Home energy consumption is not a fixed expenditure you’re doomed to put up with as long as you own the home. When measured on an individual per-home basis, average residential energy consumption in Canada has actually significantly declined in recent years. This didn’t happen by accident. Increased consciousness about the costs—both financial and environmental—of unnecessary energy consumption has motivated many homeowners to take positive steps to reduce wasteful energy use in their daily lives.
The Usual Suspects
It’s a no-brainer. Natural Resources Canada reports that just two household functions account for fully 80% of residential energy expenditures: heating air and water. The costs of running a furnace and water heater are the two primary items on the home energy spreadsheet. Coming in third, major appliances and light bulbs provide still more energy-saving opportunities.
Cutting Heat Loss
Since hot air rises, adequate attic insulation is vital to prevent heat loss through the ceiling that overworks your furnace and increases energy consumption. Located in climate zone 6, the recommended attic insulation levels here in Ontario range from a minimum of R49 to a maximum of R60. Translated into practical numbers, the specification calls for standard fiberglass batts ranging from a depth of 15 inches up to just over 20 inches. For still greater efficiency, cellulose loose-fill insulation can blown into the attic in recommended depths ranging from 13 inches to 16 inches.
Structural cracks and gaps allow up to 25% of heat produced by the furnace to escape. Your furnace runs longer to compensate, boosting energy consumption. Use caulking to seal cracks and gaps up to 1/4-inch wide. To close larger or irregularly shaped openings, like those where plumbing pipes or cold air vents enter the house, use spray foam insulation in a can. Also, install new weatherstripping to seal the openings between movable surfaces of doors and windows. If you’re positioned for a larger investment, consider replacing existing standard windows with two-pane, energy-efficient windows that reduce heat loss.
Smarter Water Heating
First, make what you’ve got more efficient. Install low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators to reduce the amount of hot water your heater must deliver. Run the dishwasher only when it’s full and wash clothes in cold water with appropriate detergent when possible. Insulate the hot water supply pipes leading away from the water heater wherever they are accessible. Make sure your water heater thermostat is set no higher than 120 degrees for optimum energy efficiency and scald protection.
When its time to replace an existing electric water heater, consider a more efficient three-element heater. These units draw less wattage and spread energy consumption out more evenly through the day, avoiding peak hours.
Appliances and Lighting
Major appliances are also culprits implicated in excess energy consumption. Since most big appliances have service lives of up to 20 years, you may be living with outmoded units that incorporate inefficient technology from a bygone era. Upgrading to new EnergyStar-rated appliances can deliver significant energy savings and lower operating costs. Stoves, washers, refrigerators and other large appliances with the EnergyStar logo are up to 50% more efficient than Canada’s minimum requirements.
Edison’s incandescent light bulb was the household choice for over a century, but it produces more heat than light and wastes electricity. Today, you have more efficient, Energy Star-certified alternatives. Compact fluorescent bulbs reduce energy consumption up to 70% compared to standard incandescents. LED bulbs are the new gold standard for energy efficiency, reducing electrical consumption by up to 85% and delivering a service life of 20+ years.