Summer Survival Tips for Renters

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What’s a renter to do?

Summertime energy prices can turn a trip to the mailbox into a stressful experience. But while major home improvement projects may be off the table for renters, it’s still possible to take some of the sting out of summer power bills. The key is conservation.

If you can’t change your living space, change your behavior. Reducing consumption is the greenest of green. We’ve rounded up 20 ways to stay cool and save money through the warmer months. While you may already be doing some of these, you should find a few that will fit your energy saving arsenal.

Take action and save!

1. Set your air conditioner to 78 degrees (F) or higher. An obvious pointer, but also one of the most ignored. Running your air conditioner at colder temperatures won’t cool down a room any faster than a more moderate setting, but it will force your system to work harder. Worse yet, it’s easy to forget to turn it back up. Stick with the warmest setting you can tolerate, and move on to other stay-cool ideas.

2. Wear cool, loose clothing — even indoors. Shorts, absorbent fabrics and loose-fitting clothes all work outdoors. They’ll work inside, too. It’s your space: dress for comfort. The cooler your clothing, the less you’ll need air conditioning.

3. Indulge your taste for spicy food. There’s a reason Indian and Latin food is hot: It makes you sweat! If you have proper air circulation, sweating is an effective way to cool down.

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4. Use fans to improve air circulation and set existing ceiling fans properly. This goes hand in hand with not being afraid of a little sweat. Fans use a fraction of the energy required by air conditioning. Just as in the case of wind chill outdoors, moving air will substantially lower the perceived temperature. During the summer, a ceiling fan should (in most cases) be running counterclockwise when viewed from below. You want the setting with maximum downdraft.

5. Drink plenty of water. You may not sweat enough if you’re dehydrated.

6. Take cold showers. If you live in an area experiencing water shortages, skip this one. Otherwise, a quick three-minute cold shower is a fantastic way to cool down.

7. Draw drapes and blinds on windows exposed to direct sunlight. Window coverings are one of the few home additions tolerated by most landlords. Curtains, blinds, and window shades can all go with you at the end of your lease.

8. Cook outdoors. Grilling is a classic summer pastime. Best of all, it keeps heat outside. Of course, you want to minimize the environmental impact of outdoor cooking.

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9. Use the microwave. The microwave is your kitchen’s most efficient plug-in appliance. In addition to saving money year-round, microwave ovens are a good bet for summer cooking. Here’s why: Microwaves direct most of their energy into the food, rather than the kitchen. That means you’ll stay more comfortable and burn less energy removing cooking heat from your home.

10. Eat smaller meals through the summer months. The bigger the meal, the harder your body must work to digest it. Try splitting mealtimes across the day, opting for more and smaller meals when it’s warmest.

11. Spend more time outdoors or away from home. Why not soak up someone else’s air conditioning? A little window shopping never hurt anyone, and it’s likely there are several ice-cold destinations within walking distance or a short bicycle ride from your home.

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12. Try a cool pillow. It’s tough to sleep when you feel like you’re in a sauna, and the alternative is running a fan or air conditioner all night. In addition to dressing out your bed with seasonally appropriate sheets and bedcovers, consider a “cool pillow.”

13. Shut down unnecessary electronic devices. Here’s another year-round energy saver. During the summer, however, it’s even more important to pull the plug on home electronics. Anything with a transformer creates heat. Shut down unused desktop computers (they have cooling fans for a reason), televisions and entertainment systems — pretty much everything with a plug.

14. Wash your clothes at night. Some power companies offer off-peak rates to their customers. Take advantage of these. In any event, even a properly vented clothes dryer radiates heat. Restrict its use to the coolest part of the day.

15. Close doors to unused rooms and closets. Your winter clothes do not require air conditioning, so get into the habit of keeping closets and cabinets closed. Shut unoccupied rooms and their cooling vents. If you’re using window units, close the door in the air-conditioned room whenever practical.

16. Replace or clean your air conditioning filter. Dirty filters dramatically reduce air-conditioner efficiency. Check your filter once a week, and replace it as often as necessary. Filters are generally throwaway items, but some may be reusable if thoroughly vacuumed. Clean window-unit filters once a week. Some window air conditioners have a warning light to indicate when airflow is restricted.

17. Replace standard bulbs with low-energy equivalents wherever practical. The heating effects of incandescent bulbs are generally overstated since most lights are mounted close to the ceiling. But every degree matters when you’re trying to keep power bills under control, and the money-saving benefits of using LED or CFL bulbs year-round are obvious. Concerned about the mercury in CFLs? These dangers are usually overstated, but proper CFL handling and disposal is a responsibility. (See 5 ways to dispose of old CFLs.)

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