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Energy Efficiency Tips & Tools


Fix leaky taps

   A tap dripping at one drop per second wastes 800 litres of water per month. In most cases, a worn out washer is the culprit. New washers are cheap and they can be replaced in minutes with a simple wrench and screwdriver.

Get sparkling savings from your dishwasher

   Read the instructions for your dishwasher to make sure you're taking advantage of all its energy saving features. For easy-to-clean loads, use the light or short cycle. Use the no-heat or energy saving drying cycle for futher savings. If you don't have that feature, open the dishwasher door when the wash cycle is complete and let the dishes air-dry. And always, wait until the dishwasher is full before you run it.

Shower or bath?

   Quick showers are refreshing and use less hot water than baths. With an energy-efficient showerhead, you can really cut back on your hot water use. A typical bath uses about 75 litres of hot water, while a 5 minute shower with an energy efficient showerhead uses less than half of that.

  Showerhead delivery: Standard - 14.3 litres per minute, 60% hot water, 40% cold water. Energy efficient - 9.4 litres per minute, 67% hot water, 33% cold water. Flow rate should be 11.0 litres per minute or less to ensure reasonable energy savings.

Install an energy saving showerhead

An energy saving showerhead can reduce your hot water use by up to 30%. In one year, you can save over 28,000 litres (6,167 gallons) of water. You'll still get brisk showers, and you'll save a significant amount on your electricity bill.

Toilet Tank dams and low flow toilets

Although toilets don't use hot water, its worth reducing your cold water consumption too. The toilet is one of the homes largest water consuming fixtures( about 30 gallons or 136 litres/person/day). Low flow toilets and water-saving toilet devices such as dams, flapper balls, and flush valves, can help reduce household water consumption by about 40%. They're easily installed- perfect for do-it-yourself jobs.

Use faucet aerators

Install faucet aerators on your sink faucets to lower water flow. Aerators mix air into the water flow and reduce water consumption by 25-50% per tap.

Insulate hot water pipes

Insulate at least the first three feet of pipe leading to and from the hot water tank with tape wrap or snap-on foam pipe tubing. If your hot water pipes run through unheated sections of your home, insulate them there too. Combined with a water heater blanket, you could save a significant amount of your electricity bill every year. Plastice pipes shouldn't be wrapped - the extra warmth might soften them.

Wash your clothes for less

About 25& of all household hot water is used for clothes washing. Use cold water washing wherever possible. And always set your washer to rinse with cold water. Cold water rinsing can save you enough energy for about 100 hot baths or 200 showers per year. When you do use hot water washing, be sure to set the water level to match the load.

Remove and clean the washers agitator once a month. Clean the filters of both water hose inlets on the back of the machine once a year.

Looking for a new dishwasher or washing machine?

It pays to read the EnerGuide label and comparision shop for the most energy efficient model. Remember, the lower the kWh rating, the better the efficiency. Appliances last for many years, and the "second price tag", the cost of running the appliance, can add up to more than the initial purchase price. So use the EnerGuide label to help you shop smart.

Tune up your hot water tank

Take a few simple measures to get the best performance from your water heater. Have a qualified person check the temperature. Most manufacturers recommend setting it between 49-60 C ( 140 F). Any higher is probably wasteful and may produce water that is too hot at the tap.

Wrap your electric water heater with an insulating blanket. A water heater blanket will add to the existing insulation and reduce heat loss. Be sure it's CSA certified certified for use on all CSA approved electric water heaters set between 49-60 C. ( 140 F)

Energy saving thermostats pay off

Your thermostat is the controller for your heating system. If you use it properly, you'll enjoy a comfortable home, and get the best value for your energy dollar.

Naturally, the temperature of your home is a personal choice. As a general rule, the following temperatures will provide heating comfort while still using energy wisely.

Heating costs rise about 5% for every degree above 20 C ( 68 F) that you set your household thermostat. Dropping the temperature at night will result in savings of 1% for every degree.

For many people, a programmable thermostat is the answer

Cleaning and maintaining your furnace

It's important to clean your furnace regularly to keep it operating efficiently. It also reduces the dust in your home. You should do this every few months during the year, and every month during heavy winter use.

Heres how to clean your furnace

* Turn off the power to your furnace

* Remove and clean or replace the air filter

* Vacuum floor grills with a vacuum cleaner

* Make sure that heat outlets and cold air returns are unobstructed by carpet and furniture.

* Examine belts or other moving parts for wear and tear

Check your furnace manual for a suggested maintenance schedule. Many people have an annual tune-up in the late summer or fall. The age and condition of your furnace will help you deternmine a maintenance schedule. Be sure to use a contractor who is certified to work on your type of furnace.

Put your ducts and vents to work and save heat

If you have a larger house and aren't using one or more rooms, be sure to shut the heat off to those rooms by closing the vents or turning off the heaters. Check your basement and attic to see that you're not heating areas that aren't occupied.

Insulating, caulking and weatherstripping

Research shows that if you put together all the cracks and leaks in a typical Canadian home, you'd end up with an 8" x 10" hole in the wall. So it pays to "tighten up" your house to keep the warm air in.

A through caulking and weatherstripping job can reduce your heating bill by up to 25%, and it's the perfect "do-it-yourself" project. You don't require a lot of physical strength or specialized tools to do these jobs, and with a little bit of practice anyone can master them.

Controlling humidity may be the answer

The level of humidity can make a big difference in how comfortable your home feels. There are many steps you can take to regulate humidity and perhaps lower your heating costs.

To measure humidity, visit your local hardware or building supply store and purchase a Relative Humidity sensor, also known as a hygrometer.

During the winter, the Relative Humidity in your home should be about 40%-60%. If it gets very cold bring it down to 30% to prevent condensation on the windows.

Signs of Excess humidity

* Condensation on walls, windows, and mirrors

* Constant musty smells in the house

* Mildew growth, mould, ceiling stains, or peeling paint or wallpaper

* Rotting sills and soft gypsum board around windows

* Damp basement floors, or white powdery stains on exposed concrete walls or floors.

* Bulging or rotting siding on the outside of the house

* Dark stains on the siding of the flaking paint

To reduce humidity

*If there is a humidifier built on to your furnace, adjust the setting. Did you remember to turn off your furnace humidifier for the summer?

* If you're using portable humidifiers, turn them off.

* Avoid air drying clothes in the house. If you have a dryer, be sure it is vented outside.

* If you have a crawl space under your home, cover the earth floor with .15-mm (6-mil) polyethylene sheeting. The crawl space may have to be vented in the summer.

* Is your basement properly drained and damp-proofed? Spout the eavestroughs away from house so that water does not settle near the foundation.

* Don't store firewood in the house. One cord of wood can give off more then 270 Litres ( 60 gallons) of water.

* Consider spot ventilation. If most of the humidity comes from the bathrooms and kitchen, install exhaust fans with timers. In the kitchen an exhaust installed right over the stove will take moisture out of the room quickly. Make sure that these fans are vented to the outdoors and not the attic or a crawl space.

* For the basement, try a portable dehumidifier. It can be adjusted to shut off at certian humidity levels and then automatically turn on when the humidity rises.

Is your house too dry?

It is usually very simple to discover whether your home has too little humidity. An arid house will dry out your skin so that it feels tight and itchy, create static electricity and shocks, and after time cause wooden furniture to crack.

If the air is too dry you probably have a leaky house. Although you home produces moisture, it escapes around or through your doors and windows, through the sill plate in the basement, out the light plugs and switches, up into the attic, and up the fireplace. Along with the moisture you're likely also losing a great deal of heat.

In a leaky house there is a complete change of air every 30 minutes to two hours. You're practically heating your backyard!

Cut 10-25% off your heating bill

A through check will probably reveal many opportunites for caulking, weatherstripping, and insulating. Seal the leaks and cracks in your house, and you'll raise the humidity levels and have a more comfortable indoor environment. You'll b able to turn the furnace down which means a lower heating bill. In fact, just by caulking and weatherstripping, you could cut 10 - 25% off your heating bill.

You may need a humidifier in the winter. But buy one only as a last resort. Tighten up your house first. If you do buy one, remember to shut it off when its not needed.

Lighting Tips

Turn off the lights

Mom was right. When you leave a room, turn off the lights. This will save you money and energy even if you're out of the room for just a short time. Its a good habit to learn, and to teach your children.

Choose the right bulb for the job

Over the last decade, we've seen major improvement in the selecton of energy efficient lighting. Check the lighting replacement  chart to see which bulbs you could be using to reduce energy consumption.

How many switches

If you're renovating or changing your lighting, think about adding more switches to get better control of the lights. Divide the lights into logical groups and put them on individual switches. That way you can illuminate seperate areas without having to light up the whole room.

Dim the lights

If you're using incandescent bulbs, think about replacing your on/off switches with dimmers. ( Special dimmers are available for fluorescent bulbs and low voltage halogens - be sure to get the right dimmers for the bulbs.) Dimmers give you more control over lighting levels,and when you dim the lights, you use less energy. If you find that you're always dimming the lights, maybe you should replace your bulbs with lower wattages.

Clean lights shine brighter

Take some time to dust lights and lamps. Turn the fixture off first, especially if you're not using a damp cloth.

4 x 25 does not equal 100

If you're shopping for a new fixture, remember that a fixture with one bulb gives you more light then a similar one with several bulbs that add up to the same total wattage. So for example, one 100W bulb gives you 1 1/2 times as much light as four 25W bulbs. And you only have one bulb to buy.

Track lights vs. pot lights

There are a few things to consider when you're planning on using track or pot lights. First, make sure you know what types of bulbs you plan to use before buying the fixtures. Look for fixtures that can accept readily available energy efficient bulbs. Plan your lighting layout and then figure out how many switches they should be on. Remember that pot lights give you less flexibility than tracks. Tracks are adjustable both in their location on the track and the direction of the light beam.

You probably don't want long life bulbs

There are incandescent bulbs available known as "long life" or "extended life bulbs". The names might lead you to believe that they are an efficient choice for lighting. However, in this case, its a bit deceiving. Yes, they do last a long time- from 1,500 to 10,000 hours compared to  750 to 1,000 hours for a normal bulb but they put out up to 30% less light while using the same amount of energy.

The only place you should really think about using long life bulbs are in very hard-to-reach places. And even there, a compact fluorescent is a much more energy efficient option.

Use timers for indoor security lighting

To make your house look occupied when you're out, install programmable timers to turn selected lights on and off. Portable timers plug into a wall, while permanent types replace light switches altogther. Halogen PAR flood or spotlights are perfect for this due to their low energy consumption.

Use motion detectors or timers for outdoor security

Motion dectectors are very effective over doorways. The light stays off until the sensor detects movement in a certain zone which triggers the light. Its very useful for the front door to welcome visitors, or even help you find your keys. Specially designed timers are also available for outdoor use. If you want outdor lights to go on and stay on all night, a photoelectric cell with automatically switch the lights on at dusk and off at dawn.

Remember that electrical safety comes first

For any type of electrical work, remember to work safely. Throw the breaker switch or unscrew the fuses. If you're using pot lights, remember that the fixture which is between the joists can get quite hot. Be sure to use those marked with "utilizable with thermal insulation". If you're not sure whether you're qualified for the job, hire a certified electrician.

Which major appliances use the most energy?

Refrigerator buying tips

Of all these large appliances, refrigerators usually consume the most energy. So shop wisely and save.

* Select the right size refrigerator for your needs. For one or two people consider a capacity of about 340 litres ( 12 cu. ft) For three or four people 395 to 480 litres should be right. For each additional person add 55 litres.

*In general, one door manual defrost models are the most efficient. Units with side-by-side doors are the least efficient. However, there are exceptions so check the EnerGuide label.

* Measure the space where you want to put your refrigerator. Most manufacturers recommend 25 mm (1 in.) of air space on each side for air flow.

* Choose a model with an energy saver switch.

Freezer buying tips

Freezers are very handy and can save a lot of time in food shopping and preparation. They also let you stock up on "sale" items to save money, too.

* Calculate the right size for your family. About 85 to 140 litres (3-5 cu ft) per person is right. If you have a vegatable garden, entertain a lot or if your family is growing, think about a larger model.

* Measuring is very important. Npt only the space where you plan to put your freezer, but also the path to the space. Be sure you can fit it where you want it and have access.

* Freezers come in two basic styles --  chest and upright. A chest freezer is by far the more efficient and has more usable space. However, an upright model will take up less floor space and some people find it more convenient to use.

Electric range buying tips

Since your stove will get a lot of use, shopping for energy efficiency is key.

* When shopping for a conventional range, be sure to review the EnerGuide label.

* Self-cleaning ovens cost a little more but they can also be up to 25% more efficient than other ovens because they are generally better insulated. In normal use, heat is distributed more evenly and less energy is consumed.

* Look for oven doors that are well insulated and fit tightly. A window in the oven door lets you look inside without opening the door and letting heat escape.

Dishwasher buying tips

Dishwashers have become much more efficient in recent years. In fact, some will use less hot water than if you washed by hand. This offsets the cost of the power used. And, because dishwashers use hotter water temperatures than you would by hand, they're a more sanitary cleaning method.

* Look for a short-cycle or econo wash feature. It uses less hot awter which is important since about 85% of the electricity a dishwasher uses is to heat the water.

* Look for an energyp-saver switch that turns off the heating element to let dishes air dry.

Washer buying tips

For clothes washers, more than any other appliance, EnerGuide ratings vary widely. The most efficient models use less than half the energy of the least efficient ones. Considering an average life expectancy of 13 years, making the right choice will have a big effect on energy costs.

* Look for front-loading washers ( like the ones in laundromats). They're much more energy efficient because they use less hot water. Look for models that offer cold wash and rinse cycles to significantly reduce energy costs.

* Models with water level control and shorter gentle cycles let you do small loads and fine fabrics. If your usual laundry load is small, consider a compact model.

Dryer buying tips

Clothes dryers have a smaller range in EnerGuide rating but features can make a big differance in energy consumption.

* A cool-down "perma-press" cycle that tumbles clothes in a cooler air for the last 5-10 minutes of operation. It saves energy and reduces wrinkling.

* A timed control that lets you set the length of drying time and temperature. This helps avoid over-drying which wastes energy and can be hard on fabrics.

* An electronic moisture or a temperature sensor that automatically turns off the machine when it senses that clothes are dry. This is a very energy- wise feature.

* Permanent- Press or delicate cycles use less energy than the "regular" cycle.

* if you only do small loads, consider a compact model. But look for one that has many of the above features for maximum energy efficiency.

Windows and Walls

Buying Windows

Get energy efficient windows for see-through savings

If you're considering new windows, it really makes sense to look for your best options in energy efficiency.

The efficiency of a window is measured by the Energy Rating ( ER) which takes into account

- The size of the window

- The performance of the glazing

- The frame construction

- The spacers

A window's ER is expressed as a number. It's based on how much heat comes in, how much heat goes out, and the air leakage of the window.

A negative ER number means that the window loses more heat than it gains. Some operating windows ( windows that open and close) have a negative number because there is always some air leakage. However some windows have a positive number since they actually contribute heat to the house by taking advantage of solar energy, and by having excellent frame designs.

Don't settle for standard windows

The following chart shows you how much more you could save over 20 years if you take the extra step and install Low E Argon windows rather than standard windows.

This comparison is based on an average 121 sq. m (1300 sq. ft) electrically heated home with 17 sq.m. ( 185 sq.ft) of windows. Your savings would vary depending on your heating fuel source, the cost of local hydro, the actual size and geographical location of your home. These numbers serve as a guide only.

Single glazed windows typically have an ER rating of -50 which is very inefficient. Standard double glazed windows have an ER of about -30. That's better but not great.

Look for low-e and/ or argon gas

Double glazed Low- Emmisivity or Low- E windows, especially those that are Argon gas filled, have ratings of -10 to +4 and above.

Low-E, glass prevents the heat inside a room from escaping. The Low - E coating also filters out most of the damaging ultra-violet sunlight, which helps to reduce fading of furniture and drapes.

Highly efficient windows use argon gas to fill the space between panes of glass in double and triple glazed windows. The gas has a higher insulating value than air.

Going window shopping? Heres what to look for on the labels.

When its time to buy windows,  be sure to look for the CWDMA label, The CWDMA Certification Program is based on rigorous product testing. The test include air tightness, water tightness, and wind load resistance. The manufacturers also undergo an in-plant quality control program before certification is awarded.

The labels are packed with useful information. Here are the important facts and figures.

General Renovations

Make the most of your renovations or addition

Many people who have summer cottages don't reall think too much about energy efficiency. However, if you have any form of heating in your home or cottage, and if you have a hot water tank, there are probably ways for you to get better value for your energy dollar.

If you're renovating, or adding to your home, its a good time to tune it up for energy efficiency.

If you have a crawl space, treat it for energy efficiency

- If the floor of the cral space is earth, cover it with a moisture barrier. Extend the barrier up the inside crawl space walls.

- Insulate the floor from undearneath. Install a polyethylene air/vapour barrier in each joist space.  Then install batt insulation to fill the joist spaces.

- If there are any heating ducts or water pipes in the crawl space, insulate them. Note that pipe wrap insulation will not nesscarily protect your water pipes from freezing in the winter.

- If its too difficult to access the crawl space to install batt insulation, spray-in-place foam insulation can also be used.

Have you checked your hot water tank lately?

How old is your hot water tank? If its an older model, it's probably not as energy efficient as it could be. Modern hot water tanks are insulated on the inside to keep heat in.

You have two opetions if you have an older electrice hot water tank. You can either upgrade to an newer one , or you can buy an insulating blanket for your existing one. In either case, make sure you insulate the pipes coming from the tank. You can find more information on energy efficient water strategies and products here.

If you're considering a new one, make sure you get one thats right for your usage. If you find that you're often running out of hot water, a bigger tank will help.