Energy-saving tips for renters
How to cut winter bills without making major home improvements.
As consumers grow more energy conscious, and environmental advocates push for greater awareness, there is no shortage of suggestions for new ways to cut energy bills and help the planet in the process. The cost-savers can be great for homeowners -- but what about renters?
It turns out that many leases prevent tenants from making changes that could lead to substantial energy savings. For example, blocking drafts with caulking or foam sealant could be considered an illegal alteration or improvement in most leases. So might installing a programmable thermostat. “The things you can do as a renter are fairly limited,” says Bomee Jung, a member of the board of directors of Green Home NYC, a volunteer-run organization that helps New York residents make their buildings more sustainable.
What’s more, tenants aren’t necessarily motivated to be energy-efficient. Some aren’t responsible for paying their own heating bills, and are therefore less conscientious. Others have small apartments, so even if they install insulation -- which can reduce heating costs by up to 20% -- they “may not see any difference in (their) bills,” says Jennifer Thorne Amann, the buildings program director at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.
- Bing: Tenants have rights
When do you need to consult your landlord about energy-saving renovations? Here are some tips:
Even assuming your landlord is responsible for providing the refrigerator and other major appliances, you can still look for Energy Star-certified products when shopping for home electronics. Products like TVs, DVD players, computers, and cable boxes now come with Energy Star ratings, says Ronnie Kweller, a spokeswoman at the Alliance to Save Energy. A list of qualified products can be found at EnergyStar.gov. Buying an LCD television instead of a plasma screen will also save electricity.
For the winter, take out any window air conditioners. Putting a cover over the outside of the unit is better than nothing, but “You’ve basically got a hole in your wall if you’ve still got the air conditioner in,” Jung says. Another no-permission-needed strategy: Install heavy drapes and close them at night. That can help block cold air from your windows, making you more comfortable and potentially saving on heating costs.
Ask before you try. Closing up drafts with caulking or foam sealant, or putting plastic film over your windows to keep heat in may seem non-invasive. But in a standard lease, both would be prohibited because “anything that you affix to the property is considered an improvement legally, or an alteration,” says Janet Portman, co-author of the book “Every Tenant’s Legal Rights.”
One solution: See if your landlord would be willing to share the cost with you. Caulk and foam sealant are eligible for federal tax credits, so you could offer to do the work and let your landlord take that credit, Kweller says. Whoever pays the heating bills will see some savings, and you’ll feel more comfortable.
If you already have an Energy Star-compliant fridge or other appliance in your apartment and it needs to be replaced, your landlord must replace it with something that meets the same standard. A tenant whose landlord attempts to replace an appliance with something less efficient could go to small claims court, Portman says. “It’s a classic, garden-variety contract claim. I’m paying for a steak, you can’t give me a hamburger,” she says.
If your apartment is drafty and windows need to be replaced, raise the issue with your landlord. “Even a good landlord, they’re going to try to postpone those kinds of investments as long as they can,” and likely won’t take action unless they hear tenants complaining, says Amann. In today’s tight real estate market, tenants do have some leverage in such negotiations, particularly if a lease is coming up for renewal.
Related reading at SmartMoney:
IF YOU LIVE IN ONE OF THE FOLLOWING STATES: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Illinois, Texas, Washington D.C., Massachusetts, Connecticut and California. You can save money every month on your gas & electric bill with Ambit Energy! Visit my website and check the rates in your area! http:// kathymattioda.joinambit.com (remove the space first)
*EASY to SWITCH and SEE THE SAVINGS ON YOUR NEXT BILL!
*SIMPLE and seamless TRANSFER of SERVICE...GUARANTEED!
*EARN reduced or FREE Energy!
*EARN TRAVEL REWARDS.
Learn about all of this and more on my website!
Copyright © 2013 Microsoft. All rights reserved.
Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.
ABOUT SMART SPENDING
LATEST BLOG POSTS
Even those who don't like to shop are probably hitting the stores this month. Here's what to be on the lookout for and here's what to avoid.