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Tips to save energy at home as a renter

Finger adjusting temperature on digital thermostat

Posted by Chelsea Watt

Most of us would like to make our homes more energy-efficient. But not all the best options for energy savings work for everyone, especially for those of us who rent our homes.

Renters often can't make big changes or replace appliances that might be guzzling more electricity than we'd like. The good news? There are lots of ways to reduce your electricity consumption. Start changing your habits with these tips and you could start to see some changes on your bill.

Start by saving on heating and cooling

A rule of thumb is that items within your home that are heating or cooling use a lot of energy, especially compared to items such as electronics. As a renter, you may not be in a position to upgrade your insulation, but changing behaviour can help ensure you're being as efficient as possible.

  • Turn the heat down. It sounds simple, but if you program your thermostat to set back the temperature by five degrees for eight hours of every night, you could save about 10 per cent on your heating bill. Space heating alone can account for 40 to 50 per cent of electricity bills in homes heated with electricity. And don't forget to bundle up with sweaters, slippers and blankets, which can help reduce how much heating you need.
  • In the summer, keep your home shady to reduce your need for fans and air conditioning. Using internal blinds and drapes can block up to 65 per cent of the heat that would otherwise come in through your windows.
  • If your home has ceiling fans, they can affect a room's temperature by up to 10 per cent. Ceiling fans with reversible settings can be used winter and summer to regulate your home's temperature, generating a cooling breeze in warm months and circulating warm air through the living space during the cold season.
  • Consider ways to improve your draftproofing. Materials can be inexpensive and some options, like window film applied with a blow dryer can be an option for many rental properties. But be sure to check with your landlord first to see what's possible in your home.

Make your appliances work for you

  • Check the temperature of your refrigerator. It should be between 2°C and 3°C (35°F to 38°F). In most refrigerators, this is the mid-level setting on the temperature control. For freezers, aim for -18°C (0°F). Keeping the temperatures just 5°C (9°F) colder than the recommended levels can increase the energy use for your appliance by as much as 25 per cent.
  • Wash as much laundry as possible in cold water. By switching from hot to cold water for an average of three loads per week, you could save up to $27 per year on your energy bill. And consider using a drying rack or hanging clothes outdoors. After the refrigerator, an electric clothes dryer typically uses the most electricity of any appliance in a home.
  • Use the right kitchen appliance for the right job. Using a microwave instead of your oven four times a week could save you more than $20 per year on your electricity bill.
  • Don't use energy that you don't need to when washing dishes. Selecting the air-dry cycle or opening the dishwasher door instead of using the heat drying cycle could reduce your dishwasher's energy use by 15 per cent. If you choose your dishwasher's "no-heat dry" feature for an average of three loads per week, you could save $5 a year on your energy costs.

Go ENERGY STAR® when shopping

For items within your home that you do own, such as electronics, light bulbs and light fixtures, ENERGY STAR offers long-term savings and will help keep your overall electricity use down.

  • Use CFL light bulbs. CFLs use approximately 75 per cent less energy and can last up to 10 times longer than standard incandescents. Savings are even bigger with LED lighting, although they cost more up front. But they last longer, too; a minimum of 25,000 hours, or 25 years based on average household use.
  • If you're shopping for new light fixtures or lamps, ENERGY STAR options are stylish and will save even more energy than just using efficient bulbs in your existing fixtures. To qualify for ENERGY STAR approval, fixtures must use at least three-quarters less energy than comparable standard fixtures. Check out great deals available on ENERGY STAR fixtures from our retail partners.
  • When you're in the market for a new TV, ENERGY STAR makes a big difference. An ENERGY STAR TV uses about 30 per cent less energy than a standard unit and is rated to consume one watt or less when switched off.
  • You can also consider ENERGY STAR PVRs. An average HD PVR set top box consumes about 270 kWh/year. That's about $25 a year to operate just one device in your home. ENERGY STAR qualified set-top boxes are at least 30 per cent more efficient than conventional models.

Find more ways to save

If you're in a long-term lease, your landlord may be willing to split the cost of some more expensive or permanent improvements. ENERGY STAR also offers tips for renters to save energy and water.

Chelsea Watt is a writer-editor with bchydro.com