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Energy-saving tips for home

​Saving energy and money is easy with our tips, product advice and how-to videos. Select a category:

 

 Appliances & electronics

 

Save electricity and extend appliance life by using your electric appliances and electronics efficiently and wisely. Here are some tips to help.

Fridge/freezer

  • Keep your fridge away from direct sunlight and don’t locate it by the oven. 
  • Check door seals as they can deteriorate over time. 
  • Use a thermometer to check your fridge’s temperature. The best setting should be between 2 °C and 3 °C. The freezer should be set to -18 °C.
  • Clean the dust from the back of and under your fridge at least twice a year. 
  • Allow at least a three inch gap between the back of the fridge and the wall. 
  • Manual defrost? You’ll know it’s time to defrost when the ice is pencil thick on your freezer.

Dishwasher

  • Use the energy-saving mode when your dishes are less dirty. 
  • Use the no-heat dry feature, or turn the dishwasher off after the final rinse and open the door.
  • Wash full loads to save water.

Clothes washer/dryer

  • Wash laundry in cold water. 
  • Always wash full loads to save energy. 
  • Clean your dryer lint trap after every load and check the vent to the outside to ensure it’s clear from lint accumulation.
  • Use lower heat settings on your dryer, such as permanent press.
  • Avoid using your dryer and hang laundry to dry.

Electronics

  • Turn off electronics, small appliances and home office equipment when not in use. Better yet, unplug what you can to reduce phantom power use. 
  • Use a power bar when you have multiple related items in use. That way you only have to turn off one switch.  
  • Check to see if your TV has a power-saver mode.
 

 Buying energy-efficient products

 

Start with the label

If you’re renovating, upgrading appliances or just replacing light bulbs, it makes sense to buy the most energy-efficient product. But how do you know what products are the most efficient? Here are some tips when reading product labels.

EnerGuide®1

This label tells you the energy consumption and efficiency of household electrical appliances, heating and cooling equipment, new homes and vehicles. An EnerGuide rating doesn’t tell you if a particular item is energy efficient, rather it tells you how much energy it consumes.

 

ENERGY STAR®

In addition to the EnerGuide label, the most efficient products may also qualify as ENERGY STAR certified, an international symbol designating products that are the most efficient in their class. You’ll find the ENERGY STAR label on appliances, water heaters, furnaces, electronics and computers, windows and insulation and even on new homes.

WaterSense®

The WaterSense label identifies water-efficient showerheads and faucet aerators, similar to how the ENERGY STAR label identifies the most efficient appliances. If you find a showerhead bearing the WaterSense label, it uses at least 20 per cent less water than a standard model.

EnerChoice®

There is no ENERGY STAR rating system for natural gas fireplaces, so in BC manufacturers came up with their own rating system called EnerChoice. A fireplace qualifying for this designation is considered among the top 25 percentile in energy efficiency.  

Lighting 

While incandescent bulbs are less expensive than energy-efficient lighting products, they are inefficient and have a shorter lifespan. ENERGY STAR certified LED and CFL bulbs use less power, are available in a variety of shades, shapes and sizes, and last 10 to 25 times longer2 than traditional bulbs.

Colour temperature

This refers to a light bulb’s shade, or appearance of light. Here’s a guide for choosing the right colour bulb for the task at hand.  

​Bulb colour ​Task
​Warm and yellowish ​Same colour as traditional incandescent bulbs, good for general use
​Cool or natural white ​Good for the kitchen and in workspaces
​Natural or daylight ​Good for reading

Holiday lighting

Compared to their incandescent equivalent, holiday LED strings:

  • use up to 90 per cent less energy3
  • last at least 10 times longer3
  • are more durable, with no filaments or glass bulbs to break
  • can offer features such as dimming or colour shifting
  • produce very little heat, reducing fire risk

Recycling lights

Your old light bulbs and fixtures can be recycled. Visit Lightrecycle to find a depot near you. Learn more about lighting products at energystar.gov/lighting.

Appliances

When shopping for new appliances consider choosing ENERGY STAR certified models. Fridges, freezers, clothes washers, dryers (gas and electric) and dishwashers deemed ENERGY STAR, use less energy than their standard efficiency counterparts. ENERGY STAR dishwashers and clothes washers also use less water than standard models. 

Natural gas space heating

If your furnace is more than 15 years old, it’s only between 70 and 80 per cent efficient. ENERGY STAR natural gas furnaces are between 95 and 98 per cent efficient. That means for every dollar you spend on natural gas, between $0.95 and $0.98 is used as heat. ENERGY STAR boilers are a minimum of 90 per cent efficient. Learn more about natural gas heating systems.

Electric heating & cooling

If your home is electrically heated, consider an ENERGY STAR heat pump to save on heating costs. Used in conjunction with a supplementary form of heating, such as an electric furnace or baseboard heaters, a heat pump can provide year-round climate control by supplying heat in the winter and cooling in the summer.

Central ENERGY STAR air source heat pumps are a good option for homes heated with an electric forced-air furnace. Ductless heat pumps are designed for homes with electric baseboard heaters.


 

  

Cooling

ENERGY STAR certified central and room air conditioners are at least 15 per cent more efficient than standard models. As well, some models have additional energy-saving features such as: 

  • unit controls with a setback thermostat or a tamper proof thermostat
  • high-efficiency fan or blower motors and scroll compressors
  • waste heat recovery system to provide domestic hot water if your home has a high demand for hot water along with substantial space cooling requirements
  • variable speed drives for fans

Fireplaces

For the highest efficiency natural gas fireplaces, look for models with the EnerChoice logo. EnerChoice only applies to:

  • gas zero clearance fireplaces 62.4 per cent efficient or higher
  • freestanding gas fireplaces 66 per cent efficient or higher
  • gas fireplace inserts 61 per cent efficient or higher
  • note: gas log sets do not qualify for EnerChoice

Water heaters

Natural gas

When contemplating what type of water heater to purchase, consider your household needs and your budget. As well as a standard-efficiency storage tanks, there are tankless and hybrid models and even high-efficiency storage tanks. Find the model right for your budget and home.

Electric

If you heat your water with electricity, an ENERGY STAR heat pump water heater can save a four-person household approximately $290 a year on electric bills compared to a standard electric water heater.6 Larger families can save even more.

How-to video links




Water, water everywhere

After finding mysterious puddles in the basement, Joan wasn’t sure what to blame them on. Her dog, a leaky water heater, or something far worse?

When there's no cure for an aging furnace

Joan considers whether to squeeze a few more years out of her energy-hungry clunker of a furnace, or replace it with a new, high-efficiency ENERGY STAR® model.


From free hot water in a Vancouver rental to owning home

A year after Martin and his wife bought their dream home, the electric water heater began to leak. Since it had to be replaced, Martin wondered if there were newer models that were more efficient.

 


1EnerGuide is an official mark of Natural Resources Canada.

2ENERGY STAR: The ABC’s of Efficient Lighting: Cost

3ENERGY STAR: Decorative Light Strings

4Based on a 2,300 sq. ft. home in Kelowna using 2015 electricity rates, calculated using the FortisBC energy calculator, appliance cost tool.

5Based on a 1,500 sq. ft. home in Kelowna using 2015 electricity rates. Cost includes $143 for back-up baseboard heat. Source: NW Ductless Heat Pump Project, Cost of heat in the North West. These figures are estimates only. Actual energy costs and usage may differ from energy comparison tool results due to fuel costs, appliance efficiency, lifestyle and energy-efficiency measures incorporated into the household. Savings based on FortisBC electricity rate of $0.1109 per kWh.

6FortisBC PowerSense Regional Technical Forum HPWH Worksheet. 

 

 Lighting

 

Lighting accounts for about six per cent of a home’s total energy use. In addition to using energy-efficient LED lighting, you can take some simple actions to optimize your home’s lighting and your comfort.

Make the most of natural light

A small amount of daylight can provide enough light for an entire room. Light coloured interiors also help make the most of natural daylight and other lighting.

Turn off the lights when not in use

Consider installing occupancy sensors, timers or motion sensors to automatically control some of the lighting in your home.

Keep light bulbs and fixtures clean

Dust will reduce light output, so keep bulbs clean.

Use task lighting

You can save energy by reducing background lighting and focusing light right where it’s needed through the use of task lighting such as table lamps, track lighting and under-counter lights in work and hobby areas and in kitchens.

Replace incandescent and halogen bulbs with LEDs

There are a variety of options to suit your needs. Learn more in our Buying energy-efficient products guide

 

 Space heating & cooling

 

​Space heating 

More than 50 per cent of the total amount of energy used in a home goes toward space heating. With a few low-cost upgrades and simple habits—like putting on a sweater instead of turning up the heat—you could notice real savings on your heating costs.  

Install a programmable thermostat

Never worry about forgetting to turn the heat down after you leave the house. Programmable and smart thermostats do it for you. Plus, you can save up to 15 per cent* on your home’s heating costs by programming it to 17 °C for when you’re out and asleep, and no higher than 20 °C when you’re home and awake. 

Note: if your primary heating system is a central ventilation system with an electric heat pump, keep the temperature set point consistent as thermostat setback can actually increase energy consumption. This is because if the temperature difference between the room and thermostat set point is more than 1 °C to 2 °C, the supplemental heat will be activated.  

Change your heating system’s filter pronto!

You change your towels and sheets on a regular basis. Why not your furnace or heat pump filter? Like a dryer lint screen, a heating system filter clogs over time. Meaning it has to work longer which can equal extra energy costs. Check your filter on a monthly basis and replace it regularly, between one and six months, depending on if there are smokers and/or pets in the home. Use a tight-fitting pleated style filter for best results.  

Don't crowd your heating system

Leave space around your furnace or boiler and ensure there are no combustible materials stored nearby. Items like bleach, cleaning products and aerosols should be kept well away. Don’t place beds, drapery and furniture too close to baseboard heaters. Keep outdoor heat pump units free of vegetation and clutter to allow air to pass freely.   

Have your heating system serviced

You have your car tuned up and its oil changed regularly, so why not your heating system? Have it serviced annually by a licensed contractor to ensure it’s working safely and efficiently.  

Heat only the rooms you’re using

Close warm air supply registers, or lower the thermostat if you have baseboard heaters, in rooms you’re not using. Avoid heating non-insulated spaces such as a garage, crawl space, attic or storage shed.  

Vacuum your baseboards

Vacuum them with a soft bristle brush once a year just before the heating season to help them work as efficiently as possible.  

Space cooling 

In summer, electricity use can spike if using an air conditioner. Try these tips to help save on your electricity costs. 

Use a fan

It will help circulate cooled air. You can also set your ceiling fan to summer mode (counter-clockwise as you look up at it) to move the air downward to create a wind chill effect.  

Plant a shade tree

The best place is on the southwest or southeast side of your home. A deciduous tree that loses its leaves in the fall to allow in sunlight during the winter months is a good choice. 

Cool only the rooms you’re using

If using an air conditioner, cool only the rooms you’re using. If your heating system is electric and it’s time to upgrade, consider an air source heat pump, which offers heating in the winter and cooling in the summer. 

Keep windows, curtains and blinds closed

In the heat of the day, cover your windows to prevent the hot sun from heating up your house. Once the sun goes down, open them to let in the cooler air. 

*When programmed to 20 °C when home (for a maximum of 10 hours per day) and 17 °C when out or asleep (for a minimum of 14 hours per day). Maximum savings achieved on colder days. Source: CMHC, Effects of Thermostat Setting on Energy Consumption. 

How-to videos


 




Squeeze the efficiency out of your baseboard heaters

Susan learned that she not only needs to tell her kids to turn off the light when they leave a room, but also to turn down the heat a notch.


When there's no cure for an aging furnace

Joan considers whether to squeeze a few more years out of her energy hungry clunker of a furnace, or replace it with a new, high-efficiency ENERGY STAR® model.


Old house doesn’t have to be drafty

Joan takes possession and tackles programmable thermostats, furnace filters and other inexpensive projects in her first steps towards energy-saving bliss.


Pulling heat from thin air

Jack and Iris have lived in their home for 50 years and know a thing or two about saving energy. But when they heard how a heat pump could help them save even more, they were intrigued.

Renovating on a budget

With help from their dads, friends and YouTube, a Vancouver couple turned their drafty, old East Vancouver fixer into a comfortable, efficient home.

Why Natalie upgraded to an ENERGY STAR furnace

A beautifully renovated house couldn’t hide an over the hill energy hog.

 

 

 Water heating

 

On average, about 24 per cent of a home’s total energy use goes towards heating water. Being efficient with your water use—both hot and cold—will not only help you save on water heating costs, it will also help conserve a precious resource.

Laundry

Wash your clothes in cold water, except for your dirtiest whites.

Install a water-efficient showerhead

They use less water than older models but compensate with air-pressure technology. Meaning you can still wash the conditioner out of your hair! Better yet, a family of four could save $47 a year* by switching to a model using 6.5 litres per minute. And if you replace a showerhead more than 20 years old, your savings could more than triple.

Insulate hot water pipes

Insulate accessible water pipes located in unheated areas, such as basements and crawl spaces, with foam or rubber pipe insulation to help keep the water hot longer. The insulation will also help protect your pipes in cold snaps.

Leave the dishes

Run your dishwasher only when it's full to avoid wasting hot water and electricity. If hand-washing, rinse dishes in cold water. Better yet, use a basin of cold water instead of running the tap.

Fix leaky faucets

A hot water tap, dripping every second, wastes 720 litres of water per month, or about 14 hot baths.** A drip can usually be repaired by replacing the washer.

Water heater timer

If your water heater is electric and you use hot water for only short periods during the day, consider installing a timer to turn the water heater on during high-use periods and off during low-use periods. Most timers allow for multiple on/off periods during the day and include a manual override switch to allow water heating at any time.

*By switching from a 9.5 LPM showerhead to an efficient 6.5 LPM model, a family of four each taking one five-minute daily shower would save 1,800 litres of water per month. Calculation: 1,800 * 0.65 (percentage of water that is hot) X 4,187 joules (amount of natural gas it takes to heat one litre of water) X 45 °C temperature rise of cold to hot water / 0.55 (efficiency of a standard natural gas storage tank water heater) = 400,810,090 joules or 0.405 gigajoules/month or 5.4 GJ/year. Savings of $47 is based on $8.85 per gigajoule July 2015 FortisBC natural gas residential rate. Cost does not include basic charge.

**Based on the assumption of 3,600 drips/hour, 4,000 drips=1 litre, and 45L per bath.

How-to videos


 

 

 



Water, water everywhere

After finding mysterious puddles in the basement, Joan wasn’t sure what to blame them on. Her dog, a leaky water heater, or something far worse?

Putting high efficiency on the radar

Jennifer is setting an example for her kids by choosing high-efficiency upgrades.

​Savvy energy saver

A water heater pilot program couldn’t come at a better time for Barb.

 

 

 Weatherization & insulation

 

​Weatherization

Weatherization, draftproofing, weatherproofing and air sealing are terms used to describe upgrades made to exterior walls, roofs and gaps around windows and doors to help prevent heat loss. This can include caulking windows, weatherstripping doors and sealing gaps.

Insulate outlet plates

Insulate switches and electrical outlets on exterior walls with high-density foam sealers to help keep out drafts.

Shrink wrap your windows

If your windows are single pane, an inexpensive window film kit will help keep the warmth inside your house. Simply tape the film to the interior frame and shrink it with a blow dryer. The blow dryer will make the seal as tight as a drum and the film will act like a second pane of glass.

Weatherstrip

For exterior doors and windows that open, apply weatherstripping where the two surfaces meet. To stop drafts under doors, install a door sweep on the bottom edge.

Caulk

Apply interior window caulk where the window trim meets the wall. For inoperable windows, apply a bead of caulk where the sash meets the frame. You can also caulk the exterior side using exterior window and door caulking.

Insulation*

Your home’s heating system may warm up your house, but insulation, along with weatherization, is what will help keep that warmth from escaping. Having your home’s insulation upgraded by a professional insulation contractor could save an average of 15 per cent on your home’s heating costs.**

The optimal amount of insulation depends on where your home is located within BC. Homes in colder regions need more insulation than ones in the Lower Mainland to be more comfortable in winter. Insulation effectiveness is measured by R values (or RSI values for metric). The higher the value, the more resistance the insulation has to the movement of heat.

Insulation is available in batts, such as pink fibreglass or mineral wool, loose-fill, rigid board and can also be spray-applied. Size and location of area to be insulated and whether it’s finished or unfinished space will help determine the type of insulation you choose.

Attic

The attic is one of the most cost-effective places to insulate and won’t require any major demolition. Choose the insulation type right for your attic to achieve maximum insulation values, and be sure air sealing and ventilation are considered. Blown in fibreglass or cellulose is good for attics with an irregular shape or with inaccessible areas. If joists are spaced regularly, fibreglass or mineral wool batts are a good option.

Unfinished basement

Insulating the interior side of below grade basement or crawl space walls can help prevent heat loss in a home and increase air tightness. Before insulating, check for condensation and water infiltration. Note: fibreglass insulation is not recommended against concrete walls and don’t leave rigid foam boards exposed, typically a layer of drywall on top is recommended.

Wall, joist and exposed floors

Cold floors above unheated spaces and cold exterior walls are a sign of insufficient or non-existent insulation, causing heat loss and discomfort.
 
Find more insulation tips.

How-to video links

 

 

 

 



Stories from the attic

When she ventured into the attic to investigate her home’s heat loss, Joan couldn’t believe what she found.

Between the studs

Her beautiful kitchen renovation didn’t start with picking out countertops and cabinets. Joan went deeper and looked between the studs to improve her home’s efficiency.

Simple insulation for energy-saving inflation

When Wayne Carey was considering renovations to his Kelowna home, he wanted to include energy-efficient upgrades.

*Source: BC Standards of Practice Guide for Air Sealing and Insulation Retrofits

**Marbek Consulting 2011 Report, average saving per LiveSmart BC Efficiency Incentive Program insulation participant. Savings is based on an average of 68 gigajoules of natural gas used for space heating in a single family home. Individual savings may vary.