Tips for Rental Residents

Energy and utility expenses can make a monthly budget difficult to balance. There are several ways rental residents can reduce their living expenses while conserving energy. Review these questions to ask when you are looking at a potential rental home and easy ways to lower your energy usage once you’ve moved in.

Tips Before You Rent

Property owners are increasingly requiring rental residents to pay their own energy and utility costs in addition to the monthly rental amount. Avoid an unexpected hit to your budget by asking these important questions before committing to a new rental home.

  • What types of appliances are included in the unit? You can anticipate gas dryers and ranges cost about half as much to operate as electric appliances. A side-by-side refrigerator typically costs more to run than a top or bottom freezer model. Older appliances made before 1990 can cost up to three times as much to operate than newer, energy-efficient models. Ideally the property owner has upgraded the property with ENERGY STAR® appliances to lower their residents’ energy costs.
  • How is the hot water heated at the property?  The most expensive method to heat water is with an electric heater. An energy-efficient natural gas heater requires less energy to heat the water, and is less expensive.
  • Is the unit equipped with low-flow showerheads? This is an easy first step to conserve water and energy.
  • Are lighting fixtures equipped with incandescent, fluorescent or LED bulbs? Incandescent bulbs may be cheap to replace but they require the most energy to operate. Fluorescent bulbs use less energy and are cooler to operate. LED and CFL fixtures and bulbs have a higher initial cost but a longer lifespan and much lower operating expense.  BONUS: If the owner has installed occupancy sensors you won’t be paying for lights left on when no one is home!
  • If it is an older building, has the owner taken steps to weatherize with proper insulation and sealing? Without these measures, a building can have higher energy bills and feel uncomfortable during hot and cold seasons.
  • Does the unit have a programmable thermostat? This one piece of equipment can help you easily manage your energy usage.

Once you’ve moved into your new rental home

There are easy steps you can take to reduce your energy usage on a daily basis. It may not feel like a lot, but when done in conjunction with your neighbors it adds up to a big difference for our energy needs and the environment!

  • Keep your thermostat at 68˚ in the winter, setting it even lower while you are away or asleep. During the summer aim for 78˚, and set it higher when no one is home.  Do a quick check to ensure no air vents are inadvertently blocked by furniture. BONUS: In southern California we can typically expect cool nights even if the temperatures are high during the day. Box window fans are sufficient to cool down your home without turning on expensive air conditioning.
  • Pay attention to the sun; keep your window coverings closed during hot summer days and open to let the sun’s warmth in during the winter.
  • Vanquish energy vampires! Even when appliances are turned off, they continue to use power when plugged in. This is known as stand-by power, energy vampires, or phantom loads. Use power strips to completely shut off your TV, DVR, stereo, and other electronics when not in use. Unplug your cell phone charger when not in use. Buy ENERGY STAR products whenever possible and be sure to configure the power management settings.
  • For long-term energy savings on your next computer upgrade, consider a laptop over a desktop computer.
  • Train your family to get in and out of the refrigerator quickly. This is one of the “biggies” in terms of appliance energy usage. Standing in front of an open door forces your fridge to work harder. Keep your refrigerator set to 36 – 39˚.
  • Carefully monitor water wasted in the bathroom. Turn off the water while brushing your teeth or shaving.  A 10-minute shower with a low-flow showerhead uses roughly 15 gallons of water—compare that to 40 – 50 gallons to fill a bathtub. If you are really serious about water conservation, put a bucket to catch the water as you warm up the shower and use for watering plants or cleaning. If you have a leaky faucet, report it to your property owner.
  • When doing laundry, wash full loads rather than a handful of clothing at a time. Use cold water whenever possible.

Reducing energy use is not only good for your pocketbook, but it is vital to the long-term health of our environment. For more tips and suggestions visit

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