Living in big city can be a thing of beauty. Living in a city apartment often times is not. It involves the upstairs neighbors who seem to have decided that 3 a.m. is the best time to push the ol’ bureau around. Sometimes it means walking out your door and into a mountain of trash. Or it’s the ever-present threat of bed bugs, or the losing battle that is trying to keep a cap on your utility bills when, in reality, your landlord runs the show. Fortunately, in the latter case, there are ways to navigate around your management company’s reckless abandon — and with limited resources.
If you have ever wondered how you can stem the flow of cash from your bank account to your electricity bill, or simply how you can trap heat in your room when the temperature drops to one measly degree, here are five super easy, super effective cost- and energy-saving tips you’ll want to know.
5 Energy-Saving Tips for Renters
1. Ward Off Energy Vampires
Alas, if only turning off an appliance was as simple as hitting the power button. Unfortunately, as long as it’s still plugged into the wall, a machine is still sucking energy from the outlet like a robot vampire. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, something as small as a cell phone charger pulls .26 watts of power when plugged in without a phone attached, versus 2.24 watts when your phone is attached. It may sound like a small, no sweat difference, but it adds up — to an extra 10 percent on your energy bill, if you’re not careful.
The easiest thing to do is to hook up your devices to power strips — unplugging five appliances becomes as easy as unplugging one. And while it’s unwise to unplug something like the refrigerator, you can also cushion its blow to your wallet there by keeping it at the right temperature (between 38 and 41 degrees) and well-stocked — not full of old takeout and not empty, save for a six-pack and a bottle of ketchup.
2. Turn the Lights Out
Dads love nothing better than reminding you to turn off the lights before you leave; money doesn’t grow on trees, you know. And dads are so right. While flipping the switch won’t save mega bucks, the cost adds up: The Energy Collective estimates that five bulbs left burning overnight can add an additional $110 per year to your bill.
“Lighting is one of the easiest energy-saving changes you can make. Dimmers, sensors, timers and LED lights can be installed. These use less energy and last longer,” says Sara Abate, interior designer at Ambience.ca.
So before you go to bed or leave for the day, take a tour of your apartment, (which probably won’t take long) and make sure everything’s off and unplugged. And if you really want to Dad-proof your home, consider LED bulbs, like Abate recommends. While they can be pricier upfront, they “typically use about 25-80 percent less energy than traditional incandescents…and can last 3-25 times longer,” according to the Department of Energy, which has organized estimated savings into this handy chart.
3. Make Sure Nothing Gets In, Nothing Goes Out
Keeping your apartment cool in the summer and warm in the winter means making sure that climate-controlled air isn’t seeping out and drafts aren’t blowing in. Seal up your space and enjoy watching your electric bill drop in the summer when 24 hours of air conditioning is no longer a daily necessity.
“Drafts are the largest source of heating and cooling loss in the home,” says Mark Tyrol, owner of Battic Door Energy Conservation Products, who specializes in keeping leaks on lockdown.
“Imagine leaving all the windows open all winter long – the energy loss, drafts, and wasted energy. Well, if the home has a folding pull-down attic stair, a whole-house fan, a fireplace, or a clothes dryer, that may be just what is occurring in the home every day.”
In addition to saving energy, this tip could also save you from a big-city pest plague: Locate all the cracks around your apartment and seal them. Install draft guards under the doors. Line windows and air ducts with insulating strips. Lucky enough to have a wall of windows? Invest in insulated shades, and keep them closed when you’re not around.
Tyrol also recommends the following draft protections if your home happens to have these amenities:
- For the attic: Invest in an insulated attic stair cover.
- For the whole-house fan: Be sure to equip it with a fan shutter seal.
- For the fireplace: Look into getting a fireplace plug.
- For the dryer: Equip a vent seal.
4. Reduce Your Water Waste
The EPA estimates that the U.S. uses an annual 1.2 trillion gallons of water for showering alone. If you have roommates, you know how crowded a bathroom can become when everyone is vying to shower each day, and still there’s the pesky obligation to show up to work scrubbed and reasonably well groomed. But how do you get around wasting water without skimping on cleanliness?
A low-flow shower head is an easy and cheap way to reduce your water use. HGTV notes the importance of choosing a WaterSense label, as these “shower heads are about 20 percent more efficient than others and can save more than 2,300 gallons per year and 300 kilowatt hours of electricity — enough to power a television for about a year.” Similarly, you can install aerators to the tips of your faucets to reduce water flow from your taps. Another savvy trick? Sink an upright glass or jar in your toilet tank — it will remain full when you flush, saving that much water every time.
5. Dispose of Your Trash the Right Way
A surprise trash ticket tacked onto your monthly rent isn’t going to break the bank, but it is annoying, and it’s a reminder of your unnecessary contribution to your local landfill. It takes about two extra seconds to dispose of an item in the correct can, and doing so makes all the difference when it comes to recycling.
Put the paper products with the paper products, bottles with bottles, and trash with trash. While maneuvers like composting aren’t going to save you much money (unless you’re an active gardener, in which case you can save yourself a whopping $16.98 per year), your extra effort will cut carbon costs, and composting in a compact apartment isn’t as outlandish a prospect as you might think.
As for your cans and bottles, bring them to your nearest redemption center. You’re unlikely to get more than a dollar and change, but you will get the lasting satisfaction of knowing you saved a dolphin from getting his nose caught in your throwaway pickle jar. Actually, you could consider saving that jar — stock your whole cabinet with the free glass that comes with every jar of pickles or preserves, indulging your hipster impulses as you reduce, reuse, and recycle.
You might not be able to control your neighbor’s nocturnal adventures in Feng Shui, or the number of stray cats Mrs. Across-the-Hall adopts, or the clanging of your pipes in the winter, but start hacking your way through this eco-friendly list and you’ll find that you can control how tall those trash mountains grow and how much you save — in both energy and money — as a result.
Have your own cost- and energy-saving tips? Be an awesome human, and leave ’em below!