Make your home more environmentally sustainable even if you're renting
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Make your home more environmentally sustainable even if you're renting

Jul 25, 2023

By Caroline Bunnell

Living in an environmentally sustainable and more energy-efficient home has become more important than ever as Massachusetts strives for net-zero emissions by 2050.

But what if you are renting?

If you are one of the legions of people moving into new rentals in Boston this week, knowing how to improve your living space can be crucial to making impactful environmental changes. You may not think you have many options as a renter, but that’s not true.

Meg Howard, program director for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center spoke to on Wednesday about ways to make your rental space more environmentally sustainable.

“For all of us, it is something we can do in our homes and feel like we are contributing to the state’s overall goals,” Howard said. “It’s also a great way to think about how you are using energy and save money by using less of it.”

Even the smallest steps make a difference:

Howard emphasized that the type of cooking method you choose can have a big impact on energy efficiency.

Researchers have indicated that cooking on gas stoves can be bad for the environment and one’s health. A January study found that “gas stoves cause 15.4% of childhood asthma cases in Massachusetts.”

One alternative is induction cooking. According to the energy center, the benefits include:

Many renters don’t have the option to switch the appliances in their apartments, but they do have alternatives, Howard said: an induction hot plate that can be bought for $50 to $100 and toaster ovens.

“Maybe you can’t get your landlord to replace your whole stove, but if you want to limit how much you are cooking with gas and go to a more efficient solution, an induction hot plate is a great way to take that step,” Howard said.

With the amount of technology that has to be plugged in in these areas, Howard said, invest in a smart power strip, which is more energy-efficient. This can help eliminate the consumption of electricity when the items plugged into it are not in use.

The transition to LED lights throughout a home can also help save money on electric bills and keep your home cool; traditional incandescent bulbs, which can emit a significant amount of heat. The federal government has banned them for the most part.

Any type of low-flow faucet or shower head will be key to saving water and money on your utility bills.

Air-drying clothes can save money and add needed moisture to a home, especially in the winter months, Howard said.

Ask your landlord to install heat-pump clothes dryers, which save a significant amount of energy. They are different from the typical dryer because they reuse the heat that is given off, rather than releasing it outdoors, Howard said.

Air-source heat pumps work to reduce one’s reliance on fossil fuels and make a home more environmentally sustainable. Heat pumps use the second law of thermodynamics — explained by NASA as the reason heat moves from warm to cool objects — to heat and cool homes.

Renters can work with their landlords to get a home energy assessment that includes information about installing heat pumps.

Renters can improve air-tightness within their homes by weather-stripping the doors and windows. Caulking can also seal up holes and leaks. According to the Clean Energy Center, sealing old or drafty homes can reduce heating and cooling needs by 40 percent.

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