10 Money Saving Ways to Improve Energy Efficiency in Your Home

More and more people are beginning to realize that it’s important for us to start finding ways to decrease our energy consumption and shrink our environmental footprint. It will help us slow down the process of climate change and live a more sustainable lifestyle.

But energy efficiency isn’t just for those of us who are concerned about the environment; it’s also for those of us who are concerned about our bank accounts. Whether it’s a major investment like installing solar panels, or just few simple changes around the house, it can add up to significant cost savings, not to mention improve our comfort and overall quality of life. It’s incredibly easy to decrease the amount of energy you consume, and here are a few of the many ways to improve your home’s efficiency:

Replace Incandescent Light Bulbs

Incandescent light bulbs are the simple round bulbs that we’ve traditionally been using to light our homes for nearly 150 years. They’re generally the least expensive to buy and most readily available, but switching out just a few of them for more energy efficient bulbs can have a noticeable impact on your electricity bill.

  • Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) – CFLs are the swirly, corkscrew-looking light bulbs. Many people are discouraged from purchasing CFL lights because of their higher initial cost compared to incandescent bulbs. However, not only will CFLs last 8-12 times longer than incandescent bulbs, they produce the same amount of light while consuming only 20% of the energy.
  • Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs) – LED lights generally have an even higher initial cost than CFL lights, but they also last an incredibly long time, and come with an even further reduction in energy consumption: only about 1/3 of the energy of CFLs.

Daylighting

Why not light your home using no energy at all? Daylighting is the practice of lighting the inside of a building with natural sunlight. This can be achieved simply by installing skylights and larger windows (ensuring they’re energy efficient, of course). Light shelves are devices that hang horizontally at the top of windows, either internally or externally, and they’re designed to reflect lighter deeper inside the building. There are also other architectural choices you can make for your home, such as clerestory windows or light tubes.

Insulate and Seal

This one is fairly easy and straightforward, but it can also have one of the biggest impacts on your energy consumption and your wallet. It’s as simple as not letting our valuable energy slip through the cracks. With a properly sealed and insulated house, not only will you be able to maintain a more consistent and comfortable climate, you’ll be able to keep your money and your energy where it belongs.

Here are some of the most common areas of your home to find air leaks:

  • Around windows and doors
  • Electrical outlets
  • Fireplaces and chimneys
  • Laundry vents
  • Mail slots
  • Around pipes and cables
  • Attic (this one is often overlooked, but it’s one of the most important. Always ensure your attic is adequately insulated and sealed. Warm air rises and you don’t want it rising right out the top of your house!)

All you need is a little bit of caulk, weather stripping, or spray foam, and you can keep the draft out and the energy in!

Replace Old Windows

This would likely be quite a major investment, as windows are incredibly expensive. However, if your windows are more than 15 years old, then you may want to start considering an upgrade. Newer double-pane windows, certified by Energy Star, would minimize the heat transferred through the glass and offer far better insulation for your home. You’ll save money on heating costs, and there are also certain tax incentives and rebates that you can take advantage of when doing an energy efficient remodel.

Install Energy Efficient Bathroom Fixtures

  • Low-flow toilets – About 30-40% of the water usage in our homes is devoted to flushing our toilets. Traditional toilets use 3.5 gallons of water per flush (GPF), while low-flow toilets use less than half that amount at 1.6 GPF. For the average household, this means a saving about 12,000 gallons of water per year.
  • Dual-flush toilets – This model of toilet is the most efficient, as they reduce water consumption by a further 30%. Dual-flush toilets have two different flush options: a 1.0 GPF setting for liquid waste, and a 1.6 GPF setting for when you need that little extra push.
  • Low-flow showerheads – There are many different models of low-flow showerheads available on the market with different flow rates, and some are even equipped with a pause button to really help maximize efficiency.

Make Some Changes to Your Laundry Routine

Laundry is another activity that accounts for a large percentage of our household energy consumption. However, there are several ways to make your laundry routine a little more efficient:

  • Avoid using the hottest settings on the washer. More often than not, the medium setting is more than enough to get your clothes clean. Also, there are cold-water detergents available today that provide the same quality of cleaning, but don’t require the water to be heated at all.
  • Avoid putting less-than-full loads into the washer. Even on washing machines that let you adjust the load size, it’s more efficient and economical to simply wait until you have a full load.
  • Whenever possible, air-dry your laundry on drying racks or clotheslines. If you have to use the dryer, try to wring out the clothes as best you can to minimize the time they have to spend in the dryer.
  • Give hand-washing a try. We washed our clothes by hand for centuries, and not only is it much more energy efficient, but it’s also gentler on fabrics and can help your clothes last longer.

Be More Conscious of How You Use Appliances and Electronics

About 1/5 of our total energy consumption goes toward powering appliances and electronics. Standby power, or “vampire power” refers to the electricity consumed by appliances even when they’re not in use, and it accounts for 10% of the cost of our electricity. If we simply try to make a conscious effort to use electronics in a more responsible way, we can minimize wasted energy and improve our household efficiency:

  • Find alternative ways of heating and cooling – Your furnace and air conditioner are major energy consumers. Choosing to turn on a fan rather than A/C, or putting on slippers and a sweater instead of turning up the thermostat are simple ways to lower our utility bills.
  • Unplug electronics when not in use – When you leave things like cell phone and computer chargers plugged in when you’re not using them, they continue to consume electricity. Even though the amount of energy used is minimal, it can add up quickly.
  • Refrigerators – Don’t put warm food in the fridge. Keep your fridge and your stove as far away from each other as possible. Don’t leave the fridge door open for a long time. All of these things will help cut down on the amount of energy used by your fridge.
  • Oven and stove – Don’t preheat the oven for longer than necessary. Choose a pot or pan that matches the size of the burner. Turn off the oven a few minutes before you’re done cooking; the residual heat will be enough to finish. These are just a few of the many ways to improve your efficiency while cooking

Install a Programmable Thermostat

As you know, your furnace is a major energy consumer. Always turn the heat down at night. The difference of just a few degrees can lower your natural gas consumption by several percent. A properly setup programmable thermostat will consistently keep your house at the optimal temperature and lower your heating costs by 10%, meaning that programmable thermostats pay for themselves in just a few months.

Replace Your Old Water Heater

We use an average of 75 litres of hot water per household everyday, and our water heaters account for nearly 20% of the total energy we consume. If your water heater is more than 15 years old, it might be time to start thinking about a replacement. Recently, more energy efficient models of water heaters have been introduced on the market:

  • Tankless or On-Demand – These types of water heaters only heat water as it’s needed, eliminating the costs associated with conventional storage water heaters. Tankless water heaters are 10-30% more efficient than traditional water heaters.
  • Heat Pump – This type of water heater uses electricity to move heat instead of directly generating it. This is the one of the most efficient types of water heater, as they can be 200-300% more efficient than conventional water heaters; however, the initial cost is greater.
  • Indirect Water Heaters – These types of water heaters use a home’s existing space heating system to heat water, and when coupled with a well-insulated, high efficiency storage tank, it can be one of the least expensive ways to provide hot water to your home.

Install Solar Panels

This is another suggestion that would require a major initial investment, but the long-term savings could make it well worth it. The sun delivers more energy to earth in just one hour than all of humanity consumes in an entire year. Harnessing solar energy is one of the best ways we have to lower our dependence on fuel and conventional electricity. Solar panels are becoming more and more affordable, and having just a few panels to supplement our energy consumption can have huge benefits.

At Canuck Plumbing and Heating, we’re working hard to help our customers in Fort Saskatchewan, Edmonton, and the surrounding Northern Alberta area improve their energy efficiency, cut down on their utility bills, and help our environment.

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