The largest portion of most hydro bills is attributed to controlling temperature. An energy efficient heating and cooling system can significantly contribute to savings on your hydro bill and may improve the comfort in your home. When shopping for a new heating or cooling system, be sure to take into consideration the equipment costs, costs of fuel, fuel delivery, warranties and any predictable maintenance costs over the life of the equipment.
For any type of heating and cooling system, there is an opportunity to save energy and money by taking advantage
of your thermostat.
Recommended thermostat settings for a comfortable environment during heating season are:
- 21° C (70° F) when home relaxing
- 20° C (68° F) when working or exercising
- 18° C (64° F) when sleeping
- 16° C (61° F) when away for an extended period of time
ENERGY SAVING TIPS
- Remember that heating costs will rise about 5% for every degree above 20° C (68° F) that you set the thermostat.
- Install a programmable thermostat that will automatically turn the heat up before you wake, turn the heat down when you leave home and back up when you return.
- Ensure that the hole in the wall behind the thermostat is insulated. Install your thermostat out of direct sunlight and away from cold air or drafts.
- Every few months remove the thermostat cover and dust it gently with a soft brush.
- If you have a heat pump, avoid manual setting thermostats. Adjusting the thermostat more than a few degrees at a time turns on the auxiliary heating, which uses more energy than the heat pump alone. Switch to a programmable thermostat.
- When turning the thermostat on, do not switch it to a colder setting than required. It will not cool the room any faster.
One of the most energy efficient systems for heating and cooling is the heat pump, which can be used in both the summer and winter months. During the heating season, the heat pump extracts the warmth from the outside air and brings it into your home. When set in cooling mode, the process is reversed by taking the heat from the inside of your home and releasing it outside.
An air source heat pump is the most common type and is used in conjunction with a back up heating system. For especially cold periods, it is more efficient for the back-up furnace to provide the source of heat. You could save up to 30% of your annual heating cost by using an air source heat pump as opposed to electric resistance heating. For summer cooling, the costs are similar to those of central air conditioning.
The most efficient type of heating and cooling system available is the ground/water source heat pump. This type of heat pump gets the heat from a circuit of pipes buried within the ground, which are picking up the natural heat of the earth. In the summer, the process is reversed when the heat and humidity are drawn from the house to provide a cooler environment. If you have a well, pond, stream or lake, consider this heating source – it could cut your heating bills by up to 65% and reduce air conditioning by 25%. You could also save on water heating costs by 50%, by providing free heat for the hot water tank, swimming pool, hot tub, or spa.
Humidifiers & Dehumidifiers
Humidifiers are an efficient way to reduce your heating costs because humid air has a tendency to feel warmer. This will allow you to lower your thermostat in the winter, while still providing a more comfortable environment. A dehumidifier works in the opposite way during the summer months, thus making the air feel cooler.
Forced air systems
In this type of system the furnace delivers heated air blown by a fan through ducts in your home.
- Heat is rapidly distributed.
- Air is continually circulating.
- The ductwork allows for the addition of air conditioners and humidifiers.
- Remove and clean the air filter every few months – be sure to turn off the power.
- Vacuum floor grills.
- Don’t obstruct heat outlets and cold air returns with carpet and furniture.
- Don’t use plastic heat deflectors – changing the air flow could create drafts and condensation.
Hydronic or hot water systems
These types of systems circulate hot water or steam from a central boiler through pipes to radiators located throughout the house.
- Boilers are more compact; thus they are used when space is limited.
- Zone heating is possible.
- When the heating season begins, open the air release valve on the radiator until the water starts to flow and then close the valve. Make sure that the circulating pump is operating.
Electric room heaters
This type of heating can include baseboard heaters, forced air wall inserts, floor inserts and cabinet convector heaters. Each of them is designed for specific areas in your home.
- Little maintenance is required.
- They provide temperature control for each room.
- Convenient for homes that don’t have a basement or crawl space.
- Turn baseboards off when they are not being used.
- Keep flammable materials away from unit.
- Vacuum occasionally.
Before you start looking for a cooling system, consider where the heat is actually coming from. Generally, the heat can be contributed to the sun shining through the windows, the heat from the sun that builds in the attic, and heat from appliances and lights.
- The most obvious way to stay cool in the summer is to close the curtains and windows during the day.
- During summer nights, open the windows and enjoy the comfort of cool evening air. This also improves air quality and removes humidity.
- Landscaping can also be an effective way of keeping sun from the windows and possibly providing some shade to your house.
- Try to avoid heating your home with appliances in the summer. Consider using the barbeque and the clothes line, or add more cold foods and salads to your diet.
- Consider attic ventilation – this could improve your home’s comfort year round. You could also save on energy costs because your air conditioner is not running to fight a hot attic.
- Exhaust fans and dehumidifiers will reduce the effects of humidity. Turn on the bathroom exhaust after bathing or open the window. When cooking on the stove, use a vent fan to exhaust heated air. These tips will reduce the pressure on your cooling system.
- Central air conditioning is more efficient than several window units. Although the initial cost may be higher, you could save on your monthly electric bill.
- Try to install your air conditioner in a shaded area. An air conditioner that is exposed to direct sunlight will consume 5% more energy than one that is shaded.
- Do not obstruct air movement.
- Even with air conditioning, fans will make you feel cooler and reduce the amount of time you need to run your air conditioner. Ceiling fans are increasing in popularity.
- Make sure the coils on your air conditioner are straight and kept clean. If they are clogged or dirty, you can clean them with a vacuum cleaner.
- Periodically check that the filter in your air conditioner is clean. Disposable filters should be replaced every one or two months.
- Use a programmable thermostat for central air conditioners. There is no need to cool the house when no one is home.
- If you are using a central air conditioner, make sure you are cooling only the rooms that you are using. Close the vents in rooms not being used
Although lighting in your home does not account for the largest percentage of your bill, it is still worthwhile to be as economical as possible.
ENERGY SAVING TIPS
- Remember to turn the lights out when you leave a room, even for just a few minutes. Doing this will save you energy and money.
- Try using fewer light bulbs. One 100-watt bulb consumes the same amount of energy as four 25-watt bulbs, but it will give off twice as much useful light. Not to mention the difference in the cost of buying one light bulb as opposed to four.
- Use lower-wattage incandescent bulbs. People sometimes use 100W bulbs where a 60W or 40W bulb would suffice. Or try using energy saving bulbs available in slightly lower wattages: 34, 52 and 90W. Most people don’t notice the light difference, but they do notice the savings.
- Light timers can help save energy and are also useful in protecting your home when you are away.
- Do you really want extended life bulbs – although they last longer, they put out up to 30% less light while consuming the same energy level.
- Clean lights shine brighter. It is worthwhile to dust your lights – but be sure to turn off the fixture first.
- Light colours on the walls and ceilings will reflect the light, while dark colours absorb it.
- Install Motion Sensors. They are effective for pathways and over doorways. The light will stay off until the motion sensor detects movement, which will trigger the light on. This is beneficial for both safety purposes and to save on electricity by leaving the outside light on.
- Energy Efficient Lighting Alternatives
Compact fluorescent light bulbs
They use up to 70% less energy than a standard light bulb, last up to 10 times longer, and come in the same ‘natural white’ as a standard bulb. To achieve the best payback on their original cost, fluorescent bulbs are ideal for lights that are used for longer than 3 hours a day. These lights are also perfect for fixtures that are awkward to get at. Savings are not only achieved in the energy efficiency of the bulb but also on the cost of buying replacement bulbs.
They use 60 – 80 % less energy than a standard bulb, last 10 to 20 times longer, and come in a range of light quality. Available in a wide assortment of lengths, this lighting source is perfect for bathrooms, kitchens and workshops. Although the upfront cost is greater than normal bulbs, they are economical to use and can spread even light over wide areas.
Energy saving bulbs
The simplest way to save energy is to replace your standard bulb with energy saving incandescents. They are available in wattages of 34, 52, 90 and 135 to replace your 40, 60, 100 and 150 watt bulbs. The slightly lower light output is not noticeable for most people.
Don’t use general room lighting for specific purposes, such as reading lamps or lights over a kitchen counter. With an effective balance of general and task lighting, you will achieve energy efficiency and a delightful environment.
Regular light bulbs can be made more efficient by controlling them with dimmer switches, which are relatively inexpensive. Turning the light level down will save energy, extend the life of the bulb, and set the mood in a room. If you have dimmer switches and find yourself consistently reducing the light level, consider switching to lower wattage bulbs.
These bulbs give the lamp the option of acting as general room light or a task light. Look for the trilight feature when purchasing new lamps.
Halogen bulbs are another efficient replacement for your standard bulb. Halogens are similar to incandescents, however they produce a whiter light, use up to 40% less energy and last two to four times longer. Although Halogen bulbs are more expensive to purchase, they are perfect for track lighting and outdoor security.
Appliances can last between thirteen and twenty-one years, therefore selecting one that provides energy efficiency can result in substantial savings over the life of the appliance. Evaluating the cost of an appliance not only involves looking at the purchase price, but also at the operating cost of running the appliance. This cost is known as the “second price tag”, and can actually exceed the purchase price over the life of the appliance.
The Energuide Label
By taking just a few moments when looking at new appliances, the Energuide label allows you to compare the energy consumption of different models. Appliances are required by law to have an Energuide label, which will provide you with the appliance’s electrical consumption measured in kilowatt hours per year. The lower the kilowatt hours, the more efficient is the appliance.
You can also use the Energuide label to calculate approximate operating costs of appliances. Simply multiply the Energuide rating by the cost per kWh of electricity. These rates can be found on the residential rate card or the commercial rate card. That will give you the annual operating cost. Please note that these figures are simply averages and do not necessarily account for the way you use your appliance.
Refrigerators typically use the most energy of all large appliances, however they are becoming increasingly energy efficient.
Buying a new refrigerator
- Refrigerators have an expected useful life of 17 years.
- Purchase a refrigerator that meets your needs, but does not exceed them. For one or two people a 12 cubic foot model would suffice. For three or four people, a 14 to 17 cubic foot model should be right. For each additional person, add 2 cubic feet.
- A one-door manual defrost refrigerator, where the freezer is located inside the fridge, is generally the most efficient. Those with side-by-side doors are the least efficient. However, there are some exceptions so be sure to check the Energuide label.
- Measure the space where you want to put your refrigerator. Most manufacturers recommend 25 mm (1″) of space on each side for airflow.
- Choose a model with an energy saver switch, allowing you to determine the setting that provides maximum energy savings without causing any condensation.
- Consider a model with wheels because it is easier to pull out and clean the coils.
ENERGY EFFICIENCY TIPS
- Unplug a second fridge if it isn’t being used or required. This could save you up to $100 per year on your hydro bill.
- If you have an older refrigerator that is broken, it may not be worth repairing it. Older appliances are less energy efficient.
- Do not keep your refrigerator near heat sources such as sunlight, the range, or the dishwasher.
- Place a quality thermometer inside your refrigerator and freezer and keep the temperature at about 3° C (37° F) and -18° C (0° F) respectively.
- Refrigerators operate most efficiently with air circulation, so don’t overload it.
- Do not open the door more often than necessary because the cool air will escape.
- Clean the coils at the back of your refrigerator every six months. Be sure to unplug the unit first for safety.
- Test the door seal occasionally by closing the door on a thin piece of paper. If it does not stay in place, the seal should be replaced.
- Defrost your manual-defrost refrigerator whenever ¼ inch of frost builds up on the walls.
Buying a freezer
ENERGY EFFICIENCY TIPS
- The average life expectancy of a freezer is 21 years. Check the Energuide label to determine energy efficiency.
- Chest freezers are more efficient than upright freezers as they retain the cold better and have more usable space.
- Purchase a freezer that is the right size for your family. About 3 to 5 cubic feet per person is usually right. If you have increased needs for entertainment or a growing family, think about a larger model.
- Freezers work best when they are two-thirds full.
- Locate the freezer in a dry, heated, insulated area that maintains a steady temperature. Compressor damage may occur with fluctuating temperatures if you store your freezer in the garage or on the porch.
- Other tips are the same as those for the Refrigerator.
- Electric Ranges/Ovens
Buying an electric range
Although self-cleaning ovens may cost a little more, they can be up to 25% more efficient because they have upgraded insulation. Heat is therefore distributed more evenly and less energy is consumed.
ENERGY EFFICIENCY TIPS
- Shop for oven doors that are well insulated and fit tightly.
- Purchase an oven with a window in the door. This allows you to look inside without opening the door and allowing the heat to escape.
- Microwave ovens are faster and use approximately 50% less energy than conventional ovens, but they are only half as efficient as the stove top elements.
- Use toaster ovens to cook small quantities. They are more efficient than a traditional oven because less energy is required to heat the smaller oven.
- Clean reflectors under the burners will reflect the heat better.
- Preheating is not always necessary, unless you are baking. In this case, 10 minutes is long enough.
- Use the broiler whenever possible because pre-heating is not required.
- Glass and ceramic dishes transfer the heat better than some metals; therefore the heat can be 14° C (25° F) lower.
- Use the timer on your stove. That way your oven will turn off immediately at the end of the cooking time.
- Keep your oven door closed. Every time you open your oven door during cooking, the temperature drops 5° C to 10° C.
- Using your barbeque instead of the stove will save energy and reduce the need to run your air conditioner during summer months.
- A clean oven is more efficient.
- Cook with the lid on your pots and pans in order to keep the heat in.
- Use the right size elements for the pot and the right size pot or pan for the item you are cooking.
- Use the self-cleaning feature right after cooking because the oven is still hot.
- To reduce cooking time, thaw food first.
- Check the sealing gasket on the oven door. If it is worn, the heat may leak out.
- Keep all handles of pots and pans turned away from the front of the stove. We don’t want children to accidentally touch them or knock off the pot.
Buying a dishwasher
ENERGY EFFICIENCY TIPS
- Dishwashers have an estimated useful life of 13 years.
- Some dishwashers may actually use less hot water than if you washed by hand.
- A short-cycle or econowash feature uses less hot water, which is important because about 80% of the energy required for a dishwasher is used to heat the water.
- An energy-saver switch turns off the heating element during the drying cycle, allowing the dishes to air dry.
- Extra powerful spray action will cut down on the amount of water used.
- If you are a time of use customer, use a timer to run the dishwasher during off peak hours. This will allow you to take advantage of the lower rates and save you money.
- Don’t run the dishwasher until you have a full load.
- Take advantage of short-cycle or econowash features to save on hot water.
- If you do not have an energy-saver switch, turn the dishwasher off at the end of the rinse cycle and open the door to let the dishes air dry.
Buying a washing machine
ENERGY EFFICIENCY TIPS
- Clothes washers have an average life expectancy of 14 years.
- Look for models that offer a temperature control feature that has cold wash and rinse. This can significantly reduce the costs of energy.
- Look for front-loading washers as they use less hot water.
- Look for models that allow you to control the water level and length of the cycle.
- If your usual laundry load is small, consider a compact model.
- A “suds saver” feature will reuse wash water through successive loads, thereby conserving on water, energy and detergent.
- Rinsing and washing in cold water is more energy efficient. This will also reduce wrinkling of synthetic fibre fabrics and colour leakage.
- If clothes are soiled, a warm or hot water wash may produce better results, but you can still rinse with cold water. This could save up to $23 a year on energy.
- Try to organize your washing so that you are doing full loads, but not overloading. If this cannot be done, match the water level to the size of the load.
Buying a clothes dryer
ENERGY EFFICIENCY TIPS
- An electric clothes dryer has an average life expectancy of 18 years.
- A cool-down or “permapress” cycle that tumbles clothes in cooler air for the last 5 to 10 minutes saves energy and reduces wrinkling.
- An electronic moisture or temperature sensor that automatically turns off the machine when it senses that clothes are dry is a very energy-wise feature. Over-drying clothes results in wasted energy and money and it is hard on fabrics.
- Permanent press or delicate cycles use less energy than the regular cycle.
- Consider a compact model if you only do small loads.
- Do not do partial loads or loads that are too large for the capacity of the dryer. Overloading reduces circulation in the air, making the dryer less efficient.
- Do not vent your dryer indoors.
- Take advantage of the features to avoid over-drying.
- If you have manual controls, experiment to determine the length of time required for a load.
- Save energy and reduce wrinkling by taking advantage of the delicate or permanent press cycles.
- Always clean the filter between loads. This will avoid damage to your dryer, increase efficiency, prevent a fire hazard, and keep lint off of your clothes.
- Take advantage of the clothes line, it is the most efficient dryer available.
- Once a year, move the dryer and vacuum the lint and dust from the floor and surrounding walls. Also, remove and clean the exhaust hose and check the vent, exhaust pipe and damper for any obstructions
Keeping the Air Sealed Inside
Before you begin spending money on a new heating system, consider the savings that could be achieved just by keeping the warm air in and cold air out during the winter and vice versa during the summer. Consider improving your insulation, caulking and weatherstripping or installing new windows and doors. A properly insulated home will keep the heat in during the winter and keep the heat out during the summer.
Insulating and Weatherstripping
When you begin to insulate, start at the attic because it is the easiest and least expensive. It also pays off to insulate the attic, since it is generally responsible for 10 – 15% of the heat loss in your home. Caulking the attic floor with butyl rubber caulking should be done in the winter and before you begin to insulate. At this time you will feel the spots where the warm air is coming from.
Another 20 – 25% of a home’s heat loss can be attributed to the basement. Most cold air leaks around the basement still plate (where the foundation wall meets the first floor wall). These gaps should be filled with butyl rubber caulking or an acoustical sealant. Then caulk around pipes, holes for wiring, and clothes dryer vents that go through the outside wall.
After the caulking is complete, insulate the walls to achieve optimal energy efficiency.
Once these areas of the house have been insulated you may consider upgrading the insulation in the house walls and caulking in other rooms of the house. Be sure to caulk and weatherstrip your windows and doors, caulk baseboard, and install foam gaskets and safety plugs in electrical plugs and switches.
Windows and Doors
Caulking and weatherstripping your existing windows and doors are low cost solutions to achieve increased energy efficiency. Did you know that over 15% of a home’s heat is lost through poor fitting windows and doors. But before you begin caulking your windows and doors, take a look at them first. Are they in good condition? Are they energy efficient? Check for rot, mould, and the condition of the glass, putty, and paint. Perhaps your windows should be replaced with Low Emissivity (“low E”) windows, since they are as efficient as triple glazed windows without the bulk. Installing a high quality storm door may also reduce drafts in your home and in turn save you money on energy.