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City of Alexandria, VA City of Alexandria, VA
Green Building Resource Center
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Page updated Jul 27, 2012 9:38 AM

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No-Cost Energy Solutions for Renters

As a renter, making a significant financial investment in energy efficiency improvements may not be a viable option. Even though some small, low-cost options can have a considerable impact on utility cost, it’s good to know that there are no-cost, behavior-based strategies that can also yield results. Here are a few zero-cost tips for how you can modify your behavior to save money each month on your utility bills.

Heating and Cooling

Air Filters imageIs your thermostat set at a constant temperature even when you are not at home? Customizing the thermostat temperature settings can minimize your home’s heating or cooling requirements in both summer and winter, or when you are asleep or away. If your home does not have a programmable thermostat first check with your local utility provider to see if you are eligible for rebates for the purchase and/or installation of a programmable thermostat.

Close the doors to the basement, closets, and other rooms that are not in use. This will allow your heating or cooling system to concentrate on keeping the core area of your home comfortable without wasting energy on unoccupied areas.

Check your furnace filter regularly to make sure it’s clean. A dirty, clogged filter can cause the furnace to work harder to draw air in. 

Make an effort to wash and dry clothes at night during the summer time. Avoiding the hottest part of the day will reduce the stress on your cooling system as it tries to offset the heat the dryer gives off.

In the Kitchen, Bath, and Laundry Room

Always try to run major appliances like the dishwashers, washers, and dryers during the evening at off-peak electricity usage hours. Avoiding peak hours of electricity use (generally between 10 am and 6 pm) also has environmental benefits because it allows the electric generation facilities to operate at maximum efficiency. If you are billed on a Time-of-Use schedule, this could also save money because electricity rates are lower at night when electricity is in off-peak demand. 

Be sure the dishwasher is full before running or use a soak then rinse technique on small amounts of dishes in the sink. This will save both water and electricity used for water heating.

In the bathroom, lower the flush valve in your toilet tank to reduce the amount of water used in each flush and make sure the flapper is in good condition. (See “Low-to-No Cost Strategies for Conserving Toilet Water” for more tips.) Be on the lookout for leaks or nonstop drips. Drips and leaks can cause serious spikes in your water bill, and even your electricity costs if it’s hot water that’s leaking.

Check the thermostat on the outside of your water heater tank and see if it is possible to reduce its storage temperature. The EPA suggests hot water tanks to be set at a minimum of 120°F for storage to minimize the growth of Legionella bacteria in your tank. After the setting is adjusted, test the sink’s hot water temperature to avoid the potential for scalding. The Department of Energy states for every 10° F reduction in your water heater temperature, this could possibly save 3-5% energy costs.

In the laundry, wash with cold water and full loads as much as possible. When drying, hang dry if possible. If using a machine dryer, empty the lint tray after each cycle. The biggest way to increase the drying power and reduce wasted energy of the unit is to validate that the vent hose is not bent, coiled, clogged, or too long - this one item alone can reduce drying time by half.

In the Living Room, Bedroom, and Office   

Surge Protector imageChargers and appliances still draw energy, even when they are turned off or fully charged.  Unplug chargers, computers, printers, kitchen appliances (blenders, bread-makers, coffee makers) and other electronics when not in use. Clustering plugs into a power strip is optimal because you can turn everything off with a single switch without drawing extra power.

If you have a choice, choose your laptop over your desktop. Laptops use between 50 and 80 percent less energy than desktops.

Try to allow as much natural sunlight to help reduce the need for lighting and heating. (See “Energy-Wise Window Treatments” for more tips.)

For additional low-to-no cost tips, visit .

Green Building Resource Center
301 King St., Room 4100
Alexandria, Va 22314
Fax: 703.519.3356

Office Hours:
8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.