Eco-friendly apartments and sustainable building materials are taking over the market, and the research is clear: both buyers and renters want environmentally conscious homes. These homes and buildings have lower energy costs, such as water, heating, and cooling, as well as a greener footprint. You don’t have to be buying to ensure that your living space is as planet-friendly as possible, though. There are a growing number of apartment buildings and rental homes that are not only built sustainably, but offer options to renters that can make you feel good about where you live.
When browsing apartment listings and going to viewings, you can look for certain keywords that will give you a hint as to their sustainability, for both the planet and your wallet. Words like “high-efficiency”, which can indicate appliances that use less water, less energy, etc. Ask if the appliances in the unit are Energy Star certified, or if there are energy-saving settings on appliances like washing machines/dryers, refrigerators, and dishwashers. Many apartment listing websites allow you to search for specific keywords, so you could search for “efficient”, “solar”, “sustainable”, “eco-friendly”, etc. to narrow down listings that directly appeal to what you are looking for.
The internal systems of the building are important, too. While older buildings may not offer it, renovated and new buildings may have a more updated HVAC system and there’s a chance that it’s energy-efficient. Don’t be afraid to ask! Having an updated, efficient HVAC system in your home or building can lower your utility costs, as well as lessen the amount of fuel waste emitted from the furnace during use. Energy-efficient HVAC systems use, on average, 33% less fuel, and can save up to 35% in energy costs.
Technology has begun to play a role in the sustainable homes movement. Things like smart thermostats and Wi-Fi-connected light controls can help keep energy use in check. Some smart thermostats can detect how many people are in a specific room and adjust the temperature accordingly, making sure that you’re not blasting heat or A/C into rooms that no one in the house is even using. Smart technology is another aspect you can search for directly in apartment listings using a keyword filter.
Windows can make a large difference in the energy consumption of your home. Houses and apartments that are built with more windows let in more sunlight and warmth, reducing the need to keep lights on or the heat up during the day. Though maximum natural light is in high-demand among renters, if the windows are old and drafty, they may end up wasting more energy and costing you more money. While you may like to keep the windows open to the breeze in the warmer months instead of turning on the air, having drafty windows in the winter can make your home cold, unpleasant, and more expensive to heat. Ask whether the windows in the apartment have been replaced recently and whether they are certified efficient windows. This can include extra insulation and sealing, multiple panes, or special coatings.
According to William Bolls, an award-winning New York City Real Estate Agent for over 15 years, “for those who really want to ensure that they are living in a space that is as eco-friendly as possible, look for LEED-certified or even Passive House-certified buildings. These certifications are given to buildings that were constructed with very specific standards for sustainability and efficiency, while creating less waste and energy use.”
LEED-certification, the most widely used, can be given to new building construction as well as to renovations, so long as the renovations meet the standards, and can be found in skyscrapers, high-rise homes, single family homes, and apartment buildings.
Once you’ve found an apartment you love that meets the sustainability standards you’re looking for, you can take further steps to make your living space greener.
- Installing low-flow shower-heads and dual-flush toilet conversion kits can save huge amounts of water (be sure to check with your landlord first).
- Making sure you weather strip doors and windows will reduce drafts and the amount of heating and cooling your home needs to stay at the right temperature.
- Often utility companies have a “green power” option; if you are responsible for your utilities as a tenant, you should call and find out if you have the option to switch to a more environmentally friendly usage plan.
- Ask if your new building participates in recycling and/or composting to help reduce your own personal footprint.
- Even small things such as switching out light bulbs to either CFLs or LEDs will make a big difference in energy use and costs.
Remember that you can help make a difference to the planet and to the environment through your living space, even if you aren’t buying a home yourself. The green movement is growing, and your options for environmentally friendly and sustainable housing are more plentiful than ever.