Save Green Even When You Can’t Upgrade Appliances

Tips to Save Green for Renters

When you don’t have complete control over your living circumstances, it can seem impossible to save green, whether money or energy. Sometimes making these lifestyles can require more money, or maybe more control over your living situation.
The biggest hurtles to saving green are:
  • Heating
  • Air Conditioning
  • Lighting
  • Clothes Washer
  • Clothes Dryer
  • Refrigerator (if it was made before 2001)
  • Water Heater

All these are pretty difficult to control when in a renters setting or with low income. But with these tips, no matter where you can save both money and energy.

When you don't have control over your living circumstances, it seems impossible to save green, whether money or energy. With small changes it can be done!
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Over the past three years, I’ve lived in a space that wasn’t my own and was limited on the changes I could make. It was an upstairs apartment with huge leaky windows, and an air conditioner on it’s way out. My roommate and I were mislead about the electric bills.  Our first month, a summer month, we were caught by surprise with a $250 electric bill.  When putting this kind of information in a carbon footprint calculator, I was paying for this in more ways than one.

The Bad Gets Worse

The next month, even hotter, was $300. I could say good-bye to any opportunity to save green when my nice big ceiling fan broke and was replaced with a cheap, small one. Our fridge from who knows when, was replaced with a cheap one and our air conditioner finally went out and was replaced with a very inefficient beast. Luckily, these experiences taught me a thing or two on how to get smart and save green. Our only saving grace, was that we had a gas stove and heater.
I was trying to be a nice roommate that didn’t cook the other, but that went out the window after July. We simply couldn’t afford to keep paying that kind of bill. We bumped it up to 75 and up to 90 when we left the house for long periods of time. If we turned the air off, it would be about 15 degress hotter than it was outside. Even with the air on all the time, it still felt like sitting in a greenhouse because of the huge windows. After a whole month of sweating, we only saved $30.

Time to Get Serious About Saving Green

That winter was my time to plan. I made blackout curtains for the living room, which cost me way more than I thought it would, (don’t recommend it if you want to save money) got regular curtains for bedrooms from the thrift store.
It helped, but the next year the highest it got was still $218. Still unacceptable. Both my roommate and I started working from home, so it was important we find the right solution. This winter I did some major research and found bubble wrap and newspaper were great insulators. Who would have thought? I put it up in time for this summer to try it out. It’s by no means cute, but I’m willing to sacrifice. I just got my first summer bill and I saved $80 even with the air conditioner running at 75. And the best part is, it actually feels cool in the apartment.
This inspired me to get in the ultra green gear. Where were the areas I could save money without making any repairs to the apartment?

Air conditioner:

  1. Even if you’re not in such a desperate situation, turning it up 2-5 degrees, when you’re not home, will save some green.
  2. What made the biggest difference for us, was adding a layer of bubble wrap and newspaper to the window. Not pretty, but for those concerned with aesthetic this window kit might be a good option.
  3. Keep your filters changed monthly so they run more efficiently. Also, keep your outside unit hosed out so the dirt doesn’t collect in there and bog it down.
  4. In the summer,  fans will be your best friend. They go such a long way to keep things cooled down.
  5. Wear light clothing, no socks within a 10-mile radius and try a cool neck towel.
  6. Depending on your situation, purchasing a room air conditioner might be the fit. Consider an ENERGY STAR qualified model, which use at least 10 percent less energy than standard models. If you don’t use all the rooms in you apartment this might be a good option.


  1. Monthly, vacuum the coils on the back and take the grate off the front and vacuum any debris that gets under there.
  2. Keep the doors closed as much as possible.
  3. Keep them full but not too packed so they don’t use too much power.
  4. Get a thermometer and make sure they are running at the right temperature. Freezers should be -10 to 0 and refrigerators should be around 35ish or 40.


  1. A ten minute shower can use less water than a full bath.
  • With a new 2.5 gallon-per-minute (low-flow) shower head, a 10-minute shower will use about 25 gallons of water, saving you five gallons of water over a typical bath. A new showerhead also will save energy — up to $145 each year on electricity — beating out both the bath and an old-fashioned showerhead.

2. Save water by scraping dishes instead of rinsing them before loading in the dishwasher. Run your dishwasher with a full load and use the air-dry option if available.

3. If you don’t have a dishwasher, scrape the dishes then put them in a sink filled with soapy water, clean, then rinse.

4. Displace Water in Your Toilet Tank Find a plastic bottle. Fill it with gravel. Place it in your toilet tank. You can leave this for the next tenant or take it with you.

Control What You Can:

  1. Computers, hair dryers, televisions, opening the windows when you can, are things easily in your control. When it’s time to update, make sure you make choices with the environment in mind.
  2. Unplug. When you’re not using these items, make sure they’re turned off and unplugged.
  3. Green Lighting. Whether it’s turning off the lights when you’re not using them or updating to compact fluorescent bulbs can save you $100s each year.
  4. Seal. Make sure everything from your doors and windows to oven is sealed properly to prevent the cool or heat from escaping.

When you don’t have complete control over your living circumstances, it can seem impossible to save green, whether money or energy. It’s important to start small and be encouraged by those differences that start to add up. These tips or combinations will help save green, not just for our pocketbooks, but for the environment, as well. Please share your favorite tips to save green in the comments below!

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When you don't have control over your living circumstances, it seems impossible to save green, whether money or energy. With small changes it can be done!





6 thoughts on “Save Green Even When You Can’t Upgrade Appliances

  1. Some great tips. We are on micro hydro, so we quickly got in touch with what uses a lot of energy and what doesn’t. We are lucky to be in a cooler place where AC isn’t strictly necessary (I’ve never had it). A well insulated house helps as does opening windows during cooler nights and closing them before the sun comes up in the morning.

    1. That’s awesome. I wish we didn’t need electricity, but 115 degrees would probably kill me. I’m a weakling when it comes to heat. Great tips, also!

    1. Aww, thanks Katy! I know what you mean! We’ve lived here three years and until a few months ago, I never did either. Definitely easy to miss that!

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