Green Interiors

Apartments can be green, too
by Pamela Portwood

Do you read articles about how to green a home with a sigh because you're a renter? Have you wondered how to green your rental apartment or house when you aren't the one who can select Energy Star appliances to save energy or dual-flush toilets to conserve water?

For just a little money and some time and energy, you can make your rental home more energy and water efficient. If you pay the utilities, a few small changes can make a difference in your monthly fees.

Start with tightening the building envelope by caulking around windows and doors to reduce air leakage. Be sure and talk to the owner before making any changes to the building.

If the building doesn't have an air exchange system, remember to open your windows regularly, especially if you've caulked, to keep toxic gases from accumulating indoors. If your bathroom doesn't have a vent fan, opening the bathroom window after showering or bathing can help prevent mold growth. Who wants to clean moldy grout?

Installing aerators on faucets will cost only a few dollars and reduce water use. If you're stuck with an older model toilet, first check to be sure it isn't leaking. Place a few drops of colored food dye in the toilet tank, but don't flush. If colored water turns up in the bowl, call the owner and asked to have your toilet repaired.

If your toilet is just a water guzzler, you can reduce the water use by filling a large, plastic bottle with water and placing it in the toilet tank. Don't put bricks in the tank because the brick sediment can clog pipes.

If you have access to the water heater, set the temperature at or under 120 degrees to save energy. If you have allergies or asthma, set it at 130-140 degrees to kill dust mites in bedding when it's washed. Be sure to wrap traditional, hot water heaters with insulation - another low-cost energy saver.

You may not be able to buy an Energy Star dishwasher, but small Energy Star appliances like toasters and coffee makers are available. Check the Energy Star website (www.energystar.gov/) for energy efficient models. If you have an overhead fan, use it to cut air-conditioning costs.

Reduce lighting costs by replacing all existing incandescent bulbs with compact florescent lights (CFLs) or light emitting diodes (LEDs). LEDs are more expensive, but you can always take them with you if you move. CFLs and LEDs are now available in specialized bulbs, like candelabras, and in dimmable options.

Of course, renters can make the same lifestyle changes that homeowners can to create a greener home. Turn off the lights when you leave a room, and don't leave your electronics plugged in when you're not using them.

Run the dishwasher when it's full to conserve water and energy. Scrapping the food off the dishes rather than rinsing them before putting them in the dishwasher saves water, too. Dry clothes outdoors or in the bathroom rather than running the clothes dryer. Turn off the water while you're brushing your teeth or shaving.

Set up a bin in your home for recyclables. If your apartment complex doesn't have a recycling bin for pickup, there's probably a city or county location that accepts recyclables. I know, it's a pain to have to tote recyclables off somewhere, but it was the only option before cities initiated curbside pickup.

Mostly importantly, talk to the owner of your rental about your interest in improving your space's efficiency. If an appliance breaks, do a little research and present the owner with some energy- and water-efficient choices. After all, when owners upgrade their properties, they will have competitive features to advertise for new renters.

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Article is reprinted courtesy of The New Southwest (formerly Tucson Green Times).


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