Energy Efficient Rental Homes

If you are responsible for paying your utilities, it can significantly add to your monthly budget.  Investigating energy details before you sign the lease can help you avoid wasting energy and money plus an energy efficient home is more comfortable. Once you move in, please consult our rental energy efficiency tips to keep your utility payments lower. Need a printed version? Renter’s Guide in a pdf fileopens in a new window

Safety First

Columbia rental property is required by the Rental Unit Conservation Law to be registered and inspected. Ask your potential landlord to see the Certificate of Compliance or contact the Office of Neighborhood Services at 573-817-5050 or

Utility Data

Look up historical electric and water usage data for Columbia rental homes. 
When looking for a new place to live, make sure you ask your landlord what utilities you will be responsible for paying. You can get some idea of what your utility costs will be by checking the previous billing data. Keep in mind that each individual will have different consumption patterns. Your electric bills will be higher in the summer due to air conditioning. During the winter, either your electric or natural gas bills will go up, depending on the type of furnace.

The majority of homes in Columbia have natural gas heat which will make your winter bills higher.

  • City of Columbia: electric, water, sewer and trash – (573) 874-7380 or
  • Boone Electric Cooperative: provides a small portion Columbians with electricity – (573) 449-4181 
  • Ameren Missouri: natural gas service – 1-800-552-7583

Heating and Cooling

Keeping your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer is the biggest part of your utility expenses.

A heating and cooling system that is less than 25 years old is going to be more efficient.

Does the system look clean and well maintained? Inspect the units inside and outside. 

What is the type of heating system? Generally a heat pump is the most efficient. A natural gas furnace is going to be more economical than electric  heat.

Who changes the filters? They must be changed every two to three months so the air flows properly and the system works efficiently.

Is there a programmable thermostat? It will automatically change the temperature when you are away which saves energy. 

Does the rental have ceiling fans? They will help keep you cool and reduce air conditioning costs.


Water heating is normally the second highest utility expense after heating and cooling. They use energy both in heating water and then in maintaining the temperature once it’s heated. Water heater efficiency is influenced by the age, insulation, temperature setting and location of the unit.

Where is the water heater located? How old is the unit? If it is in an unconditioned space, like a garage, or if it is an older unit, ask your landlord if an insulated jacket can be added.

Is the water heater or any of the faucets leaking? If so, make sure these are fixed before signing a lease.

Keeping the outside air outside

Homes that are air sealed and well-insulated use less energy to heat and cool. If you are looking at renting an older home, inquire whether it has received any energy efficiency upgrades.

Walk around the home to see if you feel strong drafts or notice any holes or gaps around the doors and windows. Air loss can account for 50% of your annual heating and cooling costs. An easy fix to most of these is either caulk or spray foam insulation. These items should be addressed by the landlord before you sign the lease.

Ask the owner what levels of insulation are in the walls, ceiling and floor. Proper insulation will hold in your heated and cooled air which reduces your utility bills. 

  • Attic: 14″-16″ of insulation with an R-factor of 38-50.
  • Outside walls: Homes built after 1970 should have wall insulation. If it was built before then, ask if it has been added.
  • Crawl space or rim joist: These areas should be insulated to R-10 and R-13 respectively.

Are the windows double paned so they are more efficient? You can see the extra pane by the reflection, which will have a double image. If there are older, single paned windows make sure the storm windows are in good condition and there are no obvious gaps around the sides or loose fitting windows. If window replacement is not possible, ask your landlord if caulking and sealing can be made a priority.


Inquire about the age of major appliances such as the refrigerator, dishwasher, washer/dryer, room air-conditioners and stove. Energy Star rated or newer appliances will save energy and money. The refrigerator will probably be your top electric consuming appliance. Their efficiency is determined by age, cleanliness of cooling coils, functioning thermostat and a tight door gasket.  

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