WEATHERIZING YOUR RENTAL
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Heating oil prices will hit $1.09 per gallon during the winter of 1999-2000, up 29 cents in a year, according to the US Energy Information Agency. This kind of a leap in prices should impress upon all landlords, whether their units use heating oil, gas, or electricity, that energy is money, and there is no virtue in wasting it.
Weatherizing the rental unit is good business, most obviously for the landlord who includes utilities in the rent, but not only for him. If your tenant pays for utilities your energy efficient vacancy will be more attractive to the frugal prospect, and always so to the Green, frugal or not. This means that in a competitive rental market your energy efficient vacancy will rent more quickly, maybe for a few dollars per month more, than your competitorís inefficient one. It also stands to reason that your furnaces, water heaters, and air conditioners will have a longer service life and be cheaper to maintain
if they can work less, or less hard.
WHAT IT TAKES
Weatherizing does not have to cost the national debt. Air leaks in a home account for the largest segment of heating and cooling losses by far. Plugging air leaks can save as much as 40% of such losses, with little cash outlay. This is not to suggest that the unit should be hermetically sealed. On the contrary, there should be ample ventilation, but there is a big difference between ventilation, which is intentional, essential, and controllable, and the infiltration of hot or cold air from outside, which is inadvertent, wasteful, and preventable.
HOW IT IS DONE
The do-it-yourself landlord, or his trusty handy man, can look for and correct most of the waste, if not all of it, without an undue outlay of time or cash. For example:
∑ Attic: caulk the tops of interior walls where the top plate meets the dry wall, weather strip access doors and hatches, plug the bottom and top of the plumbing stack chase if present, inspect for random holes and cracks and caulk them.
∑ Basement: check for gaps where heating and air conditioning ducts enter the living areas and seal them, fill gaps between the sill plate and foundation wall, check for other gaps where utilities enter the living area and fill.
∑ Living area: weather-strip windows and doors and caulk the cracks around them as needed, install foam gaskets around electrical fixtures and plug unused fixtures with the baby proof plug-ins available in most variety stores, fix missing plaster in older buildings with lath and plaster interiors.
The owner of larger scale buildings and complexes may have to contract the work, but the benefits will still be in proportion to the cost per unit.
The Iowa Energy Center, qualified because located in a state not particularly noted for its mild winters, has put together a detailed on line
pamphlet that will walk you through the project, step by step. It may load a bit slowly because it has a lot of graphics, but they are useful and the rewards are well worth the wait.