Renting? It’s Still Possible to Have an Energy-Efficient Home

February 24, 2011

(NewsUSA) - According to a report from real estate research firm Reis, the national apartment vacancy rate reached 7.8 percent in the third quarter — the highest level in 23 years — which gives renters the upper hand to request money-saving amenities to cut costly bills. While the economy is starting to show signs of improvement, unemployment rates still remain high, which has led to higher rental rates. There are 38 million renters in the market looking for ways to be fiscally responsible.

While fancy amenities like granite countertops and walk-in closets were popular before, the new budget-savvy renter is looking for a well-built and energy-efficient home. In fact, according to, added features that save renters money, like paid utilities and washers and dryers in units, topped the list of popular amenities from February to August 2009.

Renters who suspect their laundry pair and kitchen appliances haven’t been replaced in years should find the model and serial numbers on each unit and contact the manufacturer’s customer service line to determine the year they were made. ENERGY STAR estimates that upgrading appliances can result in a savings of $75 annually on utility bills.

If it has been some time since the appliances have been replaced, renters should consider asking for a new laundry pair, since newer models offer considerable water savings — and landlords typically pay the water bill. An ENERGY STAR qualified washer could save 17 more gallons of water each load, which is equivalent to a daily shower. In addition to conserving water, high-efficiency washers, such as the Maytag Performance

Series, use up to 77 percent less energy compared to pre-2004 conventional top-loaders. It also features the exclusive Fresh Hold option with Dynamic Venting Technology that combines intermittent tumbling action with air circulation from a fan in the rear of the washer to reduce moisture in the load, allowing consumers to delay drying for up to ten hours. This new technology actually begins drying clothes while they are in the washer, thus increasing the life of the dryer and saving energy by decreasing drying time.

Additionally, in order to ensure their unit is as efficient as possible, renters should request an annual inspection of their windows, heating and cooling equipment and insulation, since heating and cooling costs account for more than half of utility costs. This annual review should include a thorough inspection around the attic and windows to see if a draft is coming through, as well as a visit to each room in the unit to see if there is a constant temperature. Fluctuating temperatures or incoming air could indicate duct problems, inadequate sealing and/or installation around the windows. Older windows that haven’t been upgraded more than likely were not installed with today’s standard of installation. And poorly performing ducts can leak air and reduce a home’s efficiency by as much as 20 percent by causing the system to work harder.

In addition to the annual checks, the HVAC air filter should be replaced monthly as dirt and neglect could cause the HVAC system to break down. By asking for these efficiency inspections, upgrades and fixes, renters can capitalize on their advantage in the market now, lower their costs and avoid moving during these uncertain times.

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