Although living in a tiny space gives apartment dwellers an edge on keeping electricity bills low, rising energy costs are forcing everyone to conserve. Whether you care about your wallet or the environment, it makes sense to do what you can to cut back on energy usage. Here are some tips to help you lower your energy usage and save money on electricity — without turning your life upside down.
Fill the fridge. A full refrigerator is more energy efficient than an empty one. It may not make sense at first; doesn’t having more stuff to cool require more energy? It does, but only initially. Once the items in your fridge are chilled, the lack of empty space is what helps to keep the interior cool.
One of the biggest drains on the refrigerator comes every time you stand in front of the open door, deliberating about what to eat. Warm air enters the interior and has to be cooled when the door is shut. A full refrigerator has less space for that warm air to fill and cold food that is better able to retain a low temperature.
If you live alone or simply aren’t around enough to fill your fridge with actual food, you can use jugs of water (and bags of ice in the freezer) to serve the same function. Adding bulky, non-perishable items (such as beer) is another idea. And of course, shut the door!
Use the Energy-Save option … and the Off button. Many household items from the air conditioner to the computer are equipped with an energy saving option. The computer will put itself to sleep if inactive for a certain period of time; the air conditioner can be set to shut off if the room temperature falls below a certain level. There’s no sense in having appliances running when they don’t have to be.
Take a quick tour of your apartment and see what else is left on when not in use. Do you turn the coffee pot off as soon as you finish using it? Do you keep the TV on, even when you aren’t watching it? Flat-screen TVs are increasingly popular, but most models use much more energy than conventional ones. If you leave your flat-screen TV on for the background noise, play a CD instead to save energy. Instead of keeping the apartment at 68 degrees during the summer, give your air conditioner a break and set it to a more seasonally appropriate 70-something. Set it even higher (or turn it off entirely) when you aren’t home. Check out these articles on saving money in the summer and saving on heating bills for more seasonal energy-saving tips.
Invest in a clothesline. Many renters haul their laundry down the block to the local laundromat. However, for those lucky enough to have a washer/dryer unit in the apartment, the dryer may be the biggest energy-sucking culprit of all. If you have a backyard or a balcony, stringing a clothesline can save a substantial amount of energy. Small indoor clothing lines are also available and are great for drying hand-wash-only pieces.
Look for leaks. Whether you’re suffering through summer in Texas or winter in Minnesota, poor insulation can force your HVAC system to work in overdrive. Check the seals on windows and doors and test for leaks. If you keep an air-conditioning unit in the window all year round, it may be responsible for letting in cold air in winter. Most home supply stores sell do-it-yourself insulation kits that allow you to seal windows and AC units yourself with the help of a stepstool. While you’re thinking about your HVAC system, make sure that air filters are changed regularly. Clogged filters not only can lead to dirty air in your apartment, but can also force your HVAC system to work much harder than it needs to. Don’t assume that filters were changed before you moved in or that this is the landlord’s responsibility. Tenants are often expected to do this themselves. Check your lease for more details.
Buy energy-efficient appliances. While you probably won’t need to buy a washing machine or refrigerator for your rental unit, you may have to make choices about smaller appliances. If possible, look for appliances with the Energy Star seal, the mark of an energy-efficient model. Replace regular incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient ones if you have a while to go on your lease. These bulbs are more expensive outright, but will save you money on your electricity bill in the long run. Sometimes the most energy-efficient appliances are the low-tech ones. Invest in a simple fan to complement your air conditioner and spread the cold air around the apartment.
Get your roommates on board. Maybe overworked air conditioners and blaring flat-screen TVs aren’t the real problem; your oblivious roommate may be what’s standing between you and a low electricity bill. Your roommates may not understand how little things can use up so much energy. Instead of lecturing them, have a brainstorming session on the things you can do as a household to cut back. A few well-placed post-it notes can help forgetful parties to stay on track.