The Ultimate Guide to Making Any Rental More Energy Efficient

updated Mar 11, 2020
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Celeste Sunderland)

Think that because you don’t own, you have no control over your home’s energy use? Not true! Here’s our ultimate guide; full of links to quick, easy and yes, even inexpensive, ways to reduce your carbon footprint and lower your bills (your landlord will thank you!).

Most of these changes are likely to pay for themselves in energy savings over the duration of your rental. Also, don’t forget that once you move, you can either leave the improvements intact and sell them to the future tenants, or take them with you to your next home.

1. Install a Programmable Thermostat: Use a programmable thermostat to take control of your heat and cooling levels, which will reduce your energy use and lower your bills. A good thermostat can be found for under $35 and installed in just a an hour or two.
• How to Install a Programmable Thermostat
DIY: Install a Programmable Thermostat

2. Install Gaskets Behind Outlets & Switches: If you put your hand next to an outlet or switch plate and can feel air coming through, then you should install these gaskets to prevent unnecessary heat loss and air infilatration.
• How To Insulate Outlets & Switches

3. Caulk & Seal Around Window and Doors: If you live in an old building, it’s likely you have single pane windows and old or missing caulk. Combat air leaks by applying caulk around window frames and sashes and door panels, and of course there’s the old plastic sheet option for the winter.
• The Importance of Air Sealing
Learning To Love Caulk: 5 Eco-Friendly Options
• How To: Make Your Own Draft Dodger
Zip-A-Way: Removable Window Sealant
• 5 Ways to Insulate Your Windows for Winter

4. Use Power Strips: A lot of energy is wasted through eletronics left plugged in, and the resulting vampire energy. Put a stop to it by using one of a number of cool, smart energy strips, which will turn off vampire energy when the electronics are not in use.
• Smart Power Strips to Cut Down On Power
• 10 Devices To Help You Plug Electrical Leaks & Save Energy
iGo Green Technology Surge Protector: A Great Way to Save Money on Power
• Belkin Introduces a Slew of Energy Saving Accessories

5. Check Your Water Heater Settings: Make sure your water heater is set at the lowest comfortable setting. If you’ve ever experienced scalding hot water, it’s possible it’s set too high and is wasting energy. If the tank is old, it’s probably an uninsulated unit, which can be easily remedied by covering it with an insulating jacket.
How To Heat Up The Water at Home
• Simple Green: Wrap Water Heater In Insulation Blanket

6. Replace The Furnace Filter: Make sure the furnace filter is being changed every 1-3 months to ensure clean air and improve the furnace efficiency. These are inexpensive and easy to install, but depending on where your mechanical closet is located, you may need to ask your landlord for assistance.
• A Guide to Furnace Filters
• Is Your Furnace Ready for Winter?

7. Use Energy Efficient Bulbs: We’ve tested a ton of great energy efficient bulbs, and at this point they look so good, and the prices have dropped enough, that there’s no reason a majority of your bulbs shouldn’t be LED or CFLs. Even if you’re put off by the higher (slightly) upfront cost, you can simply unscrew them and take them with you when it’s time to move.
The Lightbulb Wars: The Best Lighting For Your Home
• The Energy Impact of LED vs CFL vs Incandescent Lighting
• How to Buy the Right CFL: A Cheat Sheet

8. Install Window Shades: More than just window decor, blinds and curtains can help control the heat loss/gain and light levels. Using heavy curtains in the winter will help block any heat loss, as well as unwanted heat gain in the summer. Blinds can be adjusted throughout the year to also control light levels and privacy.
• Block Out the Sun and Beat the Heat With Motorized Blinds
• Insulating Windows with Curtains

9. Use a Humidifier & Lower Your Heat: Keeping humidity levels up during the winter is not only good for your health, but also for your air and furniture. It also helps keep the ambient air temperature feeling warmer than dry air, which means you can turn your thermostat down. If your HVAC system doesn’t have a humidifier built-in, then you can get an inexpensive and portable humidifier to use during dry conditions.
Controlling Humidity Levels at Home
• Roundup: Unobtrusive Humidifiers
• 5 Humidifiers to Consider
• Monitor Humidity Levels to Save Archived Memories

10. Clean Your Refrigerator: It’s unlikely that you’ll purchase new energy efficient appliances for your rental, but you can tweak the ones you already have. For example, by cleaning the coils on the back of your fridge you’ll help one of the biggest energy hogging appliances run more efficiently.
• How to Make Any Fridge More Efficient
How To Clean the Inside of Your Fridge in 30 Minutes or Less

• The 10 Best Ways To Green Your Apartment Rental
• 5 Money-Saving Green Improvements For Your Rental
• Renters: 49 Ways You Can Go Green
• Negotiating Your Way Into an Eco-Friendly Apartment

Re-edited from a post originally published 3.21.12 – Ab