Energy efficiency is a big topic in the world of home ownership. From new government initiatives that encourage smart behaviors to improved consumer products that make it easier to curb energy consumption, there’s never been a better time to set energy efficiency goals for the home. But what do you do when you own rental properties that are inhabited by other people?
Regardless of whether or not you pay for utilities in your rental properties, you have an ethical obligation, as a property owner, to be as resourceful as possible with the energy that’s consumed in your homes. Sometimes you’ll luck out and find tenants who naturally have a desire to be good stewards of the environment. Other times, you’ll have tenants who really don’t care one way or the other.
In these latter situations, it’s up to you to encourage tenant buy-in. You can’t physically make your tenants do certain things, but you can take specific actions and develop plans that make it easy for them to cooperate. By doing so, you’re sure to see better results.
4 Tips for Getting Tenants to Help
Every tenant is different and will respond to the challenge of being energy efficient in a different way. But with that being said, there are some basic things you can do to ensure you get better buy-in from property to property.
Here are a few tips to help you get started.
- Control What You Can Control
The first step actually has nothing to do with your tenants and everything to do with you. Prior to having your tenants move in, you should spend some time making tweaks and improvements that allow the house to be more energy efficient. Here are a few suggestions:
- Dial back the hot water heater a few degrees. By turning the temperature back to 120 degrees, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports you can save 6 to 10 percent each year in hot water heating costs.
- Another easy thing is to fill exterior air leakages. Go around windows and doors with a caulk gun and simply fill these gaps. Not sure where the gaps are? Light a candle and move it along the edges. If the candle flickers or smoke wisps, then you probably have a small gap.
- A clean air filter requires your HVAC system to use less energy. You can encourage tenants to change out air filters, but most aren’t going to go through the trouble of going to the store, buying the right filter, and throwing out the old one. A better solution is to equip your properties with reusable filters that just need to be cleaned with a garden hose every few weeks.
When you do these things, you don’t have to constantly hound your tenants about little issues. Instead, you can rest assured knowing that the property is naturally energy efficient.
- Explain Your Goals to Tenants
You aren’t going to meet many tenants who are opposed to energy efficiency. The majority of people are simply indifferent, or unaware of how their actions impact energy consumption. One way to get these folks on board is to be open and transparent. Explain your goals and you’ll find that people are more than happy to work with you to accomplish them.
- Offer Simple Suggestions
In addition to explaining your goals to tenants, you’d do well to offer them some simple suggestions that will allow them to help in a practical manner. Focus on quick, simple things that don’t inconvenience them. For example:
- Try asking tenants to turn off all lights in the house when going to bed and to use ceiling fans instead of excessively running the AC in the summer.
- Suggest that tenants adjust the thermostat prior to leaving for work. There’s no sense in running the heat or AC at an extreme level when nobody is home.
- In the summer, sun shining through windows can heat up rooms and cause the AC to run more than it should. Encourage the use of blinds when direct sunlight is pouring into rooms that aren’t being used.
It doesn’t take much to be energy efficient. Let your tenants know how simple it is and encourage them to help out. If you really want to encourage participation, provide them with the tools they need to succeed. This may include a programmable thermostat, power strips for electronics, timer switches for lights, and reusable furnace filters.
- Incentivize Good Behavior
If you’re the one paying for utilities, you may get better results if you actually incentivize tenants to reduce their energy consumption. There are multiple ways to do this, but one is by offering them a monthly rebate when they meet certain goals.
For example, take a look at your energy bills from the previous year. Use these numbers as monthly benchmarks and encourage tenants to lower these figures. For every dollar saved, give them a 40 percent rebate. So, if last year’s bill for the month of August was $300 and this year’s bill comes out to $200, there’s a $100 savings. For their help, you give them a $40 rebate.
Incentives don’t make sense in every situation, but they can help you get your tenants in the right frame of mind. If nothing else, it’s a risk-free way to potentially increase energy savings.
Green Residential Professional Property Management
As a busy real estate investor with multiple properties to manage, you don’t always have time to manage the small issues and intricacies that come with being a property manager. In these cases, it’s best to hire a professional property management company to assist you with pressing needs.
At Green Residential, property management is what we do. We’ve spent decades working alongside some of Houston’s top real estate investors and rental property owners to provide strategic, custom, proactive property management services that benefit everyone involved.
If you’re interested in learning more about how we can help you, please contact us at your earliest convenience.