10 Steps to Reducing Energy Costs in an Apartment

We see a lot of posts on how to reduce energy costs in your house, but not many on reducing the costs in an apartment. As my electric bill was $175 last month, I set out to see about saving money on my energy costs, and have compiled my list here for your review.

Some of the things you can do to reduce your energy costs in homes can be done in an apartment, in fact, I’d venture to say almost all of them, depending on the amount of money you want to put into it. For those who move every year, like me, probably not a lot. So, while some of the things you do for a house can be done for an apartment, my list of 10 are the inexpensive items that work whether you stay for several years or move every year.

# 1 – Switch light bulbs to CFL

The compact fluorescent lights will save you quite a bit on the energy output. Most of these lights have lower wattages than your regular light bulbs, but give off the same amount of light. In addition, they tend to last twice as long.

# 2 – Buy smart strips or power strips

I prefer the smart strips because they shut off automatically after a certain period of non-usage. I always forget to unplug things or turn off regular power strips. Unfortunately, the smart strips are a bit of an investment. The one’s I bought were roughly $25 a piece. So, if you’d prefer, buy the regular power strips and just remember to flip the switch, or better yet, unplug them when not in use. Pick any number of personal finance bloggers who’ve posted on this and they all say the same thing. Leaving electronics plugged in is like setting a starving vampire loose on a village…ok, well maybe not quite that bad. But, the point is, electronics steal power even when they’re not turned on, so long as they’re plugged in.

# 3 – Change your filters regularly

It goes without saying that if the air filters are clean and unobstructed, they do their job and your A/C and heater aren’t working overtime. Depending on the type of filter you have, it may be best to change it every month. Then again, if it’s a filter that can be cleaned, maybe every three months. The best thing to do in this case is to contact the apartment complex and ask what they recommend for residents. Most of them will supply you with a new air filter when asked, and they may even change it for you, so there should be no out-of-pocket expense to you.

# 4 – Close doors and vents to rooms not in use

This is just as true in apartments as it is in houses. I have the vent in my dining room and living room closed because I am never in those rooms – and when I am, a fan or a blanket will suffice, depending on the season. I keep the doors to my bedroom and my bathroom closed at all times. Actually, that was a by-product of having nosy pets that get into everything, but it works well for this scenario, too.

# 5 – Invest in curtains and area rugs

In my apartment, I have a lot of tile space. And although I’m on the second floor, I’m actually over a breezeway as opposed to another apartment, so there’s no heat to rise in order to warm my floors. I think this is the biggest reason I’ve experienced such a high bill this winter season. My floors have been cold, thus the room takes a lot more in order to warm up. I actually just went and purchased some nice looking floor rugs for the kitchen and bathroom. I haven’t bought curtains yet, but they’re next on the list. If you’re planning to buy curtains, experts recommend heavy curtains. This works well in both summer and winter because in summer, it keeps the sun at bay making it cooler inside; and in winter they help keep the cold out. I can’t really say one way or the other yet, but I will let you know as soon as I’ve tried them.

# 6 – Use the fans and flannel

As with curtains and area rugs, it’s a good idea to get you some fans and flannel. In the summer, if you can go without running the A/C and get away with just a fan, it is more cost effective to do so. If you’re using curtains to keep the sun out and the inside cooler, you may be able to get away with this for a little bit. But, when you do have to run your A/C keep the temperature up on the thermostat. It doesn’t really need to be an icebox inside.

In the winter, having flannel sheets and pajamas can help you keep warm so you don’t have to turn on your heater. In fact, if your apartment is graced with a programmable thermostat, as are some of the newer ones, then set the timer to have it kick on about 30 minutes before you wake up so it’s not too cold when you get out of your warm sheets. But, when it comes to sleeping, flannel sheets and plenty of blankets will keep you warm enough.

# 7 – Lower the refrigerator temperature

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to have the refrigerator temperature on the coldest setting. The FDA says the maximum temperature a refrigerator should reach is 41 degrees Fahrenheit. Obviously, the colder it is inside, the longer the food will last – which is why most techs will recommend 38 degrees Fahrenheit. I keep mine at 40 degrees and just be sure that everything inside is properly rotated so that it’s eaten before it goes to waste. Also, make sure the seals are in good condition and that neither the refrigerator nor the freezer are so full that you can’t close the doors properly.

# 8 – Use cold water to wash clothes

I personally don’t understand the need for hot water to wash clothes – unless it’s whites and you’re bleaching something. I wash all of my clothes in cold water with regular Tide and I have no problems with the clothes or fading. I occasionally run towels through a hot cycle with no soap to help get rid of the mildew-y smell that can sometimes build up, but beyond that, I don’t see a need. Unless it’s absolutely necessary to run your clothes through hot water, just use cold. And, personally, I think the whole “cold water” detergent is just a gimmick so they can charge you more money. As I said, the regular Tide works fine, so I suspect that all regular detergents work just fine.

# 9 – Adjust the water heater temperature, if you have your own

Personally, I recommend letting maintenance handle this just so they can’t blame you for anything; however, if you have your own water heater, adjust the temperature to 120 degrees in order to save on energy.

# 10 – Weatherstrip your doors and windows

I actually called about this because my front door is terrible. My apartment complex told me that if I bought the materials, our maintenance men would install it. Now, I haven’t actually priced this all out completely, but a cursory glance at Lowe’s website showed 10 ft of weatherstrip for $15. Shooting for the high end here, let’s say I need 30 ft ( I have a lot of windows, 2 doors and a sliding glass door)…that’s $45 and free labor and could save me quite a bit on my bill every month. Now, obviously I’d do some price shopping to get the best possible deal; however, even if I move at the end of the lease, I will still come out ahead based on the savings from my electric bill. If I stay – as I plan to do until I’m ready to either move to L.A. or purchase a home – then it’s still a good investment for the long-term.

Obviously you’ll need to evaluate each suggestion with the rules and guidelines of your apartment complex, but by implementing this 10 easy steps, you can help reduce the cost of your energy bill.

What other tips do you have for reducing energy in apartments? Remember, most of us renters don’t stay long term, so the suggestions should be moderately inexpensive.

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