8 handy tips for renters who want to electrify

Mar 15, 2023

The 47% of Portland households who rent have more options than ever to power their home or apartment with clean electricity. ElectrifyPDX welcomes renters and owners alike to join. If you’re renter interested in electrifying, here are some actions you can take right now:


1. Sign up for Community Solar

Solar power isn’t just for homeowners anymore. Thanks to the State of Oregon, everyone can have access to solar power – not just people who own their roof. Anyone with an electric bill can save money by sourcing energy from a new solar farm. All you need is your electric bill or account number and 10 minutes online.

Visit Oregon Community Solar Program or Oregon Shines to find a community solar project in your utility’s service area. Once the farm is built, you’ll get 100% clean electricity and reduce your bill by ~5% for the next 20 years. Not bad, eh? Check this table to see if you qualify for a special low-income program; then sign up through the Community Energy Project to reduce your electric bill by ~30%.

Oh—and if you move to another home in the same utility service area (PGE or Pacific Power), your community solar benefits can travel with you.



2. Start cooking with induction

If you’re concerned about indoor air quality from your gas range or are tired of waiting for an old electric burner range to get hot, consider buying a portable induction cooktop. Single burners start at $50; doubles start at $140 (and how often does anyone cook with more than 2 burners at once?). A portable induction cooktop plugs into a standard outlet, and you can place it right on top of your current range to take advantage of the hood. Use a magnet to find out which of your current pots will respond to magnetic induction; then take that magnet to yard sales or second hand stores to find new pots if you need.

Looking for inspiration? Check out this ElectrifyNow webinar on induction cooking featuring a demo with chef Rachelle Boucher. If you move to a new apartment, just bring your portable induction cooktop with you!


3. Use a portable heat pump for supplementary space heating and cooling

Yes, they make portable heat pumps that both heat and cool! These cost around $500 – $700, can be vented through a window, and can cool your place down on Portland’s increasingly hot summer days. Here’s a great webinar summarizing product features, reviews of currently-available models, and recommendations courtesy of our friends at ElectrifyNow

Some notes about portable heat pumps:

  • These units plug into a standard outlet and are 2-3 times as efficient as electric resistance heaters.
  • They dehumidify too, so we recommend getting a model with a hose and drain pump so you don’t have to keep dumping out the water they pull out of the air.
  • Make sure the unit you select provides both heating and cooling; some similar-looking products just provide cooling.
  • These can heat or cool a large room, but not a full apartment (unless you have a small studio). And they stop heating when the outdoor temperature drops below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, so should be thought of as a supplement to— not substitute for—a standard heater or furnace.
  • If you move, you can easily take it with you to your next place.

Portlanders with incomes under 60% of area median income (see this table) can apply to receive a unit for free through the Portland Clean Energy Fund’s Heat Response Program, with priority given to residents who are over 60 years old, have medical conditions that increase the risk of heat-related illness, and/or are living alone. Verde is currently taking applications through this website.



4. Stop burning gas to dry your clothes

If your dryer is gas, get a clothes drying rack (my favorite design) or clothes line—and consider getting a heat pump dryer. Energy Star provides a nice overview of this new product type, and ElectrifyNow dives deep with a webinar (jump to 41:20 for a review of a basic $779 model). Although these cost more than standard dryers, federal rebates coming this fall will cover 50% or 100% of the cost of a heat pump dryer (depending on income level), up to $840. Most require a standard 240V dryer outlet, but a few work with a standard 120V outlet.


5. Get a used or new electric vehicle

Both federal and state rebates are now available:

Used: Federal – $4,000 Oregon – $5,000 for low/mod income

New: Federal – $7,500 Oregon – $2,500 + $5,000 for low/mod income

If there’s no place to plug in an EV, let your landlord know that a $1,000 federal tax credit is available for EV chargers (and an additional $600 for an electric panel, if that’s needed too).

Another option to consider is an e-bike! A great alternative to driving, an electric bike gives you a boost, so you can go further, faster,  and increase your hauling capabilities.


6. Introduce your landlord to electrification options

They might not know about heat pumps for heating/cooling, heat pump water heaters, induction ranges—or that new incentives can cover much of the costs to electrify these systems—or the importance of planning ahead to do these replacements before the existing ones die. They also might not know how much you’d appreciate the upgrade!

And don’t forget about yard maintenance! There are many new electric options for lawnmowers and leaf blowers, which are quieter and emissions-free. If your landlord or property management company hires a yard maintenance service, provide them with this list of clean and quiet eco-friendly yard service companies.

Not sure how to share this information? We’ve got you covered! Here’s a letter template you can modify and send. Try it out—and we’d be curious to learn what response you get.



7. Portland-specific programs for low/moderate income renters

Owners of rental properties that house low/moderate income renters can qualify for special incentives in Portland, funded by the Portland Clean Energy Fund (PCEF). If you live in a small apartment building, Verde Builds may be able to install free-to-the-owner mini-split heat pumps for heating and cooling. Complete this intake form to see if your apartment qualifies. Multnomah County also offers free weatherization for people with lower incomes.


8. Own a mobile home, but rent your space?

Most Portlanders who own homes in mobile home parks are already 100% electric. But many have no cooling and rely on resistance electric heat, which can be expensive. One of the first folks to get certified through ElectrifyPDX had been in this situation. But she’d replaced her resistance electric heater with a mini-split and was thrilled that her winter electric bills dropped from $300 to $100/month, and now she has summer cooling. Installing a single mini-split unit can make a huge difference in electricity bills for mobile homes; low-moderate income mobile home owners may be eligible to install a heat pump for free through Verde. Fill out this form to see if you qualify.