Energy Adviser: Low-cost energy savings for renters



How does no-cost or low-cost energy savings sound? If you’re a renter not wanting to invest in your landlord’s property, it might just be your ticket to savings. “It’s a good idea for renters to start where they can make the biggest difference—heating of air and heating of water,” said Michael Wallace, energy counselor for Clark Public Utilities.

Although renters don’t select their heating systems or water heaters, they can often control both. Wallace said that often renters don’t look at settings on these systems, even though they’re paying the monthly bills. For water heaters, Wallace advises setting the temperature to 120 degrees. “Hotter water can be unsafe and can increase your energy use,” he said.

If your home doesn’t have a programmable thermostat and you’re planning to stay awhile, consider buying one for about $40 from a hardware store. It can pay for itself within a year or two.

If you have a programmable thermostat, learn how to use it. If the manual is missing, find the model number and search the Web and you’ll probably find the manual with instructions. Wallace recommends setting the thermostat to 68 degrees for heating and 76 for cooling. “When customers aren’t home, they should keep their homes warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter,” Wallace said. “Then program the thermostat to return to a comfortable temperature as they arrive home. Programming the system this way will save energy.”

No-cost ideas

Some of the no-cost solutions Wallace recommends renters consider include:

• Washing clothes in cold water.

• Running full loads in the washer and matching the load dial to your load size.

• Drying clothes on a clothesline during the summer.

• Cleaning refrigerator coils so the fridge operates efficiently.

• If the freezer isn’t full, filling plastic water bottles or other plastic jugs ¾ full with water. This reduces the amount of air that needs to be cooled.

• Turning off any lights not in use.

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

• Using a digital thermometer to set fridge temperature to 38-42 degrees and freezer to zero-5 degrees. These settings will keep food from spoiling and save energy.

• Running the dishwasher on “air-dry” mode.

• Opening the drapes or blinds to let the sun in during the day, then closing them at night in the winter. Close them during the day in the summer.

Low-cost ideas

Wallace also suggests several low-cost solutions:

• Installing CFL or LED bulbs that consume 75 percent less energy than old incandescent lights.

• Sealing air leaks around windows and doors with caulk and electrical outlets on outside walls with inexpensive foam gaskets.

• Replacing or repairing weather-stripping at front and back doors to prevent air leaks.

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

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

“Everyone considers Energy Star when we’re buying larger kitchen appliances like freezers and dishwashers,” Wallace said. “But lots of smaller items — TVs, computers, and light bulbs — are Energy Star qualified and can help renters reduce their energy consumption and save money.”

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