Photo – Caitlin Mills


6 Ways To Make Your Rental More Sustainable

Did you know about 31 per cent of all Australian households rent their home?

We’ve been sharing plenty of features on some amazing sustainable homes that are leading the way with energy efficiency, and guides to installing solar or creating all-electric homes. But renters are unfortunately much more limited in the improvements they can make to their properties.

That’s why we spoke to energy advisor Tim Forcey and Tenants Victoria to compile some simple ways to make a rental more sustainable — helping to make it easier (and cheaper!) to heat or cool their home.

Christina Karras

Clothes dryers that use heat pumps are an energy efficient and environmentally friendly option to help reduce your household’s environmental footprint. Photo – Eve Wilson

Induction cooktops are a more sustainable option than gas. Photo – Eve Wilson

Ask your landlord to install a split-system heater. Photo – Nikole Ramsay

Christina Karras
5th of September 2023

It’s hard enough to find a decent property amid Victoria’s worsening rental crisis, let alone one with sustainability credentials.

The Victorian minimum standards that have come into effect in recent years have a few sustainability focused mandates. These include the need for shower heads with a three-star water efficiency rating, while from this year, rental properties also require a fixed, energy-efficient heater in the main living area — whether that’s a fireplace, ducted heating, or a non-portable gas space heater.

Tenants Victoria’s rental support service manager Georga Wootton says although these are ‘a good start’, they ultimately aren’t doing enough to ensure landlords (also known as ‘rental providers’) address the issues of poorly insulated and inefficient rentals.

Below, Georga and independent energy advisor Tim Forcey reveal their advice for tenants looking to improve their home’s sustainability — including some things you can do without needing your landlord’s permission.

Run electric appliances over gas

As Tim Forcey revealed on the latest episode of our podcast TDF Talks, one of the biggest ways any household can reduce their environmental footprint is by getting off the gas and switching to electric appliances. But for tenants, this unfortunately isn’t always so straight forward.

‘Renters advise us that rental providers push back against tenant’s requests for more energy efficient appliances (such as split-system heating) and requests for solar panels to be installed,’ Georga says.

Despite this, if your rental is fitted with gas appliances, it’s still worth asking your landlord about the possibility of installing an induction cooktop, or a reverse air conditioner — which Tim says is one of the cheapest options to heat your home without gas. And it’s even better if your home is powered by renewable energy.

‘In 2015, we found that people in Melbourne and Canberra and all around the place could heat their homes with a reverse cycle air conditioner for a third of the cost of using gas,’ Tim notes. Other options renters can explore include purchasing energy efficient washer-dyers that operate off a heat pump, or buying a portable induction cooktop for around $50.

Georga notes that rental providers cannot ‘unreasonably refuse’ these kinds of temporary modifications under Victoria’s rental laws, as long as they don’t ‘penetrate or permanently modify the surfaces, fixtures or structure of the property’.

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Changing your light globes to LEDs will help reduce your energy usage. Photo – Eve Wilson

Turn lamps on whenever possible. Photo – Eve Wilson

Change light globes to LED

‘If a property is not heritage listed, you also don’t need to seek consent before you change your light globes to LED, as long as you don’t need to change the light fittings – just make sure you keep the originals,’ Georga explains.

LEDs use around 75 per cent less electricity to produce the same amount of light than traditional globes, and they last up to 5-10 times longer before needing to be replaced. It’s worth noting they can be slightly more expensive to purchase, but the good news is the up-front cost of LEDs generally has a payback time of less than a year.

Georga says this is another simple matter they’d like to see landlords address. Plus, state or local government rebates are also on offer to encourage the swap to LEDs. Meanwhile, Sustainability Victoria recommends using lamps to help control your energy usage (and energy bill!) rather than always turning on a full bank of downlights.

Tenants can replace their rentals curtains without permission. Photo – Eve Wilson

Curtains are a simple way to improve your home’s insulation. Photo – Sean Fennessey

Install curtains for insulation

Double-glazed windows are a key feature in most sustainable homes, but addressing your home’s window coverings is probably the next best (and renter-friendly) way to help improve your property’s insulation.

Georga says you don’t need to ask consent to replace your rental’s curtains with ones that help block out the sun in summer and protect your home from draught in winter. Consider those with a block out lining, or floor-to-ceiling coverings for the maximum effect. Using a non-permanent window film is another similar option that offers similar benefits.

Draught proof your home

Tenants Victoria receives an increase in requests for help during winter, and responds to ‘hundreds of enquiries’ specifically related to cold and poorly heated houses. ‘We have had many complaints of excessive heating bills due to old and non-functioning heaters and heaters installed that aren’t fit for purpose,’ Georga says.

It might only make a small difference, but draft proofing your rental is one way you might be able to shave some money off your heating bill. You can buy self-adhesive draft tape from Bunnings or use old-school draught ‘snakes’ to cover the gaps below doors to keep the warm air in, and the cold air out.

Set up a vegetable garden in your rental. Photo – Amelia Stanwix

Consider composting! Photo – Amelia Stanwix

Create a vegetable garden

Growing your own fresh produce isn’t just for homeowners with rambling backyards. Even if you rent an apartment, consider setting up a balcony or wall garden, or small pot plants in your kitchen. It’s more sustainable than buying fruit and vegetables from the supermarket, as it means less food waste, no packaging and zero transport emissions. Plus you’ll save a bit of money too!

Compost your food waste

Around half of our household garbage is made up of food and garden waste, but composting keeps food waste out of landfill and creates a useful product instead. Even if you are a renter, there are small and portable electric composting bins that make it easier than ever to get started.

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