Living Sustainably

Energy & Water

High utility bills can increase your living expenses significantly and increase your carbon-footprint.  If every person in the world lived like the average American, we would need over five planets to support our resource use. Sustainability is an important framework for identifying housing options that can save us money while reducing our social and environmental impact. 
What You Can Do?

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Energy Conservation: Basic Steps | Intermediate Steps | Advanced Steps

To get a better idea of how much energy you use, in terms of costs, refer to this chart for how much electricity appliances are costing you.  

energy.gov

Your costs could be lower than these national averages by adopting energy conservation behaviors and living in homes with energy efficient appliances.  Below are steps to help conserve energy and water that will keep utility bills low and increase sustainable use of natural resources.

  • Basic Steps
    • Monitor Your Thermostat: The U.S. Department of Energy estimates 54% of a home’s energy usage is from heating and cooling. They suggest setting the thermostat at 68°F in the winter and 78°F in the summer. These adjustments can save 5-15% a year on utility bills. In the summer, use fans whenever possible to maintain air movement. With the use of a ceiling fan, you can lower the thermostat by 4°F and not decrease comfort. In winter, wear more layers indoors to stay warm. This allows you to set your thermostat lower.
    • Be Smart About Lighting: Be resourceful of daylight hours and open blinds for natural light instead of turning on appliances.
    • Skip the Clothes Dryer: On average, clothes dryers account for 6% of your electric bill. Reduce these costs by letting your laundry air dry, either on a laundry line outside or on a drying rack indoors. If you must use a dryer, maximize its efficiency by cleaning the lint filter first and only running full loads. Avoid over-drying clothes to prevent energy waste and shrinking clothes.
    • Unplug Electronics: Don’t be a victim of Vampire Electricity! Your electronic devices draw energy, even when not in use. Unplug them when possible or use power strips to make it easier. Turn off the power strip when you leave the house or go to sleep at night, and you’ll be saving money effortlessly! This becomes especially important when you leave for breaks.
    • Get to Know Your Refrigerator: On average, 20% of your electric bill comes from the energy it takes to run your fridge. To maximize its efficiency, set the fridge to 37°F and the freezer to 3°F. Also, check and make sure the seals on its doors are tight so air isn’t leaking in or out. An easy way to check if the sealant is still good is to slip a dollar in the door and see if it can easily be removed. If so, talk with your property manager to protect your food and prevent further energy waste.
    • Adjust Your Water Heater: Hot water heaters are usually turned up too high; so reset yours to “normal” (i.e. 120°F). This is usually halfway between the “medium” and “low” settings. Even in this setting, you’ll have plenty of hot water for showering and doing the dishes.
  • Intermediate Steps
    • Weatherize Your Home: Many older rentals in Bloomington could benefit from basic weatherization. Filling in cracks and gaps around windows, doors and electrical outlets can make a noticeable difference in retaining heat in the winter and cool air in the summer. Visit the Sustainability Workshops and Skills Development page for more information on how to weatherize your home.
    • Wrap Your Water Heater: Help keep your water warmer and use less energy, by installing a water heater blanket. Wrapping the hot water pipes can save 1100 lbs. of CO2 emissions per year for an electric water heater, or 220 lbs. for a gas heater.
  • Advanced Steps
    • Install Energy-Efficient Appliances: ENERGY STAR qualified appliances and equipment are up to 40% more efficient. Find rebates and incentives for Bloomington residents using the ENERGY STAR Rebate Finder.
    • Perform an Energy Audit: After doing basic weatherization to your own home, the next step up is to have a Home Energy Auditor evaluate your residence to determine exactly where you’re losing the most energy. A number of different private contractors that perform energy audits serve the Bloomington area. An auditor will be able to tell you where problem areas exist, such as where you might need more insulation or better windows.

Water Conservation: Basic Steps | Intermediate Steps | Advanced Steps

Are you a water waster? Click here to calculate how much water your household uses and the conservation measures you could take.

water calculator

  • Basic Steps
    • Turn Off the Tap: People unintentionally waste water regularly by leaving the faucet on when brushing their teeth, washing their face or hands, or while shaving. Choosing to turn off the water can save 25 gallons/month.
    • Dishes: Hand washing vs. Dishwasher? If you have an energy efficient dishwasher, you may use less water per load than if you wash by hand, but only if you use it properly. Scrape your dishes, instead of rinsing, before loading them into the washer. Run them with full loads to conserve water and use the non-heat drying setting to save 20% of your dishwasher’s total electricity use.If you choose to wash dishes by hand or do not have a dishwasher, fill one sink with wash water and the other with rinse water.
    • Laundry: Save water by only washing full loads! If you don’t have enough dirty clothes yourself for a full load, ask your roommate to share a load with you to maximize efficiency. Also, use cold water- it gets stains out just as well as hot water (but uses less energy) now that most laundry detergents are designed for cold-water use.
    • Take Shorter Showers: Baths and long showers use at least 4x the amount of water as a 3-5 minute shower. Turn off the faucet when soaping up to save even more water while washing. Shortening a shower by a minute or two will save up to 150 gallons/month.
    • Fix Leaks: Check your lease, but most property managers are legally required to maintain the plumbing, at no charge to you. Call your landlord ASAP when you notice a leak. (Click here to calculate how many gallons are wasted per day from a leaky faucet.) If you see a sharp rise in your bill from one month to the next, it could be a sign you have a leak. A leak of one drip per second can cost $1/month.
    • Flush Responsibly: Throw away garbage in a trashcan (not the toilet!); each flush uses approximately 7 gallons of water unless you have a low-flow toilet.
  • Intermediate Steps
    • Install Water-Saving Devices: Low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators cost just $10-$20, give you the same water pressure as regular fixtures, and can cut water use by up to 50%! Shower timers are also another great device that can help keep you accountable when you’re trying to conserve water.
  • Advanced Steps
    • Harvest Rainwater: If you have space, rain barrels are an excellent way to reduce your water use when irrigating gardens or landscaping. They also reduce the load on the city sewer system by slowing down water flow during heavy downpours, which helps reduce the risk of combined sewage overflows from occurring.
    • Install Energy Efficient Toilets: Dual flush and low-flow toilets (which use between 1 and 3 gallons of water per flush) are now a viable alternative to traditional toilets, which use up to 7 gallons per flush. Depending on the model, a new toilet will cost anywhere from $150-$400, but the energy savings add up over time!
What Can Your Landlord Do?

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Your landlord may not know about the business benefits that come from offering “greener” features in their rental properties. Many eco-friendly changes end up paying for themselves by increasing the value of the rental, attracting more responsible tenants, and improving advertising appeal to an increasingly sustainability-oriented clientele- just to name a few of the direct benefits they’ll receive from going green!

Talk to your landlord about the importance of energy and water conservation-if they don’t hear from you, they won’t know that you care! If possible, try to set up a meeting with your landlord face-to-face rather than over the phone or by e-mail-it’s that much harder to say “No” once they put a face with your requests. Also, encourage other tenants of the property management company to voice their concerns too- landlords will be more likely to respond to your concerns if more than one person speaks up. 

Here are some things you might suggest that your landlord do to improve energy efficiency and resource conservation in their properties:

 

  1. Install Energy-Efficient Appliances: ENERGY STAR qualified appliances and equipment are up to 40% more efficient. Find rebates and incentives for Bloomington residents using the ENERGY STAR Rebate Finder.
  2. Install Water-Saving Devices: Low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators cost just $10- $30 each, give you the same water pressure as regular fixtures, and can cut water use by up to 50%! Shower timers are also another great device that can help keep you accountable when you’re trying to conserve water.
  3. Improve Lighting in Communal Areas: Install LED lights and motion-sensors in common areas to decrease energy use, and also reduce the chance of lights being left on when they’re not in use.
  4. Meter Tenants Separately: Studies show that making individuals more accountable for their own energy use increases their awareness and decreases consumption, resulting in up to 15% energy savings!
  5. Weatherize the Building: Installing weather stripping around doors and windows and filling in gaps with caulk is an inexpensive alternative to replacing windows, and can save up to 1100 lbs of CO2 per year for a typical home.
  6. Provide Alternatives to Driers: If the property has washing/drying facilities, consider installing drying racks or laundry lines so that tenants don’t need to rely on driers when doing their laundry.