Homeowners can make great strides to change the carbon footprint of their homes through weatherization, the installation of insulation and using alternative energy sources. But as a renter, your hands are tied. So if you’re hoping to keep your housing eco-friendly and save on your utilities bill, you’ll want to make sure the building meets your standards before you sign a lease.
Probably the most obvious things to look for are high-efficiency appliances. It’s simple to tell at a glance whether the unit/building is sporting classic 1990s washers, dryers, dishwashers, and refrigerators. “New” doesn’t necessarily mean “efficient,” but it helps. To go above and beyond, look for Energy Star labels and recommended “energy saver” settings. If you can, read the EnergyGuide labels, which state the estimated annual energy consumption.
Older windows can look quite charming and homey, but they also let in drafts, winter cold, and summer humidity. Those leaks can cut deeply into your utility bill year-round. If your apartment’s windows are on the older side, you can seal them up for the winter with simple kits that include shrinkable plastic sheeting and double-sided tape (hair dryer not included). For the summer months, also consider looking for windows that could be opened to create a cross-breeze, which can really cut down cooling costs. Windows are always nice, but if you only have them along one wall, it’s difficult to circulate cooling air, even with a fan.
It’s a more subtle feature, but sustainable landscaping is becoming more crucial as city developments spread. Paved parking lots and broad rooftops lead to stormwater runoff — instead of rainwater soaking into the ground — which increases erosion, flooding, and pollution. Parking at your apartment might not be negotiable, but glance around the property: A parking lot divided by grassy areas, foliage-filled ditches, and retention ponds (or dry detention areas) are all eco-perks.
Third Party Certification
If you want the cream of the eco-friendly crop, look for an apartment building that’s LEED certified, Energy Star, or Passive House certified. From concept to construction,third party certified buildings are designed to save energy and water, use sustainable materials, and limit harmful gas emissions. According to the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED-certified buildings are expected to save up to $1.2 billion in energy costs between 2012 and 2018. Passive House buildings are required to meet even more stringent standards – the energy use of Passive House certified projects use 1/10th the energy of buildings built to code.