The breeze whispers through the windows into your apartment at night. Problem is, it’s winter, the windows are closed, and since you rent, there’s no way you’re replacing those old casements. Nor is your landlord, for that matter — he’s not concerned because you’re paying the heating bill.
Going green in an apartment for the sake of both the environment and your wallet can be tricky, since not owning usually means not wanting to spend a fortune upgrading something you will leave behind. But with more people seeing green as a housing priority there are more inexpensive, non-permanent options in the marketplace to help you save the planet and some cash.
Seal the windows with plastic sheeting to keep the cold at bay. Place door warmers along the spaces where the door doesn’t quite meet the floor. Buy tight-fitting curtains to keep even more air out. Close the curtains at night to keep heat in, but open them during the day to let the warm sunshine in. In summer, make sure to clean or replace your air-conditioning filters. If you have a window unit, shade the machine. You might consider keeping the sheeting on if your windows are so drafty they’ll let expensive cool air out.
Buy a few cheap lamp timers. For renters who work long hours but like to keep lights on for pets or to ward off potential intruders, timers can shave serious dollars off the electric bill. Upgrade old, energy-draining lightbulbs and lamps. There is a plethora of energy-saving lightbulb options these days. The Natural Resources Defense Council has a chart that explains the main differences among the bulbs, including their cost efficiencies. Renter math might differ, though. Is it worth buying a 23-year bulb if you know you’ll likely move again in three years and have to pack it? You’ll have to figure that out for yourself.
Limit Electronics and Appliances
So-called “vampire gadgets” suck energy even when they’re turned off, such as computers and DVRs. Unplug them when they’re not in use, or plug them into a surge protector so you can easily turn them all off with the one switch. If you have to buy any new electronics, such as a new TV, look for Energy Star labels. While it’s not a pleasant chore, cleaning your refrigerator’s coils and regularly defrosting the freezer will keep your unit’s power use down. Also, run dishwashers and washing machines at full capacity during off-peak hours when utilities often charge less.
Get Water Wise
If you have an old shower head, replace it with a low-flow model to reduce your water usage. If that’s not possible, take tub baths where you can better monitor the amount you use. You can also rig your toilet to flush less water by placing a partially weighted jug, such as a plastic milk container filled with water, in the tank. If you have outdoor space, consider purchasing plants that use little water.
If you want to save the Earth without spending money, take a few extra minutes to recycle. You can clear out valuable space in the process. Recycling isn’t just for cans and bottles anymore. Nonprofits and government agencies often stage local collection events for batteries, small electronics and pharmaceuticals to keep them from becoming a danger in landfills or sewers. Some areas collect textiles, so you can recycle old sheets, tablecloths or clothes too ratty to donate.
Request an Audit
Many state and local agencies offer free energy audits in which experts make a home visit to see how you can lower your energy usage. Some programs offer freebies like free low-energy bulbs and free low-flow showerheads. Others might wrap a building’s water heater — maybe not a big deal to the renter, but most landlords probably won’t mind something that saves them money with zero investment. Rules differ by jurisdiction, and there can be wait lists, but it doesn’t cost anything to ask — and it may just save you and your landlord some cash.
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