Energy-saving tips for apartment tenants

By Becky Nguyen

Cursed with a relentless combination of bitter, arctic winters and sweltering summers, University students who live in apartments have had their fair share of paying for hefty utility bills. Add to that dozens of electronics and appliances that constantly consume energy, and some students may find themselves staring into an empty wallet at the end of the month. However, there are several ways to downsize energy bills, no matter the season.

LEED-certified buildings are evaluated based on environmental factors. Students can save money and resources while promoting renewable, clean energy by living in several LEED-certified buildings on campus, including private-certified Presby Hall or one of campus’ newest apartment buildings, HERE Champaign.

The certification process varies from building to building, where each is evaluated on factors including the construction, design, development and maintenance of the building.

“There (are) certain things that you have to comply with, with regulations, that make you more efficient,” said Cassie Leigh, general manager of HERE.

To reduce energy costs, Leigh suggests looking at newer buildings because of their new designs and high-efficiency appliances that will conserve more energy than their older counterparts. Consequently, tenants can expect lower energy bills, she said.

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    If the apartment you’re eyeing is an older building, Leigh said it’s ideal to look for the “Energy Star” label on things like light bulbs, electronics, appliances and other household products. The label means that it meets strict efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

    For students living with roommates, communication about bills may be a major concern, Leigh said. For instance, it’s not uncommon to see pricey energy bills when one roommate has his or her window open in the middle of winter.

    “With energy bills, basically it comes down to the kids all communicating with each other,” Leigh said.

    Daniel Chavez, junior in LAS, admitted that communicating with his roommates earlier in the year could’ve saved them from paying an arm and a leg for utilities. He lives in a two-floor apartment where the heat tends to rise from the bottom to top level, making it harder for the roommates to agree on a maximum temperature.

    Jane Gomes, leasing and account executive at Campus Property Management, echoes Leigh’s advice on communication. She said that coming to an agreement definitely helps with lowering energy costs. She also suggests turning down the heat at night or when no one is there to 64 or 65 degrees Fahrenheit so pipes don’t freeze and the heat won’t kick on every few minutes.

    According to Energy Star’s website, almost half of the energy used at home goes to heating and cooling. The rest goes to water heating, appliances, lighting, electronics and other electricity outlets. Making sure that all windows and doors are completely closed is a good way to prevent heat or air from escaping, as drafty apartments can be detrimental to tenants’ pockets when it comes time to pay the bills.

    “The plastic that you can put up on windows and balcony doors—I know it looks kind of bad and people don’t like to do it, but it makes a big difference,” Gomes said. “It’s cheap so it’s definitely worth it and more people should do it. That would be my No. 1 recommendation.”

    Additionally, turning on ceiling fans or any fan will help circulate the air better. Even in the cold winter months, fans can help evenly distribute heat throughout rooms, Gomes said.

    “Keep … shades open in the winter,” she advises. “If you have a window that faces sunlight, that will help warm up (the room). Alternately, when it’s really hot out, if you keep the blinds closed, it should keep the apartment a little cooler.”

    As for light fixtures, Gomes suggests going with LED or Compact Fluorescent lights. They’re just as bright as regular ones, and although they cost a little more upfront, they save students money in the longterm. They are more efficient and last a lot longer than incandescent bulbs.

    Other easy ways to save on energy includes filling up dishwashers “like adult Tetris,” washing clothes in cold water and turning off all of the lights when no one is home, Gomes said.

    “If renters suspects that their bill is too high or something like that, for heat especially, just check windows and doors to see if you think there’s a draft,” she said.

    Becky can be reached at [email protected].