Energy efficiency is a common topic among property owners, in part because of the many benefits it provides. A more energy efficient house will be able to maintain a comfortable temperature in practically any weather, and use less electricity to do it.
If you own one or more rental properties in the Austin, Texas area, this is especially important to you. The summers here get very hot, and tenants are eager to find a unit that not only stays cool in summer—but doesn’t cost a fortune to maintain.
Upgrading your property to be more energy efficient is relatively straightforward, and depending on what steps you take, it can also be inexpensive. Let’s take a look at the benefits, and the best ways to make your rental property more energy efficient.
Why Energy Efficient Rentals Are Superior
There are several reasons why energy efficient rentals are superior to ones that haven’t been upgraded, including:
- Tenant comfort. Rental units that are energy efficient tend to be more comfortable for the tenants who live there. Your tenants will remain much cooler in the hot Texas weather, and warmer in the rare cold nights of winter. This will make them much more likely to remain in your unit, reducing turnover.
- Tenant appeal. Energy efficient units are also more appealing to tenants, for several reasons. First, if tenants are paying for utilities, they can rest assured that their costs will be lower. On average, utility costs amount to about 13 percent of gross rent, but this can be lowered with the right property changes and installations. Second, energy efficient upgrades typically replace old or outdated features of your home making it much more appealing to tenants. Third, some tenants may care deeply about the environment, and desire a place to live that’s environmentally sustainable.
- Utility savings. If you’re paying utility costs as a property owner, a more energy efficient rental property will reduce your monthly expenses. In turn, your property will be more profitable.
- Return on investment. An energy efficient property will also yield a higher return on your investment. Over the course of your property ownership, you’ll be able to charge higher rent, in exchange for the more valuable internal and external features. And when you sell the property, you’ll be able to ask for a higher price than you would otherwise.
How to Make Your Rental Property More Efficient
So what steps can you take to make your rental property more efficient?
These are some of the most important steps:
- Install new windows and doors. One of the biggest sources of air leakage in a home is in doors and windows—especially if they’re decades old. Old, single-paned windows are responsible for massive loss of cool air in summer. This is one of the most expensive upgrades on this list, but it’s usually worth the costs—especially if you’re the one paying for utilities. It’s also one of the highest return on investment (ROI) upgrades you can make to the home.
- Seal cracks around windows and doors. If you’re not willing to make the investment to upgrade your doors or windows, or if they’re only a few years old, you can make improvements by sealing any cracks responsible for air leakage. You can check for cracks by using a hair dryer or something similar, and feeling for warm air on the other side of the window when closed. When you find a crack, you can seal it with caulk—it only takes a few minutes per window/door, but if you do this for every window and door in the home, it can make a big difference.
- Add or replace insulation. Insulation is responsible for creating resilience to temperature changes. Most varieties of insulation rely on multiple pockets of air, slowing the rate at which heat is gained or lost from outside conditions. If you’re using old, inferior insulation, or worse, if any rooms of your home are completely uninsulated, the home’s energy efficiency will suffer. Check for weak points in the property’s insulation, and add new or replace the insulation there. Modern insulation can be easily blown in from the outside, so it shouldn’t be time- or cost-intensive.
- Finish the attic and/or basement. If the property has an unfinished attic, basement, or similar room, it can be responsible for major air leakage. You can mitigate this by finishing the room; adding insulation, drywall, and other fixtures can easily make the room more resilient to change.
- Replace old light bulbs and water fixtures. Old lighting and water fixtures can be responsible for an excessive amount of energy use, so take the effort to replace them (if necessary). Old incandescent light bulbs can easily and cheaply be replaced with modern LEDs. Old toilets can be replaced with newer models that use less water per flush. Better, modern showerheads can reduce the amount of water used by your tenants.
- Install more efficient appliances. Another major upgrade you can make is installing more efficient appliances. Big-ticket items, including your central air conditioner, heater, refrigerator, water heater, washer, and dryer bear a heavy influence on your energy use. Replacing them with modern units, up-to-date with the latest energy efficiency standards, can sharply reduce the energy used in the property.
- Invest in proactive HVAC maintenance. Properly maintaining your HVAC system and internal ductwork can also make it easier to stay cool (or warm), while using less energy. Replace filters regularly, proactively look for (and fix) damage, and clean the ductwork on a regular basis.
You can also improve the energy efficiency of a property through habit changes; for example, you can hang your clothes up to dry instead of drying them in a dryer. However, as a landlord, you won’t be able to exercise much control over the habits your tenants follow.
Are you interested in improving your rental property, or making your work as a landlord significantly easier? Contact Green Residential today for a free consultation, or to learn more about our property management services!