22 Ways to Save Energy and Water in an Apartment

For Rent sign photo

Going green in an apartment has two large obstacles. The first obstacle is that landlord. I've had downright awful landlords in the past. I've gone without heat in the winter and have had my security deposit vanish due to trumped up offenses. My current landlord is a good person. He is fussy about his property, and I cannot make any significant home modifications without forms signed in triplicate. And even with the forms, he can still just say no. That means I cannot install double-pane windows or upgrade my insulation.

The other obstacle is the transient nature of apartment life. An apartment dweller doesn't own the apartment, therefore, they won't want to make upgrades to the apartment that they cannot keep when they leave. Of course, you can try and work things out with your landlord to get a discount on rent or some of your deposit money refunded early, but then you are back to obstacle one.


Therefore, the tips on this list are composed of things which do not modify the house and of things that can be moved along with the apartment dweller. The only exceptions are very inexpensive improvements.

Here is the list:

  1. Low-Flow Showerhead Remove your old showerhead and replace it with a low-flow model. When you move, pack up the low-flow showerhead and put the original showerhead back on.
  2. Displace Water in Your Toilet Tank Find a plastic bottle. Fill it with gravel. Place it in your toilet tank. You can leave this for the next tenant or take it with you.
  3. Insulated Drapes/Blackout Curtains/Cellular Blinds Covering your windows with insulated dressings such as blackout curtains or cellular blinds will significantly reduce your heating bills. These can be moved with you.
  4. Foam Insulating Gaskets Putting foam insulating gaskets behind your outlets is a cheap way of reducing heat loss. You probably could remove these when you leave your apartment, but they are so cheap it may not be worth it.
  5. Composting Box You can build a compost box inside. Keep it under your sink. Take it with you when you move. This saves garbage disposal energy and landfill space.
  6. Grow Food Indoors If you're looking for something to do with that compost, why not grow some food inside your house? This will ensure that some of your fruits and veggies are grown super-locally, saving transportation energy. You can move your interior garden when you move.
  7. Draft Stoppers Place delightfully mobile draft stoppers in front of drafty doors and windows. They cost about ten bucks, or you can make them yourself.
  8. Plastic Window Insulation/Bubble Wrap Insulate your windows by covering them with plastic. You can remove the plastic when you leave the apartment. Bubble wrap is another great way to insulate your windows.
  9. CFL Bulbs They save a lot of energy. I'm waiting for the day when they are just called light bulbs and old pear-shaped light bulbs are a thing of the past. Also, turn off lights when you are not in the room.
  10. Shade Your Air Conditioner If you have a window-mounted air conditioner, you can save energy and money by shading it from the sun. The cooler the air conditioner, the more efficient it runs.
  11. Pay Attention to Your Fridge In an apartment building, 25% of your electric bill may go towards the fridge. Keep its compressor coils clean to ensure your energy bill stays low. Cover Your Food. Check the fridge's seal. Fill your fridge with water jugs to keep it full and colder.
  12. Tinfoil + Radiator = Win By lining the walls behind your radiators with tinfoil, you can increase the heat in your apartment with no extra electricity usage.
  13. Surge Protectors/Power Bars Phantom power is a problem, and it can be hard to remember to unplug every single appliance from the walls. With surge protectors and power bars, you only have to unplug one plug. Some power bars can stop phantom power with the flick of a switch.
  14. Hot Water Bottle/Electric Blanket Instead of turning up the thermostat, you can invest in an electric blanket or a hot water bottle. Each of these uses less energy than a central heating system.
  15. Repairs One of the benefits of having a landlord is that they will fix things. Don't let a slightly leaky faucet go unrepaired. Leaks account for 13% of home water usage. You can fix it yourself or get your landlord to do it.
  16. Arrange Furniture Properly Make sure your furniture isn't blocking vents or baseboards.
  17. Interior Storm Windows You can put storm windows on in the interior of your apartment. This will reduce heat loss by up to 50%.
  18. Exhaust Fan Cover Cover your kitchen and bathroom exhausts in the winter. Removable covers can be purchased for these exhaust fans.
  19. Air Conditioner Cover If you can't remove a window-mounted air conditioner. Put a cover on it to stop heat loss. These are removable, reusable and cheap.
  20. Aerators Put aerators on your faucets to save water. Remove them when you remove yourself from the apartment.
  21. Door Sweep Your landlord may have been cutting corners when he or she installed your door. If it's drafty, you can nix that draft by putting a door sweep on your door.
  22. Raise the Humidity in the Winter Humidity makes your apartment feel warmer. Set pans of gray water near the radiator to increase humidity. Green plants are also good humidifiers, another good reason to grow food indoors.