Startling revelation of the day: people who rent apartments tend to have fewer energy-efficient appliances than those who own their own homes.
You’ve already figured this one out, of course, but here’s the explanation:
In most rental units tenants pay their own electricity bills, so landlords don’t have much incentive to invest in energy-efficient appliances. Landlords would only benefit from buying more costly energy-efficient appliances if enough tenants were willing to pay slightly higher rents in exchange for the lower utility bills. Unfortunately, tenants typically have no way to learn the energy efficiency of each appliance in each potential apartment and translate that efficiency into projected utility bills. Thus, tenants are rarely willing to pay higher rent for more energy-efficient apartments.
In a few areas, tenants can find this information, but most of the time they don’t. And if lower energy expenditure vs. higher rent comes out as a wash, incentive is exactly zero. Captain Obvious at the WaPo (first link) sees this as a “market failure,” which is apparently defined these days as any transaction in which the government doesn’t get what it wants.