Energy efficiency guide for renters

male renter going through his bills

Danny Baggs

Posted July 18, 2023

It’s important to learn how to reduce your energy bills as a renter. Here’s how to curb your electricity costs on heating and cooling, lighting, cooking, cleaning and more.

When you’re renting, you may not have the choice to install a solar system, switch to an induction cooktop or switch to a heat pump hot water system to increase your household’s energy efficiency. However, there are still plenty of ways to improve efficiency and reduce your energy bills. 

“There are some simple, low-tech and low-cost ways to increase your energy efficiency when renting,” says Head of RACV Trades Kieran Davies, who rented for five years in Melbourne.

two children watching TV

There are many ways that you can save on energy bills as a renter. Image: Getty

How to make your home energy efficient as a renter


Up to 50 per cent of your household’s energy use goes towards heating and cooling, according to the Australian Government’s Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW). As you can imagine, decreasing your heating/cooling costs will dramatically reduce your energy bill.

If you use climate control, like a split-system, set the temperature between 18°C and 20°C in winter. Every degree hotter may increase energy use by 5 to 10 per cent. Close all windows and shut doors to rooms that you aren’t using for maximum efficiency.

Make sure to close your blinds or curtains before it gets dark, which will trap a layer of air next to the window to improve insulation. Keep them open during the day to let the sun soak inside.

One of the easiest ways to lose heat in the home is from the gaps under your doors or around your windows. Davies recommends working out where you’re losing heat from your house by using your hands: “walk around, place your hand near your doors and windows, and feel whether there is airflow sucking warm air out or letting cold air in.” Use a draught stopper (‘door snake’) to prevent air leakage under doors, and draught-seal any gaps or cracks around doors, windows, skirting boards, skylights and cornices – but make sure to check with your landlord or property manager before fitting any weather seals or covers.

You can also ‘zone off’ parts of your house to mitigate warm air loss in open plan homes or down hallways. If your living room leads to hallways or other open doorways, grab a telescopic curtain pole from a hardware shop and close off the space with curtains that don’t need to be permanently fixed in place. “Restricting airflow like this totally changes the ambient temperature in your now-smaller space,” Davies says.

During the night, try sleeping with an extra blanket, hot water bottle, heat pack or even an electric blanket rather than the air con or space heater. Electric blankets only cost about four cents an hour, while space heaters cost around 15 cents an hour. Here are some other ways to keep warm without switching on the heater.

two energy star rating labels

When buying any heating or cooling device that uses energy, consider their Energy Star Rating labels. Image: Getty


In summer, open windows during cooler parts of the day to let breezes in and hot air out. During the hottest part of the day, close your window’s blinds or curtains to prevent the sun from overheating your rooms. “Having some kind of shade covering in front of your windows can make a massive difference to how hot your house actually gets," Davies says.

Try running your ceiling fans over the air conditioning unit if your rental has them or use a pedestal fan to help circulate the air. Fans only cost about two cents an hour to run and can reduce temperatures by two or three degrees. If you use a split-system, set the temperature between 25°C and 27°C in summer. You can also ask your landlord for an air conditioner service to keep your unit running as efficiently as possible.

If your rental doesn’t have fans or an air conditioning, Davies suggests trying a ‘reverse heat pack’. “When it’s really hot overnight, take an ice pack, wrap it in a tea towel, and take it to bed with you to help you cool down and sleep.”

man putting a clothes dryer cycle on

Wait to use your washing machine and/or dryer until you have a full load. Image: Getty


DCCEEW reports that appliances account for approximately 25 per cent of your home energy use. There are some appliances that you aren’t in control of in rental properties, such as the water heater, air conditioner, pool pump, dishwasher, and sometimes the clothes dryer. But renters do usually supply their own refrigerator and freezer, clothes washing machine, and entertainment devices like televisions, gaming consoles, and computer monitors.

When you next need to purchase one of these appliances, look carefully at their labelled energy star ratings and buy the most efficient model that you can afford. It may be slightly more expensive to purchase, but it will save you money in the long run.

In addition, you can learn which appliances consume electricity even in standby or shut down mode and make sure to turn off the power switch at the wall to eliminate energy waste.

To save extra money on your electricity bill, try:

  • Waiting to use your washing machine and dishwasher until you have full loads

  • Using the cold wash cycle on your washing machine – you can save 50 per cent of energy costs by doing this using a front loader, or 85 per cent using a top loader.

  • Hanging your clean laundry on a clothesline or indoor clotheshorse rather than using a clothes dryer – doing this just one day a week can save you up to $70 a year.

  • Setting your fridge and freezer temperatures properly: between 3 to 5°C for a fridge and -15 to -18°C for a freezer – every degree lower will use five per cent more energy.

  • Boiling the kettle once and pouring the hot water into a thermos so it retains heat throughout the day. “That way you don’t have to keep boiling the kettle, which consumes energy each time,” Davies points out.

  • Switching to a portable single-burner induction cooktop – there are now a few options on the market that are efficient, affordable, and can reduce your energy needs.
  • Purchasing an air fryer, which can save you up to 34 cents per kWh when cooking food compared to a conventional oven.
man holding an incandescent lightbulb in his left hand and an LED globe in his right hand

LEDs are the most energy-efficient lightbulbs. Image: Getty


Lighting your home accounts for about 10 per cent of your energy bill, according to DCCEEW. To save money on lighting, get into the habit of keeping lights switched off in rooms that you aren’t currently using. “Plus, make sure you have the cheapest running globes in place,” Davies recommends.

LEDs are easily the most energy efficient lightbulb, using 75 to 85 per cent less electricity to produce the same amount of light as old incandescent-style lightbulbs. Use LED globes in your desk, bedside and floor lamps. If any of your ceiling lights blow out during your tenancy, replace them with LED globes too.

Energy supplier

If you’re able to choose your own energy supplier, shop around for the best rates to ensure that you are paying a fair price on your electricity bill. Search for features like fast set-up, waived connection fees and no lock-in contracts. Arcline by RACV gives you reliable, cleaner energy for a fixed wholesale rate.


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