Apartment dwellers often feel powerless when it comes to reducing their electric bills through energy-efficient improvements. However, there are options available in order for renters to lower their monthly electric bills – some of which are right under their noses.

Vaulted Ceilings
Having a vaulted ceiling gives a home a more open feel, with plenty of free space and the possibility for natural light. But with more open space comes the dilemma of filling that space with heat, air conditioning and light.

People who decide they must have vaulted ceilings for aesthetic purposes should communicate with their community leasing agent. High ceilings can be an extremely appealing feature, as long as they don't cause the utility bills to hit the roof. (For more, see Downsize Your Home To Downsize Expenses.)

The Equalizers
Ceiling fans are important appliances in homes with vaulted ceilings. While the fans won't adjust the actual temperature in the room, the circulation will give the feel of the room achieving a temperature a couple of degrees warmer in the winter, and cooler during the summer. Thus, a slight temperature change on an air conditioner or thermostat can be made to achieve the same level of comfort without raising the gas and electric bills. Remember to adjust your ceiling fan to rotate counterclockwise to bring the rising heat back down to you. (Learn more in our related article, Building Green For Your House And Wallet.)

Exact height is also important when choosing your apartment. Not all vaulted ceilings are the same height, and a lower maximum ceiling height will obviously reduce an electric bill significantly. Ask the leasing agents and rental locators what the tallest point in the ceiling is, and compare with other apartments offering vaulted ceilings.

Appliances
Appliance will usually be included with an apartment. And with the country "going green," many will even be energy efficient. When speaking to the leasing agent in the apartment community's office, go beyond the basics of asking if the unit has energy-efficient appliances - ask about the wattage used by the appliances (dishwasher, stove, microwave, air conditioner, heater and refrigerator).

If the apartment complex will not provide the wattage information to you, ask for model numbers and do the research for yourself. The lower the wattage on each unit, the less electricity the appliances uses and the lower your utility bills will be. (For more information on energy-efficient appliances, read Home Energy Savings Add Up.)

Natural Lighting
Apartments with large windows (and plenty of them) can both help and hurt an electric bill, depending on the season and temperature. On one hand, light fixtures and lamps aren't needed during the day, due to natural light, but that may likely cause an increase in necessary air conditioning. (For more, see Save Money On Summer Bills.)

The Equalizers
Caulk and weather stripping will help keep outside air from getting in. It takes more effort for an air conditioner or heater to work if the windows and doors have air leaks around the edges. Ask leasing agents about how often (or if) the maintenance team checks for air leaks.

Window coverings in the form of blinds and curtains will help block energy leakage. Make sure your next home has window coverings installed.

Soundproofing
If an apartment community advertises a soundproof apartment, there is a hidden message in the ad – heavily insulated walls. In order for apartments to not transfer sound between units, there has to be a thick, well-insulated wall to prevent the neighbors' blasting stereo from intruding on your reading time. Heavy insulations help keep both air conditioning and heat within the walls of the home.

Conclusion
You don't have to own a home to make energy-efficiency choices. You can find an apartment community in which management has made responsible energy choices, so you can focus on enjoying your new home, instead of figuring out how to pay a pricey electric bill. (For more ways to save money on your utility bills, read Ten Ways To Save Energy And Money.)

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