Which Energy-Efficient Upgrades Actually Pay Off?

Last modified on April 13th, 2016

energy-efficientOwners and property managers know that making environmentally friendly upgrades to rental properties not only attracts renters who want to go green, but reduces the cost of owning, operating, and managing rental units. When it comes to going green, however, not all home improvements pay off in equal measures. If you are contemplating making energy-efficient upgrades to rentals, start with these tried-and-tested upgrades that return your investment for years to come.

Add weather stripping to interior and exterior doors. Weather stripping seals doors and windows so that air does not leak out. Residents will feel more comfortable in cold and hot weather, while owners will save on common area heating and cooling expenses. Best of all, weather stripping is inexpensive and easy for maintenance staff to install themselves. Along with weather stripping, it’s recommended to caulk and seal around windows, and seal any gaps around utility pipes with expandable foam.

Install programmable thermostats in units and common areas. Just like weather stripping, programmable thermostats are easy to install and offer energy savings for renters and owners alike. By automating heating and cooling setting, these allow renters and owners to save money on home heating and cooling while reducing everyone’s environmental impact.

Switch to LED lighting in common areas. Since common area lights tend to be on 24/7, they consume a lot of energy—and cost owners a lot of money. Switch to LED lights in laundry rooms, entry ways, hallways, stairwells, and other common areas.

Replace old appliances with energy-efficient appliances. Bathrooms account for 78 percent of remodeling requests, and kitchens account for 69 percent. When the building owner is remodeling kitchens or bathrooms in hopes of generating higher rents, it’s smart to replace old appliances with energy-efficient ones. From dual-flush toilets that use less water to Energy Star rated dishwashers or washer/dryers, these improvements reduce operating costs, reduce water use, and lower water expenses. It’s a win-win for owners and renters.

Add insulation wherever you can. When renovating older units, it can be a good idea to add insulation that reduces energy loss. While insulation is costly, the Department of Energy suggests that this home improvement will pay for itself within a few years. Whether you manage older buildings or new construction, insulation can be a smart move that saves cost in the long run and can easily be worked into other unit upgrades. If you have an attic in rental properties, insulate the attic floor with at least 10 inches of insulation. Since heat rises, this will stop energy loss and reduce utility bills.

Add storm windows or replace windows. While replacement windows are costly, they will improve your renters’ comfort in the unit and reduce energy expenses. If the owner does not want to replace the windows, recommend they install storm windows, which block air leaks. Low-E storm windows have a payback period of 2 to 4 years and are cost-effective in all climates.

Replace an old furnace or central air conditioning unit. Those workhorse furnaces or central ACs in your rental property may still work well, but they have a big environmental footprint. By replacing old furnaces, boilers, or central air conditioning units with newer, energy-efficient models, you will save money. How much? By replacing a 10-year old central air or 20-year old heating system with even a middle-of-the-road model, you can save 10 to 20 percent off energy costs. As a property manager, advocating for this home improvement will not only reduce building operating costs, it will save you time on maintenance and repairs.

Did we leave anything off our list of cost-effective and energy efficient apartment renovations that you’ve seen success with? Tell us in the comments!

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