Energy efficiency is something that everyone would like to have more of in their lives. But if you own a Charleston condo, you might be frustrated by your lack of flexibility (when compared to homeowners with single-family properties). The HOA has a great deal of say in what changes you’re allowed to make and how/when they can be made. But don’t be dismayed. You still have plenty of options to turn your condo into a green, money-saving abode.
6 Tips for Making Condos More Energy Efficient
Having an energy efficient condo is advantageous for numerous reasons. Not only does it have a positive impact on the environment, but it could also save you hundreds or thousands of dollars per year in energy costs.
Not sure where to begin? We’ve got a few ideas:
- Get Rid of the Vampires
You have vampires in your condo! No, not the blood-sucking variety. We’re talking about energy-sucking vampires that rob you of energy throughout the day and drive up your bills.
Things like phone chargers, laptop cables, gaming equipment, and even microwaves all have the tendency to suck up energy even when they aren’t in use. (As strange as it may sound, a microwave actually consumes more electricity powering its digital clock than it does heating your food.)
The solution? Unplug electronics and appliances when they aren’t in use. You could save as much as 10 percent on your annual energy costs using just this one tip.
- Think Smarter
Swap out your old programmable thermostat with a smart thermostat. It might seem like a small tweak, but this one little upgrade will help you control your heating and cooling costs when you’re home or away. It actually learns your behaviors and optimizes according to your schedule. (Most people are able to break-even on their smart thermostat within 12 to 18 months. After that point, it’s all savings.)
- Switch to LED Lighting
If you’re still using incandescent bulbs, a switch to LED alternatives could save you some major cash. If you have 20 bulbs in your condo, you can expect to spend somewhere around $70 for new bulbs, but you’ll save roughly $150 per year. That means your break-even point is right around six months. (And considering that LED bulbs last for years, you won’t have to reinvest for a long time.)
- Try an Electric Fireplace
While Charleston winters are certainly modest when compared to most of the country, it’s still nice to have a toasty fire when the weather does dip into the 30s and below. And since you probably don’t have a fireplace - nor would you be allowed to retrofit your condo with a gas or wood-burning fireplace - you may consider an electric option.
Electric fireplaces actively convert all of the energy they produce into heat. This ensures they’re 100 percent energy efficient (unlike wood and gas fireplaces that lose as much as 50 to 60 percent of their energy into the atmosphere). Plus, electric fireplaces can be installed directly into a wall and require no venting. Not bad!
- Upgrade Those Rickety Appliances
You might think you’re being smart by continuing to use your old washer, dryer, or refrigerator. But just because an appliance powers on doesn’t mean you should keep using it. It’s possible that it’s sucking up energy and driving your utility bill through the roof.
By upgrading to smarter ENERGY STAR appliances, you can begin saving money right away. It might take a few months to earn back your investment, but it’s worth it.
- Check All Openings
While some exchange between your condo’s interior and the outside is normal, too much can hurt your energy efficiency and cause your HVAC system to work overtime.
Try running your hand along the edges of all exterior windows and doors. (You’ll also want to place your hand in front of outlets on exterior walls.) Feel for any sign of heat exchange. In the winter, you may feel cold air pouring in. During the summer, you’ll feel the presence of hot air.
If you discover little gaps and cracks around these problem areas, use a combination of weatherstripping and/or caulking to seal the entry points.
Usher Your Condo Into the Age of Sustainability
Just because you have a condo with lots of restrictions and bylaws doesn’t mean you can’t make your place more sustainable. By implementing some of the energy efficient upgrades outlined in this article, you can enjoy years of comfort, savings, and peace of mind. Where will you begin?