Energy Adviser: Energy-saving tips for renters

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If you're a renter, it can be hard to make big strides in energy savings. But you can take small ones. As a renter, you're among the third of Clark County folks paying an average of nearly $900 a month to a landlord. So cutting even a few energy dollars off your other monthly utility bill can reduce your housing costs.

"Renters should consider no-cost and low-cost options for saving energy," said Matthew Babbitts, residential program manager for Clark Public Utilities. "When renters reduce their energy consumption, it lessens their overall living expenses, creating a win-win situation."

Free weatherization

Through the Clark County Housing Preservation program, weatherization is free to qualified low-income homeowners and renters. It provides energy efficiency and indoor air-quality improvements for single-family, multifamily and mobile homes. The entire process takes about 90 days. So start now.

"To make things go smoothly, tenants should check with their landlords and see if they are interested in the program," said Mike Selig, program coordinator for Clark County Weatherization and Energy Efficiency. "And then pull together their income statements and other documentation required to kick off the process. Also, they need to be present for the scheduled auditor and contractor visits for things to go smoothly."

A weatherization auditor determines the best energy conservation measures for each home. Standard fixes include insulation, ventilation, weather stripping, caulking and heater repair. "Landlords must contribute $500 or an equal in-kind contribution, typically a home repair of the equivalent amount, like fixing a leaky roof," he said.

Renters interested in applying for the weatherization program should fill out the online form at http://www.clark.wa.gov/development/building/weatherization.html#apply, or call 397-2375, extension 4068.

No-cost, low-cost options

"Even small steps toward energy efficiency can add up for renters," said Babbitts. "However, many of the no-cost energy savers mean a shift in behavior, and sometimes that makes these changes a little harder to sustain."

• Set the water heater to 120-125 degrees.

• Wash clothes only in cold water.

• Dry clothes on a clothesline in the summer.

• Turn off lights when not using them.

• Avoid phantom loads by unplugging unused appliances like cellphone chargers, computers, DVD players and televisions.

• Use a digital thermometer to set fridge temperature to 37-42 degrees and freezer to zero-5 degrees. Both will keep food from spoiling and save you energy.

• Unplug space heaters in the winter when not using them.

• Run the dishwasher on "air-dry" mode.

• Open the drapes or blinds to let the sun in during the day, then close them at night.

Some of the low-cost energy-saving solutions Babbitts recommends that renters consider include:

• Replacing incandescent bulbs with CFL light bulbs. They consume about 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs.

• Installing a programmable thermostat if you have a central heating and cooling system.

• Sealing air leaks in the home with caulk.

• Reducing air leaks at front and back doors by replacing weather-strip padding.

• Installing a low-flow showerhead to conserve both energy and water.

• Purchasing and using "smart energy strips" for entertainment centers and home-based offices.

Don't forget Energy Star products, either. "Everyone thinks of Energy Star when buying larger kitchen appliances like freezers and dishwashers," he said. "But many smaller appliances — air purifiers, coffeemakers and even TVs — are Energy Star qualified and can help renters reduce their energy use and save money."


Energy adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to ecod@clarkpud.com or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.