Attention: Renters. If you thought you couldn’t take energy saving actions because you rent rather than own your home, I’ve got good news for you!
There’s more you can do besides the basics — e.g. switching to CFLs or LEDs, putting your energy vampires on surge protectors with power switches. Confession: I haven’t done that last thing yet, but I do try to keep the vampires out of my sockets. Unsurprisingly, given this lack of information and options, many renters have given up and are assuming they don’t have much control over basic things like heating and cooling costs and efficiency in their rented apartments.
Fortunately, through my service on the City of Ann Arbor’s energy commission, I’ve learned that there will be funding to work on greening rental housing. This is thanks to a $3 million Community Challenge Grant award for the Washtenaw County Sustainable Community project, the goal of which is to create a coordinated approach to promote affordable and energy-efficient housing locally.
A portion of the grant will go towards funding a staff person to coordinate green rental housing efforts across county agencies. One idea on the table is work with the major online rental housing listings in the county, especially those geared to students, to build monthly electric and gas costs into individual listings where renters pay utilities. This way you can compare one apartment to another by energy performance. If you can see that apartment A averages $100/month in energy costs and apartment B averages $300/month you will have a more realistic idea about expenses going into your lease. Plus, when you’re selecting where to live, you can choose apartments that are more planet-friendly.
Listings like these will create incentive opportunities — for renters and landlords alike — to start thinking about rental housing energy costs, an integral first step in inspiring action. We hope these listings will be accessible to the public in the next year or so. Once they’re launched, they will allow you, regardless of your income bracket, to be able to apartment shop by energy cost and performance.
In the meantime, remember this little known local fact: in Ann Arbor, landlords are required to provide a budget plan estimate for monthly energy costs to rental applicants upon request. If you can’t wait for the rental housing energy information listings, you can still shop for more cost-effective, planet-friendly apartments by asking for a budget plan estimate next time you find yourself apartment shopping in Ann Arbor.
Click here for more rental housing energy resources.