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Renters in America

A Green Living Expert Shares Rental Properties Sustainability Tips

Lisa Nelson-Woods, who owns an eco-friendly home and runs a green living blog, Condoblues.com frequently writes about how to renovate your home on a budget using environmentally safe practices and tools. Read on as she shares ways to sustainably spruce up your rental property.

Lisa Nelson-Woods

Creator, Condoblues.com

What inspired you to switch to eco-friendly and sustainable living practices?

It was receiving what I thought was an extremely high winter heating bill shortly after my husband and I moved into our condo. I did a DIY home energy audit that suggested we reduce our home utility use by 20%. The green elite said I couldn’t do that until I replaced every item that came with my home that was not certified energy or water efficient, which was everything that came brand new with my condo. I thought it was too wasteful to replace brand new everything and set the goal to reduce our utility use by 20% with new habits, cheap home improvements and with our current appliances and systems unless it broke beyond repair. It was a year-long project. I did a second home energy audit after we finished the project and learned that we didn’t make our 20% goal. We reduced our household utility use by 32%!

What are the biggest misconceptions that property managers, landlords, and owners have about going green?

The biggest misconception about green living is the idea that you have to replace everything you already own with the certified green equivalent, personal habits don’t matter, and that a property may already have energy and water efficient systems or fixtures that don’t need to be replaced.

There are several cost effective ways to upgrade what is already in the property instead of doing a total green replacement. If you can’t replace the property’s leaky windows, investing in reusable storm window inserts will not only save energy at a lower investment cost but may head off any damage from the tenants covering the windows with heat shrink film every year. Instead of replacing a water heater, look into installing an insulated water heating blanket and more importantly double check the settings. After that, if the water heater needs to be replaced, consider installing an energy efficient one.

Sealing air leaks around doors, windows, and plumbing in and outside of the house with weather stripping and a can of spray foam insulation is a very easy and often overlooked way to make a property more energy efficient.

What eco-friendly home improvements offer the best ROI?

I would start by considering upgrading to eco-friendly home improvements that are tied to any utilities you pay for the tenant. For example, a local landlord I work with pays his tenants’ water and sewer bills. When he buys a property, he installs dual flush toilets in his pre-1992 properties when U.S. federal law mandated toilets to use 3.5 gallons of water per flush. If the property has a toilet that was installed after 1994 when federal law lowered the mandate again to 1.6 gallon per flush (which is considered a low flow toilet,) he has a dual flush conversion kit installed on the toilet for around $30 instead of replacing the whole thing for several hundred.

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