MSU cares and so should you!
I had the opportunity to attend a workshop on energy efficiency for student renters supported by Michigan State University’s office of campus sustainability and Michigan Energy Options. The workshop was a great chance to learn about energy saving options for student renters and what to look for in apartments when shopping for the upcoming year. Michigan Energy Options of East Lansing provided the information below.
What to look for when apartment shopping
It is likely that the furnace, hot water heater, air conditioner, dryer, and fridge are the most energy intensive elements in your home. If you want to save big on your energy bill make sure they are recently updated, properly maintained, and Energy Star rated (see previous post) when shopping for an apartment.
You can ask the landlord specific questions about the furnace: How often are the filters changed? If the apartment has forced-air heating, how old is the ductwork, as the intense heat can wear out duct work within one year?
Dirty filter Clean filter
Also, ask about the hot water heater: How often is it cleaned? Sediment, gunk, and dust can settle to the bottom of a hot water heater restricting the flow rate of hot water being delivered. What temperature is the water kept at (120°F is Jacuzzi temperature and should be plenty hot for showers on a cold day)?
Example of an unmaintained hot water heater
Compare the capacity of the air conditioner unit with the capacity needed using the chart below to make sure the unit is properly sized.
Area to be cooled (sq. ft.)
|Capacity needed (BTUs per hr)
|100 up to 150
|150 up to 250
|250 up to 300
|300 up to 350
|350 up to 400
|400 up to 450
|450 up to 550
|550 up to 700
|700 up to 1,000
|1,000 up to 1,200
|1,200 up to 1,400
|1,400 up to 1,500
|1,500 up to 2,000
|2,000 up to 2,500
While looking at apartments, check baseboards, windows, and doorframes for improperly sealed areas or cracks that could lead to heat escape in the winter. If the apartment/house has a fireplace that is not used, check that the damper is completely sealed; else, the negative pressure in the chimney will cause a significant draft, resulting in loss of your heat. If its winter-time and snowing, look at the roof for melting snow spots or ice-sickles as this is a tell-tale-sign of bad insulation in the attic and significant heat escape.
Other beneficial apartment amenities and characteristics that can help to reduce energy savings are:
- Electronic or smart thermostats (see previous post)
- Ceiling fans that either reverse direction or have reversible blades
- Larger windows facing the south (for Michiganders only) to obtain the most direct sunlight during the winter months
- Shrubbery or evergreen trees on the northwestern side of the apartment/house to act as a wind-block
- Deciduous trees on the south side of the apartment/house that give shade in the summer and allow sun to shine through in the winter
How to maintain a more efficient home as a renter
The easiest, most cost-effective practices for maintaining an energy efficient home as a renter are to: 1) seal any cracks or leaky window/door frames with caulk or plastic, 2) reduce phantom loads (see previous post), 3) make sure all vents, baseboard registers, or radiators are unobstructed, and 4) minimize water usage (hot water is not free and usually consumes 14-25% of a home’s total energy!).
Other useful tips:
- Use CFLs or LEDs for lighting, and keep any unnecessary lighting switched off
- Maintain your fridge at 37-40 °F
- Change faucet and shower heads to low-flow systems to minimize water usage
Michigan Energy Options is an excellent source for information on home energy efficiency options. Currently, there are demonstration centers in Marquette and East Lansing that allow the public to visit and obtain hands on education about how to make your home more energy efficient. You can get more information at http://www.michiganenergyoptions.com.