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Monday, June 4, 2012

Renters Have the Power to Save Electricity

If you rent your home, it often seems that you can’t do much to control your electric bills. But in reality, there are lots of low- or no-cost tricks that you can put into place to cut down on electricity use. 

“Usually leases forbid renters to make alterations to a structure, so your energy-saving solutions have to be simple,” says Brian Sloboda, a senior program manager specializing in energy efficiency with the Cooperative Research Network, an arm of the Arlington, Va.-based National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

Electronics and Appliances
The notion that regularly powering down your computer will shorten its life is outdated. Nowadays, computers tend to become outdated themselves before frequent shutdowns cause any damage. The U.S. Department of Energy consumer website, EnergySavers.gov, offers this guideline: If you won’t use your computer for more than 20 minutes, shut off the monitor; if you won’t use it for more than two hours, shut the whole thing down.

However, there is a caveat: If your computer takes its time waking up, your own time might be worth more than the electricity you save.

Most electronics feature a glowing light when turned off—that means they’re still drawing electricity. A quick fix for this “vampire,” or phantom, load involves plugging various devices into a power strip. Simply flip the switch on the power strip when you won’t be using the devices. 

While your hands are most likely tied when it comes to the types of major appliances installed, if one needs to be replaced, lobby your landlord to purchase an ENERGY STAR model. Visit energystar.gov for more information on particular products.

A roll of weather stripping and a tube of caulk can go a long way in saving energy and money. Check for gaps around doors and windows. Can you see daylight? If so, ask your landlord if you can seal cracks and reduce air flow.

The Air Sealing section on EnergySavers.gov offers tips on the right types of weather stripping and caulk for your residence. While you’re talking to your landlord, ask if he or she will pay the cost if you do the labor.

Look to your windows for additional savings. Of course, you probably can’t replace them, but if they’re drafty in the winter, try sealing kits you can purchase at any home improvement store. These plastic sheets fit over your window to block drafts. Curtains can also help—close them in the summer to block sunlight, and open them in the winter to let the warmth in.

Useful Tips
A few more simple tips can help shave your electric bills:
  • When lightbulbs burn out, replace them with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). If they have an ENERGY STAR label, these bulbs typically last up to 10 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs and use 75 percent less electricity.
  • Use your vacuum to clean coils in the bottom panel of your refrigerator. Never figured out where those coils are? Watch this video by Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives to learn how.
  • Similarly, keep your dryer vents clean. Clogged refrigerator coils and dryer vents will cause your appliances to work harder and increase the risk of fire. 
  • Don’t allow furniture to block air vents, and shut the vents in rooms you don’t use.
  • Check the temperature on your water heater. These devices don’t need to be set at more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit for daily showers and chores.
Sources: U.S. Department of Energy (EnergySavers.gov), Cooperative Research Network
Magen Howard writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.