7 Ways to Make Your Rental More Energy-Efficient

7 Ways to Make Your Rental More Energy-Efficient
Ⓒ Provided by Domain

By Jane Hone, Domain

You want to play your part in reducing emissions and improving energy efficiency, but there isn’t much you can do on the home front because you live in a rental, right?

Not so fast. While renters aren’t in a position to build a brand-new passive house or retrofit the place with all-electric appliances, there are plenty of actions you can take to improve your home’s sustainability. And, considering that around a third of Australians are currently renting their homes, these actions can make a difference in our collective effort to reach zero emissions.

1. Start with the basics

There are the basic lifestyle changes and behaviours that most of us are already aware of but might need to be reminded about.

  • Turning off lights and appliances at the wall when you’re not using them.
  • Closing doors of unused rooms when running heaters or airconditioning.
  • Making use of curtains and blinds to keep warmth in or heat out.
  • Washing clothes on windy or sunny days so you can dry them on the washing line instead of using a dryer.
  • Loading your dishwasher and washing machine to full capacity before turning them on.
  • Composting via a backyard or countertop compost bin.

7 Ways to Make Your Rental More Energy-Efficient
Ⓒ Provided by Domain

2. Investigate government initiatives

If you’ve ever had someone knock on your door and offer to change your light bulbs, you might be aware that across the country there are various programs where qualified tradespeople provide and install products that improve your home’s energy efficiency. These programs extend to renters.

“This is actually a system where there’s an energy efficiency target and energy businesses are required to contribute towards meeting energy efficiency targets,” says Dean Lombard, senior energy analyst at Renew.

Depending on which state you live in, you might be able to have LED light globes, draught-stoppers, weather seals, water-efficient showerheads, standby power controllers and ceiling insulation installed free of charge.
7 Ways to Make Your Rental More Energy-Efficient
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“That all saves energy, reduces emissions, saves you money … and people can do that themselves, too. I’ve done it myself in previous rental houses,” Lombard says.

Several of these changes don’t require your landlord’s permission, though you should always check with your property manager or find out the laws specific to your local area before making any changes.

3. Cover up your windows

Curtains, which renters usually don’t need permission to install, can make a big difference to insulation and draught-sealing (buildings can lose up to a quarter of their heat through not being sealed properly). And while replacing your rental windows with a triple- or double-glazed option may not be on the cards, renters can use stick-on glazing film to improve the thermal performance of a window.

4. Monitor your energy usage

Lombard also suggests using an energy monitoring device such as a Power Pal that helps track electricity usage and shows how much each of your appliances is contributing to energy bills.

5. Switch to a reverse-cycle unit

When it comes to heating, Lombard recommends using a reverse-cycle unit rather than ducted or gas heating where you have the choice. He also points out that Victoria has just passed a law requiring all landlords to install heating in their rental properties — meaning some tenants might be in a position to suggest that their landlord installs a split system for its superior energy efficiency.
7 Ways to Make Your Rental More Energy-Efficient
Ⓒ Provided by Domain

6. Talk to your landlord

On that note, having a conversation with your property manager or landlord about making more drastic changes to improve energy efficiency may be worth it.

“Some tenants we’ve spoken to have had good results from talking with their landlord about installing some appliances or installing insulation,” Lombard says. “I knew a guy … who had a chat with the landlord about installing solar panels and they agreed to contribute some of the cost, and the landlord did it. So, it really depends on how good you are at having those sorts of conversations and how receptive the landlord is to it.”

If approaching your landlord, it might bolster your case to mention any relevant government programs or schemes that offer rebates for homeowners transitioning to more energy-efficient options.
7 Ways to Make Your Rental More Energy-Efficient
Ⓒ Provided by Domain

In Queensland, for example, the government will reimburse up to $400 to people who install PeakSmart airconditioning units. The ACT offers rebates of up to $2000 for those who replace their heating or cooling with energy-efficient options. Victoria has a similar program that is aimed at helping low-income or vulnerable people acquire split systems (and which, as of November 2021, extends to renters). Australia-wide, the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES) helps homeowners with the cost of installing renewable power systems such as solar panels, hydro systems and solar water heaters.

Some of these programs – like Solar Victoria – make it even easier by including sample letters on their websites that renters can send to landlords outlining how much the landlord could save by implementing a more efficient system.

7. Choose a green energy provider

If your landlord won’t come to the sustainability party or you feel limited by your rental status, Lombard says you can perform an altruistic and empowering act by purchasing GreenPower from your energy provider. It won’t reduce your energy bills, but it will help generate more renewable energy and contribute to a greener future.

See more at Domain

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