Energy-efficient tips for keeping utility bills down

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Twice a year, landlords hear from tenants regarding utilities. It happens in the dead of winter when tenants turn up their heat and see the effects on their electicity or oil heating bill, and it happens again in the summer when window air conditioner units – sometimes three or four in a single apartment or townhouse – are working overtime to keep things cool.  When the tenant gets a utility bill he doesn’t like, or worse yet, he can’t pay, the landlord is sometimes blamed for having a rental property that isn’t energy-efficient.

If you get this call, here are a few suggestions a landlord can make for the tenant to implement, simple improvements that are likely to garner a positive change on the tenant’s utility bill.

  1. Change your air filters monthly, especially in warm weather. Many apartments have their own air filters that tenants are supposed to change. When they become clogged, air conditioners have to work harder and bills go up.
  2. A lot of people head to the beach or the mountains for a week or more during the summer. If they’re heading out on vacation, tell them to unplug their appliances, turn down the water heater and make sure their thermostat is set to a warmer (or colder in the winter) setting. Many tenants don’t realize appliances can draw current even when not in use, so unplugging them saves electricity. (We obviously don’t recommend you unplug the fridge.)
  3. Turn off the lights. Chances are they’ll hear their mothers’ voice echoing this one, but it’s still good advice — if you leave a room, turn the lights off on the way out.
  4. Make sure they tell the landlord right away about water leaks. Some tenants never disclose a problem with water leaks or running toilets. Perhaps they think they’re doing the landlord a favor, but the opposite is true. Not only could a once-minor leak turn into a major problem, but all that extra trickling water is sure to show up on their water bill.
  5. Replace regular light bulbs with energy-efficient ones. The older style of light bulb is a waste of money and energy.

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