For renters, sustainability can be simple too

Multi-family Apartment Building
December 23, 2016
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With so many sustainability programs targeted towards property owners and homeowners, it often seem that renters get left out. Renters are just as “green” as owners and, more often than not, they are paying their own utility bills.

What is a renter to do?

As with other kinds of residences, apartments afford opportunities large and small to go green. By following a few easy steps, you can make a real difference in the energy you use—and the money you spend.


Germantown resident and renter, Tamara Dimes, showing us her lighting upgrades.

Tamara’s Story

Germantown resident and renter Tamara Dimes achieved significant savings by participating in a “quick home energy check-up,” or QHEC through her utility company.

“It definitely saves energy. I pay the energy bills and I noticed they got lower,” Dimes said. “Saving money is a plus. With the economy these days, you want to hold onto as much money as you can.”

“It went really quickly, really convenient,” Dimes said of the QHEC she recently underwent. “It took maybe 45 minutes, tops. I like the new showerheads. You can adjust them to different settings.”


QHECs: A Quick How-To

For renters like Dimes who receive a utility bill every month, QHECs are an easy way to make a significant difference in your energy use. They are available to customers of Pepco, Potomac Edison, and BG&E at no additional cost. (It is covered by the EmPOWER Maryland program, which applies a surcharge to your existing energy bill.)

Although specific upgrades may vary, some of the common solutions a QHEC can provide include:

  • An example of the LEDs that were installed

    Switching out your lower-efficiency bulbs to higher-efficiency bulbs, which can consume 80% less energy compared to incandescent light bulbs.

  • Updating less-efficient showerheads to more water-efficient versions. These upgrades will save not only water but electricity, as demands on water heaters will also go down, thereby saving energy.
  • Installing high-efficiency faucet aerators because these aerators reduce the amount of water flowing through the tap, thus using less energy.
  • Wrapping water heater pipes in foam insulation to ensure that heat or condensation is not escaping from the pipes.
  • Providing you with an advanced power strip, which prevent electronics from using power when they are off or not in use. Advanced power strips are designed primarily for home entertainment and office areas where many consumer electronics plugged into one strip.


In Dimes’ apartment, an energy contractor with Potomac Edison completed all the energy saving measures listed above.

Even more appealing are the cost savings. Dimes said she used to pay $90-$100 for electricity each month, and now pays about $60.

To schedule your own QHEC, contact your utility supplier through their online form or by phone. Once scheduled, the entire process takes about an hour. A trained energy professional will tour your rental unit and make energy upgrades on the spot, as well as suggestions for larger and longer-term opportunities.


Additional Energy-Savings Tips

If you happen to live in a rental unit where electricity, heat, and water costs are included in your monthly rent, you may not qualify for a QHEC. But don’t fret!Energy Star Logo

Here are some tips that U.S. Department of Energy’s ENERGY STAR program suggests to help you become more energy efficient, save money, and reduce the impacts of climate change:


No Cost Tips:

  1. Take shorter showers; five minutes is all you need. Try playing your favorite song as a timer.
  2. Unplug chargers when not in use. Even when you’re not charging a device, they still use electricity.
  3. When doing laundry, wash in cold water and, if using a dryer, clean the lint trap before each use and do not over dry.


Low Cost Tips:

  1. Replace your five most frequently used lights with higher-efficiency LED or fluorescent versions. Your utility offers rebates on lighting that are automatically taken at the register at participating stores.
  2. Look for the WaterSense You will receive a WaterSense-labeled showerhead through the QHEC, but additional items such as faucet aerators are at your local hardware store.
  3. Use an advanced power strip. While you will receive one with the QHEC, you can find additional ones at your local hardware store.
[And if you have a larger project in mind to save energy, be sure to check with your property manager or landlord.]


Need more help saving money on utility bills? The Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection Low Income Energy Assistance program or Pepco’s bill assistance program can help customers better understand and control their energy needs and usage.



By Scott Harris. Scott is a freelance writer who lives in Montgomery County and covers the environment and other topics. He may be reached at

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