioners at full blast, a lot of their warm and cool air is going to wind up out in the hallways. If you can bring in some of this wasted or little used air into your apartment, you can really cut back on your own usage.
Discuss your energy efficiency concerns with your landlord and find out if there’s anything he or she can do to help make your apartment or your building more energy and cost efficient. A nice little reminder to sneak into that conversation: Tenant savings = landlord savings.