Simply defined, energy is the ability to do work. We need it in every aspect of our lives.
In Medicine Hat, we are fortunate to have access to abundant natural resources. As a result, we often take our resources for granted. However, it takes considerable amounts of money to produce the energy used in our homes. 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.
To ensure that we are using our resources wisely, it is important that we conserve and improve energy efficiency. The choices we make in our everyday lives can have positive or negative effects on the environment. Whenever it is used, there is a potential for energy conservation around your home.
Household Energy Efficiency and Conservation Tips
- Every time the fridge door is opened, the compressor needs to compensate for the cold air that has spilled out. Take what you need for the meal at one time.
- Dust accumulates on the condenser coils on the rear or bottom of your refrigerator, restricting cool-air flow and forces the unit to work harder and longer than necessary. Cleaning the coils every six months can trim up to 5% of the units operating cost.
- 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.
- By setting the thermostat colder than it needs to be, you refrigerator’s energy consumption can increase by up to 25%. Aim to keep the thermostat in the 2-4⁰C range in your refrigerator and your freezer at -18⁰C.
- When practical, use a range top burner instead of the oven. 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.
- Keep the area under stove elements clean and shiny. This helps to focus the maximum amount of heat onto the bottom of the pan.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Switch incandescent lightbulbs to Light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs. Although the initial 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- Ceiling and floor fans are an inexpensive way of reducing indoor temperatures.
- Keep furnace vents closed to prevent heating unused rooms.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
Learn more about energy conservation and efficiency.