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Tips for Renters
Not everyone can replace their furnace with a high-efficiency heat pump, either because they are renting or because they cannot afford it. However, there are still some inexpensive opportunities to reduce energy use while improving your comfort at home.
About 50% of home energy consumption is used for heating and cooling. By carefully managing thermostat temperature settings in your home, significant savings can be realized. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends settings of 68°F in the heating season and 78°F during the
cooling season when someone is home and active. When away or during sleeping hours, they suggest turning the thermostat down to 55°F in the winter and up to 85°F or higher in the summer. If that is too cool in the winter, try putting on an extra sweater rather than turning the thermostat up.
If you have difficulties remembering to adjust your thermostat at bedtime or when leaving, a smart thermostat may provide a better opportunity for savings. According to product manufacturers, smart thermostats, when properly installed and used, reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 15%. But as with any opportunity to reduce energy consumption, the savings
potential depends on how much consumers are willing to leverage a smart thermostat’s benefits. Do not buy one until getting approval from your landlord, if you rent, and confirming the model you are choosing is compatible with your central heating and cooling system.
If you use electric baseboard heaters and do not mind less-used rooms being colder, you might be able to save some money by zone heating. Electric baseboards make this easy since they usually have thermostats for each room. Portable electric space heaters can be a good tool for
zone heating, too, if they are used safely and wisely in the area you spend the most time in and you reduce heating levels in the rest of the house. Space heaters that are used incorrectly can be dangerous and can even increase energy costs.
Stop air leaks
Little gaps around windows and doors, as well as wiring and plumbing penetrations, can be sources of winter cold and summer heat. With a little weatherstripping and caulk, these air leaks can easily be alleviated, but if renting, you should probably check with your landlord before you
get started. If cold air is pouring under the bottom of outside doors, a $10 door draft stopper is a simple way to block gaps and improve indoor comfort.
Windows and window coverings
Your windows may be letting heat in during summer days and heat out in winter. Window coverings such as thermal blinds or medium- to heavy-weight curtains or thermal blinds can help you manage your home’s heat loss or gain. In summer, keep blinds and curtains closed to prevent the sun from heating the cooler inside air. On cold, cloudy winter days and nights, window coverings can keep warmth inside. Opening up window coverings during the winter when receiving direct sunlight is a ‘passive solar’ technique that can reduce heating costs. Also, the interior of windows can be covered with clear plastic to reduce heat loss and air leaks.
Since about 10% of a home’s energy use is related to water heating, turning the temperature setting down can save energy. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety & Health Administration recommend a setting of 120°F to optimize savings while reducing the potential from scalding.