Conservation and Energy Efficiency

Energy conservation and efficiency is not only good for the environment, it helps extend the life of non-renewable resources, reduce the overall costs of energy systems, and saves you, the consumer, on your monthly utility statement.

The choices we make in our everyday lives can have positive or negative effects on the environment. With small changes, we can have a big impact on the amount of resources we consume and ultimately pay for.

Household conservation tips

There is a potential to conserve energy all around your home. Try starting with one room at a time using these helpful tips:

Kitchen
  • Refrigerator/Freezer
    • Every time we open the fridge door, the compressor needs to compensate for the cold air that has spilled out. Take what you need for the meal at one time.
    • Make sure the fridge door seals are clean and tight. They should hold a slip of paper snugly.
    • Dust accumulates on the condenser coils on the rear or bottom of your refrigerator, restricting cool-air flow and forcing the unit to work harder and longer than necessary. Cleaning the coils every six months can trim up to 5% of the unit's operating cost.
    • Position the refrigerator at least 5 to 7 cm (2 to 3 in.) from the wall for continuous airflow, and away from heat sources such as ovens, dishwashers, direct sunlight and heating vents.
    • Unplug the second refrigerator that runs year round, but is used sparingly. If you do not want to unplug the unit, make sure that it is three-quarters full at all times.
    • Unplug old, inefficient freezers or fridges. Today’s energy efficient appliances use at least 50 per cent less energy than those made in 1990s.
    • By setting the thermostat colder than it needs to be, your refrigerator can consume up to 25% more energy. Aim to keep the thermostat in the 2-4⁰C range in your refrigerator and -18⁰C in your freezer.
  • Oven/Stove
    • When practical, use a range-top burner instead of the oven, and match your pot to the size of the element. If you do use the oven, cook several dishes at the same time and take advantage of the heat that has already been generated by shutting the oven off a few minutes before you are done cooking.
    • Open the oven door as little as possible. Your oven loses 25 to 50⁰F each time you open the door, making it work harder to maintain its temperature.
    • Use small appliances like a microwave/toaster oven when reheating small quantities of food. You will lose up to 50% less energy compared to conventional cooking.
    • Keep the area under stove elements clean and shiny. This helps to focus the maximum amount of heat onto the bottom of the pan.
  • Dishwasher
    • Clean the filter regularly.
    • Run your dishwasher only when it is full.
    • Select the no-heat drying cycle.
    • Try not to pre-rinse dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.
  • Sink
    • Use the cold water faucet when you need only a little water out of the tap. Turning on the hot water faucet draws the heated water into the pipes which rarely reaches the faucet and ends up being wasted.
    • Instead of letting your tap run, keep a jug of drinking water in the fridge. You'll not only save on your water bill, but it will be colder than tap water.
    • Plan ahead by giving frozen food time to thaw instead of placing it under running water.
Bathroom
  • Change your shower and faucets to low-flow using controls and aerators.
  • Take a short shower instead of a bath. As a general rule of thumb, one bath is equal to three showers.
  • Partially fill the sink when saving or washing your face instead of letting the water run continuously.
  • Bathroom gadgets, such as a hair dryer, curling iron or electric razor, should be unplugged from the wall when you're finished with them. These devices can still draw electricity from the outlet, even when they are turned off.
  • Replace or repair toilets that have a leak.
Laundry room
  • A clothes dryer can suck away at least 12% of your electricity bill. That is like turning on half the lights in your home! Whenever you have the opportunity to dry your clothes on a clothes line, do so. If you need to use a clothes dryer, take advantage of the heat generated by the first load by drying two or more loads in a row.
  • If your dryer is equipped, use the auto-dry sensor to cut down on drying time.
  • Sort clothes by thickness and dry thin items in one load and thicker items like towels in another.
  • When washing clothes, use detergents designed for cold water use. Also, set the rinse cycle to cold water.
  • Vacuum your exhaust duct periodically to ensure air moves freely through the dryer vents.
Furnace/utility room

Home heating and cooling

  • Invest in a programmable thermostat. Save 2% for every 1⁰C change in indoor temperature. Set the temperature back (16⁰C) during the winter and forward (24⁰C) in summer.
  • Check the filter on your furnace monthly during the winter. Change the disposable filter at least once during the heating season. A clogged filter not only decreases the operating efficiency of a furnace but causes parts to wear out faster.
  • Have your air conditioning unit serviced by a qualified technician and only run it when you’re at home.
  • If you can install your air conditioner in the shade, it will use 10% less electricity.
  • Ceiling and floor fans are an inexpensive way of reducing indoor temperatures. Ceiling fan blades should turn counter-clockwise in the summer to create a breeze and clockwise in the winter to push warm air down.
  • Keep furnace vents closed in unused rooms.
  • Make sure furnace and drapes are not blocking the heating vents.
  • Use the kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans as little as possible to reduce the amount of warm air that escapes the house. Remember to keep the fireplace damper closed when not in use.
  • Invest in a humidifier. A disadvantage of having dry air inside your home during the winter is that a higher temperature is required to stay comfortable.
  • Use area rugs on cold floors.

Water heater

  • Lower the temperature setting on your hot water tank. Set it low initially and then raise the setting a few degrees until you are satisfied with the temperature of the hot water for everyday household use. 60⁰C is a good target.
  • Drain a quart of water from your water heater tank to remove sediment.
  • Invest in insulation for your water heater tank and the pipes connected to it. Have it installed by a certified technician. Do not do this yourself.
  • You can achieve even greater energy savings of 27%–50% if you install a demand water heater at each hot water outlet. ENERGY STAR® estimates that a typical family can save $100 or more per year with an ENERGY STAR® qualified tankless water heater.

Changing items and behaviours can have an impact.

Lighting
  • The best light available is sunlight. Let Mother Nature into your home during the day by opening your curtains when you wake up in the morning.
  • An unlit light is guaranteed to use zero energy. Turn lights off when you leave a room.
  • Look for the ENERGY STAR® label. It confirms that the bulb you are selecting is certified to save energy.
  • Switch incandescent lightbulbs to light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs. Although the initial purchase cost is higher, they use 90% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs. They last approximately 25,000 hours and provide a cost savings over their entire lifetime.
  • Compare lumens and watts. Lumens indicate light output and watts indicate energy consumed. Try to find the brightness you desire with the lowest number of watts.
  • Wipe and dust off your light bulbs, all of your lights combined in your home make up for about 20 per cent of your total electricity bill. Clean bulbs are brighter bulbs and dirty bulbs use the same amount of electricity.   
  • Leave compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) on if you plan to return to a room within 15 minutes. This is because short on/off cycles can affect the life of the bulb. CFL bulbs are rated to last up to 10 times longer than regular incandescent bulbs. CFLs contain a small amount of mercury and should be disposed of safely, according to municipal guidelines.
  • Turn lights on and off automatically with motion sensors indoors and outdoors. Purchase ENERGY STAR® sensors for the best savings.
  • Use timers on selected lights to avoid leaving lights on around the clock and to make your home look occupied when you are away.
  • Install dimmer switches to have greater control over how much electricity you are using. Ensure that dimmable CFL and LED bulbs are used.
Light bulb comparison
Type of bulbEnergy used in 8 hours
Incandescent 0.48 kWh
CFL (compact fluorescent lamps) 0.10 kWh
LED (light emitting diode) 0.07 kWh

 

Electronics
  • Remember that screen savers do not save energy, so shut your computer or laptop down. Startup and shutdown energy represents only a few seconds of normal operation. Hard drives are not affected by frequent shutdowns. Because of the reduced heat, they may actually last longer. If you do not wish to do a complete shutdown, activate your computer’s power management system to put it into sleep or standby mode.
  • Electronic devices left plugged in, even when turned off, still use a significant amount of power. This is known as phantom power and can account for up to 15% of your annual home electricity consumption. The best way to eliminate standby power loss is to unplug your electronics when they are not in use. Even chargers!
  • Consider purchasing surge protectors or power bars to unplug several devices at once. Smart power strips are available that automatically turn off power when devices are not in use.
  • Use timers on aquariums, festive lights, electronics, and more to avoid leaving them on around the clock.
  • Laptops generally use less energy than desktop models.
  • Choose a television that is appropriate for the size of your room and no larger.
Windows and doors
  • Purchase energy efficient window treatments including curtains, blinds, shades and awnings. Carefully selected window treatments can reduce heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer.
  • Take advantage of passive solar heating on sunny days by opening window coverings. Keep the drapes closed after the sun goes down to retain the heat.
  • New exterior doors often fit and insulate better than older types. If you have older doors in your home, replacing them might be a good investment, resulting in lower heating and cooling costs.
Air sealing
  • The attic is usually where you can find some of the largest opportunities to save energy in your home. By adding insulation in your attic, maintaining the desired temperature throughout your home becomes easier.
Outdoors
  • A block heater only needs to be plugged in for two to four hours before intended vehicle use. Save up to 80% of the cost of electricity by hooking up the block heater to an automatic timer. Use the timer in combination with an outdoor extension cord designed for block heaters. 
  • In summer, water lawns early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid evaporation in hot weather and improve ground absorption.

Watch out for energy hogs

Space heaters consume a lot of energy. If you require one to heat small spaces, consider buying one that is energy-efficient. An electric blanket uses less energy. 

Hot tubs use a fairly large amount of energy. To improve efficiency, ensure the tub's insulation is continuous, without gaps, and that it covers the hut water pipe entirely. Heat rises, so your hot tub cover can have a huge impact on your heating costs. Approximately 50% of heat loss comes from the top of the tub. Invest in an energy-efficient cover.

Ovens are also energy hogs. Sometimes you can choose a different appliance that achieves the same outcome using less energy. For instance, a toaster oven can warm a frozen pizza in 15 minutes for about 0.15 kWh of electricity. The oven cooks the same pizza in 26 minutes (including preheating) for 1.12 kWh.

Seasonal conservation

Spring
  • Change the direction of airflow with your ceiling fan to draw air upwards and cool the room.
  • Make sure your spring cleaning includes dusting your refrigerator's condenser coils. Built up dust and hair makes the motor work harder, using more electricity.
  • Keep the heat out of your kitchen by grilling outdoors on warmer spring days.
  • Avoid placing heat generating appliances by your thermostat - it senses heat and can cause your air conditioner to run longer than necessary.
  • Hang clothes to dry on a clothesline outside instead of running your dryer.
  • When cleaning windows, check to see if they are in good condition. Loose, leaky or single-paned windows allow heated or cooled air to escape, taking dollars with it. Repair existing windows or consider replacing them with ENERGY STAR®-rated windows. 
  • With the temperatures warming up, reset your thermostat to adjust to the spring warmth. For warmer months, higher temperature settings produce higher savings due to less electrical consumption from central fan and air conditioners. 
  • Springtime and gardening come hand in hand. This year, think about planting some trees or shrubs to shade your home. To be most effective, trees should be thoughtfully placed on the sunny side of your home. Shrubs can not only block sunlight but can act as a windbreaker to protect your house as well.
Summer
  • Use curtains, blinds, shades and awnings to keep the sun out. Open windows when outdoor temperatures have cooled.
  • Ceiling and floor fans are an inexpensive way of reducing indoor temperatures.* Running fans together with the air conditioner is an effective way to distribute cool air and prevent the a/c from being over-worked.
  • Have your air conditioning unit serviced by a qualified technician and only run it when you’re at home. For additional savings, invest in a programmable thermostat that starts cooling the house 20 minutes before you get home and partially or fully close vents in rooms that are less frequently used.
  • Seal around doors and windows to keep the heat out and the cold in.
  • Consider air-drying your clothes outside whenever possible. The sun is free and your clothes will smell great!
  • Shut closet doors to avoid cooling an unused space.
Fall
  • Check and replace weather stripping and caulking as needed.
  • Review home and garage thermostat settings for optimal temperature.
  • Have your furnace and ducts inspected and make sure to change the filter. Lower the temperature and put on that ugly Christmas sweater and wool socks to stay warm.
  • Enjoy the warmth of the sun by opening window coverings.
  • Open windows to let in warm daytime air and close them when outdoor temperatures cool.
  • Applying a good fertilizer and mulching grass cuttings in Fall means less watering in Spring.
  • Help those grass roots dig deeper by watering less frequently and leaving grass a bit longer.
Winter
  • Choose LED light strings which use 90% less energy.
  • Set automatic timers for your light strings.
  • Conserve oven heat by baking goodies in one day.
  • Give ENERGY STAR® certified electronic gifts.
  • Unplug electronics if you leave for the holidays.
  • Turn down the heat when guests come to visit.
  • Close the fireplace flue damper to conserve heat. Just remember to open it back up for Santa!
  • Shut closet doors to avoid heating an unused space.