How to Reduce Energy Costs in an Apartment

About three months ago, I moved into a new apartment. Since then, I have become very conscious of my energy usage.

I have started with some basic steps to reduce my energy bill:

  • Installed insulating foam on hot water heater pipes
  • Turned down water heater thermostats (upper and lower)
  • Turned on “Energy Saver” switch inside refrigerator
  • Wiped off refrigerator condenser coils
  • Installed PUR water filter on kitchen sink

The insulating foam did not make a noticeable since my water heater is inside the climate-controlled apartment. It only cost $1.00 at Wal-Mart for 12 feet of foam, and I figured it couldn’t hurt. Turning down the water heater thermostat did help, and I still enjoy nice hot showers that aren’t scalding.

The kitchen water filter won’t save me any energy, but it aligns with my goal of living more efficiently. With the filter, I am saving money by not buying bottled/filtered water.

In spite of these measures, I still felt my energy bill was high. Take a look at this graph of my usage from the utility company website:


Identifying the Problem
As you can see, the central air conditioner is the main energy consumer by far. It became very obvious to me that things like switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs or unplugging electrical devices when not in use would save a negligible amount of energy.

Now I had a new goal: to reduce the amount of money spent on cooling. A friend told me about some heat-blocking window film he had installed at his house, and I was eager to learn more about it.

Looking for A Solution
I checked out the Home Depot website and came across Gila brand window films. The company makes a few different types of window films including frosted, privacy, and UV-blocking. I was most interested in Gila Titanium, which advertises that it can save up to 50% on energy costs.

Many of the user reviews and YouTube videos I watched reported that the product does make a noticeable difference at keeping rooms cooler by blocking UV rays. The downside is that installing the film can be difficult. I decided to give it a chance and try it for myself.

Installing the Window Film
I began by measuring all of the windows in the apartment. Some simple geometry showed that I have 90 square feet of windows, which receive the full sun every afternoon.

Next, I went to Home Depot and bought two 45-square foot rolls of Gila Titanium UV film for $36.77 each. After picking up the installation kit and tax, the total spent was $89.66.

Installing the film wasn’t as difficult as the user reviews made it seem. I watched a video from the Gila YouTube channel that explained the proper technique. Following that, I was able to do a satisfactory job with clean edges and no major air bubbles or wrinkles.

My calculations were a bit short on the film, and I ran out before I could do all of the windows. Ultimately, I installed the film on three sliding glass doors and two window panes by myself. Standing in front of the windows mid-afternoon, you can definitely feel less heat coming in! However, I was looking for numbers.

Analyzing the Results
Now, it was time to monitor the electric company’s website and check out the results.

In this chart, we can see my daily energy usage drop after installing the window film on May 23rd. However, the outside temperature also declined. Which of the two caused the air conditioner to run less often? It was probably more due to the outside temperature than the window film.

This chart shows the actual daily energy usage along with my average energy usage. Again, we see a drop after installing the window film.

How much is this actually saving me in terms of money? I will be keeping a close eye on it over the coming weeks to find out. I have seen my average daily energy cost drop from $2.67 per day to $2.63 per day.

For the future, I am looking at:

  • Turning the thermostat up
  • Investing in a water heater timer
  • Using a Kill-a-Watt device to look for energy-consuming devices

Will be sure to keep you updated on the results in a future post!

Update: Please read Reducing Energy Costs: Part II.

About the author

Trevor Freeman

Trevor Freeman is a writer, photographer, and maker who loves learning new things. His favorite food is pizza. He received a Bachelor's Degree in Business Management from Grand Canyon University. He lives and works in Phoenix.

You can follow Trevor on Twitter @TrevorFreemanAZ, on Instagram at @arizona.dreamin, and on YouTube: TheRealTrevorland.

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