Bulletin #7211, Maine Home Energy: Saving Energy in Apartments

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Adapted by Extension Professor Donna Coffin, University of Maine Cooperative Extension. Reviewed by Extension Professor Kathy Hopkins, University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

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Although most apartments are smaller than single family houses, their energy costs can be greater. While increasing insulation levels and sealing air leaks in the building shell and ductwork can reduce energy costs, these measures are usually too costly to pay off soon enough for most renters. But apartment dwellers need not be doomed to high energy bills and discomfort. Let’s look at a few energy-saving ideas that should save enough to pay for themselves within two years.

Adjust your thermostat

setting the thermostatThe temperature at which you set your thermostat can affect your heating and cooling bills. In winter, try a setting of 65–68°F, and wear warm clothing. In summer, a setting of 78°F and lightweight, loose-fitting clothing should work. Use ceiling and space fans to circulate room air, with or without air conditioning. You could feel as comfortable at 80–85°F in summer with fans blowing, as at 78°F with no air flow. Using a fan in the winter can help circulate warm air; just be sure the fan is set on low so you don’t create a breeze that can feel cool. If you have ceiling fans, be sure to switch the rotation so they move warm air to the walls and down.

A programmable thermostat can automatically adjust room temperature to save energy when you aren’t home. You can often replace an existing thermostat with an energy-saving programmable one. The programmable thermostat can be taken with you if you move. Be sure to choose a model that is appropriate for your particular heating and cooling equipment. Choose one that you understand how to use.

Stop air infiltration

Air infiltration or drafts cause increased heating costs and reduced comfort in the apartment. The amount of air that leaks through the cracks around windows and doors can be more significant in apartments than in houses. Portable items such as draft stoppers for doors and windows are good solutions for air leaks in apartments.

Simple weather stripping and caulking can be smart energy investments. Choose products that will last, such as vinyl or metal weather stripping and latex acrylic or silicone caulk. Try to caulk inside whenever possible to protect the sealant from weather. (Be sure that the apartment owner approves of the use of caulk.) You can install simple gaskets behind light switch and wall outlet covers. Temporary plastic installed inside of windows will reduce air infiltration and increase comfort by reducing drafts.

VIDEO: How to Save on Home Energy and Heating Costs During Maine Winter (YouTube)

VIDEO: How to Seal Windows for Winter and Summer (YouTube)

Use the heat of the sun to your advantage

During the winter, open south-facing curtains to allow the sun to warm your rooms during the day. Be sure to close curtains at night to prevent heat loss. You might also consider making insulated shutters for winter nights.

In the summer, close your curtains during the day to prevent the sun from overheating your apartment.

Cut hot water bills

The cost of heating water for a typical family of four ranges from $500 to $800 a year, depending on the efficiency of the water heater and the type of energy used.1 You can often cut that bill significantly with simple conservation measures. Start with the temperature setting. A water-heater setting of 120°F is hot enough for most families. Temperatures higher than this pose a serious risk of scalding, especially for children and older adults. Check the hot water temperature with a cooking thermometer (one that measures between 100°F and 160°F) at the faucet farthest from the water heater.

Wrapping the water heater tank with an insulation jacket may save roughly $10 to $40 a year. The jackets can be purchased at many hardware or building supply stores for less than $25. But newer models may not require or benefit from additional insulation. Follow safety instructions provided by the manufacturer.

A water-saving showerhead can save many families more than $70 a year. These models provide a forceful shower but are engineered to use less water. They are ideal for larger families. Since they use less water, the last person in line stands a better chance of getting a hot shower.

Other strategies include repairing dripping faucets, using cold water for washing and rinsing in your clothes washer, and running the dish washer only when it is full.

Save money on lighting and other electronics

We all remember our parents’ admonishments to turn off lights, and while they were right, you can usually save much more by changing standard incandescent light bulbs to more efficient models. Compact fluorescent light bulbs provide more light for less money. While these bulbs cost between $3 and $5 each, they save from $30 to $60 in electricity over their life. They should last around 10,000 hours, versus less than 1,000 for the old incandescent bulb. Many models work well outside, too, so don’t overlook a security light that is frequently left on.

Caution needs to be exercised when disposing of spent bulbs due to the pressure of a minute amount of mercury. Many hardware stores have disposal/recycle programs.

The new LED (light emitting diode) lights produce more energy savings, but currently the initial cost of the bulbs is quite high, although the price is declining fast. LEDs are designed to last two to five times longer than fluorescent bulbs and produce very little heat.

Did you know that newer electric appliances and equipment can still draw electricity when turned off? Consider putting your television, VCR, DVD player, and radio on a power strip that can be turned off with a flick of the switch. Computers, printers, and associated equipment should be on their own power strip that is switched off when this equipment is not in use.

1Based on Maine energy prices in the fall of 2008.

Adapted with permission of the University of Georgia. Jorge Atiles. 2005. Household Energy Savings: What Renters Can Do. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia, Cooperative Extension.


Lighting Choices Save You Money, US Department of Energy

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© 2008, 2012

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