Most tenants as with many homeowners dont pay attention to the amount of energy they are using.
Tenants who are not responsible for paying the utility bills are traditionally least aware of their energy abuses because there is no feedback mechanism, i.e. a utility bill, to keep them honest.
Education can play a large part in changing tenant behavior. I believe if a tenant was given some simple energy saving ideas they would use them:
For instance, the placement of furniture can have a large impact on air flow in the home thus impacting how hot or cold it feels. Tenants should be told to be sure to avoid placing furniture in front of or on top of registers or return vents.
Give your tenants a tour of the appliances in the unit. Point out how to adjust the settings for energy efficiency. Explain how to use the programmable thermostat, how to lower the water temperature.
Another large energy waster is lighting. Many tenants are in the habit of keeping the lights on most of the day and night — even when they are not home. Encourage the use of timers and other energy saving devices.
In vacation homes and short-term rentals, including student housing, the easiest way to control costs is through the use of a tamper proof thermostat. Limiting how high or low a guest can set the temperature will have a large impact on saving energy usage in a vacation home.
It is also important to monitor the energy use on the property. You can start by assessing the current energy use of your building(s) to establish a reference using EPAs national energy performance rating system, a free online tool that provides many types of facilities with a score on a simple 1-to-100 scale, 1 being the least efficient and 100 being the most)
Also Microsoft just launched a new website site Hohm to help homeowners baseline and track their energy usage.
As a long term strategy that involved capital investment, consider variable speed technology to better control fans and pumps.
David Lowe is a property manager and co-founder of ControlTemp Thermostats, providing tamper-proof programmable thermostats. Check out ControlTempThermostats.com for more information.