Saturday, November 27, 2021
Nov. 27, 2021

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Energy Adviser: Ways to save if you rent


Although renters aren’t in the position of making big-ticket energy efficient upgrades to their living spaces, there are still many things they can do to get the most out of every energy dollar.

Think of saving energy like sticking to a financial budget: Controlling big expenses while also making changes to daily habits will add up to surprising savings.

For renters and homeowners alike, heating and cooling are typically the largest energy expenses in the home. First, if your home has a programmable thermostat, use it. Programming the thermostat around your schedule will maximize your personal comfort and avoid wasting energy. Setting it to 68 degrees while you’re awake and setting it lower (but never below 55 degrees) while you’re asleep or away from home generally strikes a good balance between comfort and efficiency.

Temperature set backs are proven ways to save energy — usually. Electric resistance heating systems like electric furnaces or wall heaters with blowers can do a setback in the 6 to 8-degree range. Radiant electric heat like baseboard or cable ceiling heat are better with less of a setback. Heat pumps on the other hand should only be set back 3-4 degrees, if any. They operate most efficiently if they just maintain a steady temperature.

If your zonally heated home has bedrooms that aren’t used regularly, turn those spaces down and close the door. In forced air homes, the system won’t run efficiently if more than a vent or two are closed, so be cautious. Either way, be sure open up those doors periodically to avoid moisture problems.

Even the latest and greatest, top-dollar windows cause a surprising amount of heat loss, which drags down a home’s energy efficiency. But you don’t have to ask your landlord to board up the place to stay warm this winter, just install thermal curtains or insulated drapes instead. Drapes don’t have to be expensive, just heavy, to keep you warm. They’ll cut back on radiant heat loss and they’ll trap warm air inside.

Leaky exterior doors also cause a lot of heat loss. Drafts at the threshold can be easily reduced with a rolled up towel or for a better, more permanent solution, a door sweep or door bottom seal. While a towel needs to be reset every time the door is opened, the sweeps and seals will go back in place on its own. Check for other large leaks like doggie doors, windows not latched completely, or fireplace dampers that are not closed when not in use.

Some homes, especially those that are a few decades old, often have a room or two that just won’t heat up to the same degree as the rest of the place. In those cases, space heaters offer a targeted solution to perennial problem. Rather than reaching for the thermostat to heat up the entire house, a space heater will keep you warm. For safety, only run the space heater while you’re in the room and avoid running it while you sleep.

Of course there are many other, nonheating related ways to save energy as well.

Switching out incandescent lightbulbs to LEDs will significantly reduce lighting expenses. Taking shorter showers, washing fuller loads of laundry with cold water and using the dishwasher instead of washing by dishes by hand will reduce hot water consumption.

Cooking a small meal or a side dish? Using a toaster oven, air fryer or microwave will consume less power than running the conventional oven.

Shut off your electronic devices entirely instead of putting them in “rest” or “sleep” mode.

Everyone lives differently, so take a few days to understand your household’s habits and see where you can improve. Remember, practiced regularly, even a small change can add up.

Finally, if you notice problems with your home, talk to your landlord. Homes require regular maintenance. Plus, it’s best when small problems are addressed before they become major issues.

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.