January 29, 2001
Contact: Leona K. Hawks, 435-797-1529
Writer: Donna Falkenborg, 435-797-1363, donnaf@ext.usu.edu

RENTERS, TOO, CAN SAVE ON UTILITY COSTS

LOGAN — “Most energy conservation information is designed for homeowners, even though an increasing number of people are renting,” says Leona K. Hawks, Utah State University Extension housing specialist. “Many renters develop a short-timer mentality and don’t worry much about energy savings. However, utility bills do add up quickly so renters may wish to conserve on their energy use,” she advises.

Hawks offers the following guidelines for shopping for energy efficient rental housing.

  • Check utility records: Often you can just ask the former resident or a neighbor what the approximate utility costs are. If you want exact figures you need to get written permission from the previous occupant, owner or apartment manager to ask the utility companies for past records. These records are good guidelines, but realize that your lifestyle and energy use may differ greatly from previous tenants.
  • Heating and Cooling: These are the biggest users of energy. Some questions to ask: Is there a central heating system for the apartment? Do you have your own thermostat? It is gas or electric? In most areas of Utah natural gas is still the less expensive heat source and it is more efficient to have your own thermostat so you can control the temperature.
  • Hot Water: Ask the same questions about hot water that you ask about heating and cooling. Gas is generally cheaper and you can save money if you are able to adjust your water heater to fit your own needs.
  • Windows and doors: These add beauty and distinctiveness to apartments, but they are also the areas of biggest heating and cooling loss. South facing windows can be an asset during Utah winters because they let in maximum warming sunlight. On the other hand, north facing windows can contribute to heat loss. Unshaded south and west facing windows can create overheating problems in the summer. Also look for double pane windows and storm windows for maximum insulation. Feel around windows and closed doors for drafts and ask the manager if these can be fixed if they are not airtight.
  • Appliances: In general, older appliances are less energy efficient, especially refrigerators built prior to 1984.
  • Location: Like any real estate, in renting, location is everything. As gasoline prices fluctuate, location becomes an importance price and energy conservation concern. Carefully reconsider the true value of a $20 reduction in monthly rent if it requires you to drive twice as far to work. Also take into consideration neighborhood markets and access to public transportation when figuring your housing costs.

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