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Five ways to give your appliances the summer off

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by Christine Rowlands
July 28, 2017

Energy efficiency



Full disclosure: summer is not my favourite season. Given sweating, sunburns, bugs, crowds everywhere from street festivals to beaches and even local hiking trails, I would happily fast-forward to fall so I can eat soup, wear sweaters and cosy up to that new season of Stranger Things.

And yet, from an energy efficiency point of view, summer does offer abundant free light, warmth and cooling. It’s just a matter of figuring out how to avoid adding extra heat to the house, thus reducing the energy needed to cool it off again! Giving appliances a summer vacation can help:

Hang out with clotheslines

Customers have told us time and again how they love the freshness and scent of line-dried laundry. Getting outside and hanging up your clothes in the sunshine beats being stuck in the laundry room on a beautiful day, and your dryer will be happy to save about 132 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity or two gigajoules (GJ) of natural gas on its summer hiatus.1

Put the pilot on standby

Natural gas fireplaces are great for instant warmth when it’s cold out. But in summer, a standing pilot light in your fireplace uses between 600 and 1,500 BTU per hour while it’s waiting around, and creates that much extra heat. Turning off the fireplace pilot light for the summer can save two to three gigajoules of natural gas a year.2 A licensed gas contractor can turn it on again during your annual appliance maintenance, so it’ll be safe and ready for fall. (Yay!)

Make your cooling system a fan

Even if your air conditioner, heat pump and/or fans don’t get the summer off, you can still let them take it easier and help save energy. While you’re out enjoying summer fun (or even work), program your thermostat for a few degrees above 25 °C (77 °F). According to Natural Resources Canada, that’s about optimum for comfort, not chills, when you’re home. For each degree you operate an air conditioner below 25 °C (77 °F), you use from three to five per cent more energy.

If you rely on fans—whether floor or ceiling—remember that they don’t lower the temperature in the room, but cool you by circulating air. So turn them off when you leave, to avoid wasting energy to create a breeze for no one!

Get in touch with your shady side

To keep your cool and save energy, try these strategies to avoid heating up your space in the first place:

  • Keep blinds and windows closed during the day to minimize solar heat gain.
  • Caulk and/or weatherstrip around windows and doors to keep hot air from blowing in.
  • Plant a shade tree on the south side of the house (preferably a deciduous tree that will lose its leaves and still let in winter sunlight). Adding awnings or solar shades to your house is another option.
  • Plan meals that don’t heat up the kitchen—opt to barbecue outside or explore no-cook recipes that don’t require using the stove or oven.

Jump in for shorter showers (or longer swims)

Last, but not least, using less hot water helps conserve your community’s resources and can shave a surprising amount off your energy bills. Putting in a low-flow showerhead and keeping daily showers to five minutes can save a family of four about 76 litres of water a day and $52 in water heating costs annually.3 Or go cool off with a swim at your local beach instead!

Give your appliances the summer off

If you know how to stay cool AND conserve energy this summer, show us on Instagram and you could enter for the chance to win a $300 grocery gift card. Use the hashtags #summeroffBC and #FortisBCcontest and enter by August 31, 2017 to be eligible.

See the full contest details.

Have fun, and stay safe in the sun!

1Calculated using the Home Energy Calculator, assuming four loads per week on average, 75 per cent of which are line-dried in summer instead of using a gas or electric dryer. Actual savings may vary based on the make, model, size, age, efficiency and usage of your appliance.

2Calculated using the Home Energy Calculator, based on 5,256,000 to 13,140,000 BTU/12 months for average of 438,000 to 1,095,000 BTU or 0.46 to 1.16 GJ of energy used per month. Savings calculation assumes turning off pilot light for 12 weeks of the year.

3Calculation based on a four-person household in the Mainland service area with a standard efficiency natural gas water heater switching from a 9.5 to a 5.7 gallon per minute showerhead, and each person taking daily five-minute showers. Dollar savings based on April 2017 FortisBC natural gas residential rate. Rate does not include basic charge and other taxes. Savings may vary by household.​