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Saving Energy: Yes, You Can Green Your Rental

From the GOOD Guide to Saving Energy

Every three months, GOOD releases our quarterly magazine, which examines a given theme through our unique lens. Recent editions have covered topics like the impending global water crisis, the future of transportation, and the amazing rebuilding of New Orleans. This quarter's issue is about energy, and we'll be rolling out a variety of stories all month. You can subscribe to GOOD here.


Green renovations. Green retrofits. Green architects. Green design. There’s endless talk of the seemingly infinite options for improving the energy efficiency of your home—provided you own it. But what if you rent?

There’s still a lot you can do, according to the architect Eric Corey Freed, who, as author of the recent book Green$ense for the Home: Rating the Real Payoff from 50 Green Home Projects, is the go-to guy for energy-saving solutions. Green buildings and energy efficiency does not have to be solely for homeowners, he states. “Renters can also seize opportunities to save energy and money with some simple projects.”

While your landlord may not be interested in helping cut your utility bills, there are easy and inexpensive projects you can do to cut energy use. In colder climates, renters could see their heating bills drop by as much as 50 percent if they use these simple methods. So stop blaming your landlord and get caulking.— Allison Arieff

Install a programmable thermostat (and program it)

Time: 20 minutes

Cost: $20

Caulk around windows

Time: 60 minutes

Cost: $6

Shrink-wrap your windows in winter

Time: 30 minutes

Cost: $15

Turn down your hot-water heater

Time: 2 minutes
Cost: free

Install curtains over south- and west-facing windows (in summer)

Time: upwards of 45 minutes

Cost: at least $45 per window

Place draft snakes (or, the cheaper alternative, old towels) along front doorsill to stop drafts (in winter)

Time: 2 minutes

Cost: free

Upgrade burned-out bulbs with compact fluorescents

Time: 20 minutes

Cost: $20 per bulb

Turn off lights and unplug equipment when not in use

Time: 1 minute

Cost: free

Or use simple light timers

Time: 5 minutes

Cost: $10 per timer

Set clothes dryer to cooler setting

Time: 0 minutes

Cost: free

Wash dishes in cooler water

Time: 0 minutes

Cost: free

Vacuum clean the coils under your fridge to make it run more efficiently

Time: 10 minutes

Cost: free

Three slightly more involved fixes to parts of your home’s energy systems (that you may or may not have access to)\n

Set your hot-water heater no higher than 120 degrees. That’s plenty hot to blast the grime off your pans in the sink or the filth off of you in the shower.

Wrap your hot-water heater. There are ready-made, user-friendly DIY water-heater wrapping kits at any hardware store. This is the simplest and fastest payback step in cutting your home-energy use.

Get some ceiling fans. These are the most efficient home-climate comfort devices. With a ceiling fan, air conditioners can be switched off, or turned to warmer, less power-thirsty settings.

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