Eco-friendly upgrades that won’t break your lease

One of the hardest things about living in an apartment is not always being able to make the changes that you want to make to your living space. For example, this can be especially frustrating if you have to pay all of your own utilities but aren’t allowed to make changes that will reduce those bills (like switching to a tankless water heater or putting in better windows). On the one hand, you probably don’t want to make big expensive changes to a home that is only supposed to be temporary. On the other, your bills are really expensive!

Here’s the thing: even the strictest of landlords probably won’t mind changes that can be changed back. For example: if you want to paint your walls, that’s usually okay if you paint them back before you move out (check with your landlord first on this). Here are some temporary (or, if you prefer, “transferrable”) changes that you can make that won’t tick off your landlord, get you fined or break your lease.

Use Food

photo credit Flickr.com - Julie Cheung
photo credit Flickr.com – Julie Cheung

One of the best things you can do to improve the air quality of your home is get rid of all of those gross chemical cleansers. Did you know that you can make a perfectly good all purpose cleanser using white vinegar and water? Sea salt and baking soda, when combined with some citric acid make great scrubbers (sprinkle some sea salt in your sink and then scrub it around with a grapefruit you’ve cut in half for proof). There are lots of things you can do with food to keep your home (and other stuff) clean.

Switch Out Your Shower Head

Photo credit: Flickr.com - Geoffrey Fairchild
Photo credit: Flickr.com – Geoffrey Fairchild

A lot of apartment complexes have already switched out older, less green, shower fixtures for greener models. Even your building is behind the time, don’t worry. Anybody can switch out older models for one of the newer, more energy efficient showerheads on the market. Most of the time you don’t need more than a wrench to loosen the old fixture and tighten the new one. No special skills or equipment required.

Switch Out Your Faucet Head

Photo credit: Flickr - Phil Roeder
Photo credit: Flickr – Phil Roeder

There are low flow faucet heads out there that are pretty simple to install. You’ll be better off, though, if you install one of those faucets that also filters your water. A lot of apartment complexes and buildings have trouble keeping their water free of sentiment and other debris. This is especially true for older buildings that might not have been able to take out old pipes and plumbing fixtures and install newer, greener models. With a faucet filter you’ll know that you’re drinking clean water (and giving it to your pets).

Energy Efficient Lighting

Photo credit: Flickr - Adam Bowie
Photo credit: Flickr – Adam Bowie

Most complexes have started switching out incandescent bulbs for CFLs. CFLs, though, are not the best or most energy efficient bulbs out there. For one thing, they take forever to “warm up” to their advertised wattage and if you don’t like dim rooms, this can be really frustrating. For another, if a CFL bulb breaks you have to worry about mercury exposure along with broken glass. The better bulbs to have are LEDs. LED bulbs cost around $15-$20 each but they last years longer, require less power to give off higher wattages of lights and they turn on at their full brightness. Plus, they’re built like regular lightbulbs so switching them in and out only takes a minute or two.

Film Your Windows

Photo credit: Flickr.com - Gier Halvorsen
Photo credit: Flickr.com – Gier Halvorsen

A lot of buildings have switched out older glass windows for the more energy efficient, double paned and plastic windows. You aren’t going to want to do that in your unit ( you probably won’t be allowed to do that). You can, though, put solar film on your windows to help keep hot air out in the summer and in during the winter. Solar film has come a long way in price and appearance. Some of it is even “invisible” now so your landlord will never know it’s there (unless you botch the installation).

Have you made some cheap and “temporary” green upgrades to your apartment? Share your knowledge with the class!

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