Energy-saving tips and how-to videos

Start saving energy and money at home with our tips, advice for buying energy-efficient products and how-to videos. 

Save heat by draftproofing & insulating your home 

Caulking windows, weatherstripping doors and sealing gaps and cracks in exterior walls can help prevent drafts from getting in and heat from getting out. Upgrading insulation can further improve the comfort of your home and help save on energy bills.

Important: make sure your gas appliances and heating systems still have adequate ventilation after making your home more airtight. It’s also a good idea to install carbon monoxide alarms and test your home for radon.

 

Insulate switches & outlets on exterior walls

Keep out drafts by adding foam gaskets behind switch plates on exterior walls.

Shrink wrap your windows

Install inexpensive window film to turn single-pane windows into ones that act like they have a second pane insulating against cold air and keeping warmth inside your house. Get a kit from a hardware store, tape the film to an interior window frame and shrink it with a blow dryer to seal it as tight as a drum.

Weatherstrip doors & openable windows

Seal out cold drafts around exterior doors and windows that open by applying weatherstripping where the two surfaces meet. 

 

Stop drafts under doors

Install a door sweep on the bottom edge of exterior doors.

Caulk the gaps & cracks

Look for caulking for windows and doors at the hardware store. You can apply an acrylic/latex interior caulk around windows where the 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 a waterproof silicone exterior window and door caulk.

Upgrade insulation

Your heating system warms up your house, but insulation helps keep that warmth from escaping. Upgrading your home’s insulation could help you save an average of 15 per cent on your home’s heating costs.1 

How much insulation do you need?

Insulation is measured in terms of its resistance to movement of heat, or R value (RSI values for metric). The optimal amount of insulation depends on where you live. Homes in colder regions, such as the Okanagan and Kootenays, need more insulation (or higher R values) than ones in the Lower Mainland or Vancouver Island to be comfortable in winter. Ask your insulation contractor or a qualified energy advisor what is recommended for your area.

What kind of insulation to use?

The size and area to be insulated, as well as whether it’s a finished or unfinished space can help determine the type of insulation you choose. Three of the most common kinds are:

  • Batt: made of fibreglass or stone wool and can be installed in walls, joists and the attic
  • Loose fill cellulose or fibreglass: requires a professional installer and can be blown into attics or finished walls
  • Rigid board: made of materials such as polystyrene foam in a variety of thicknesses and good for insulating for basements and damp areas

Where should you add insulation?

Have attic, wall or basement/crawlspace insulation installed to save money with a rebate.

  • Attic: this is one of the most cost-effective places to insulate and often won’t require any major demolition. Choose the right insulation for your attic to maximize R-value, and be sure to consider air sealing and ventilation. Blown-in insulation is good for attics with an irregular shape or with inaccessible areas. If joists are spaced regularly, batt insulation is a good option.
  • Walls, floors and joists: cold walls or cold floors above unheated spaces are signs of insufficient (or non-existent) insulation. Adding insulation between joists or blown-in cellulose to finished walls can dramatically improve comfort.
  • Unfinished basement or crawlspace: insulating the interior side of below-grade basement or crawlspace walls can help prevent heat loss and increase airtightness. Before insulating these areas, get them checked for condensation and water infiltration—fibreglass insulation is not recommended against concrete walls. Though rigid foam boards are a better choice, they should be finished with a layer of drywall on top

1Source: 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.

Save energy on space heating 

More than 50 per cent of the total amount of energy used in a home goes toward space heating.1 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 when programmable and smart thermostats do it for you. Plus, you can save up to 15 per cent2 on your home’s heating costs by programming it to 17 °C for when you’re out or asleep, and no higher than 20 °C when you’re home and awake. 

Note: if you have a heat pump system with a backup heat source, keep your temperature setting consistent because turning down the thermostat can actually increase energy consumption. If the difference between the room temperature and the thermostat setting is more than 1 °C to 2 °C, the backup heat source, which may not be as energy efficient, will come on.

Change your heating system’s filter regularly

Like a dryer lint screen, a furnace’s air filter clogs over time. A dirty filter can make your heating system work harder, which means extra energy costs. Check your filter at least every three months and replace or clean it regularly. Check it more often if there are smokers and/or pets in the home. Use a tight-fitting pleated style filter for best results. 

Have your heat pump, boiler or furnace serviced regularly

Have your heating system serviced annually by a licensed contractor to ensure it’s working safely and efficiently. Here are some tips on what annual maintenance should include.

Vacuum your baseboard heaters

Removing dust from baseboards will help them work as efficiently as possible. Just vacuum them with a soft bristle brush once a year, before the heating season. 

Give your heating system some air

  • Leave space around your furnace or boiler and keep any flammable materials or combustibles away, including glue, paint or cleaning products. 
  • Don’t place beds, drapery and furniture too close to baseboard heaters or forced-air heating registers.
  • Keep outdoor heat pump units free of vegetation and clutter to allow air to pass freely.   

Heat only the rooms you’re using

  • Close heating registers in rooms you’re not using or turn down thermostats for baseboard heaters when you leave the room. 
  • Avoid heating non-insulated spaces such as a garage, crawl space, attic or storage shed.

When it’s time for new heating equipment, invest in high efficiency

Natural gas heating

If your furnace is more than 15 years old, it’s only between 70 and 80 per cent efficient. New ENERGY STAR® natural gas furnaces are between 95 and 99 per cent efficient. That means for every dollar you spend on natural gas, between $0.95 and $0.99 is used as heat. ENERGY STAR boilers are at least 94 per cent efficient. Newer heating systems also have other features to enhance comfort and efficiency and you may qualify for a rebate for upgrading to an ENERGY STAR furnace or boiler.

Electric heating

An ENERGY STAR heat pump could save on heating costs and provide cooling in summer too. They are more energy efficient than electric furnaces and baseboards because instead of producing heat, they extract heat from the air and transfer it where it’s needed. You can compare estimated costs with our home energy calculator tool

Central ENERGY STAR air source heat pumps are a good option for homes that have existing ducts for an electric forced-air furnace. Variable speed mini-split heat pumps can be an efficiency upgrade from electric baseboard heaters. We offer rebates on both kinds of air source heat pumps.

Use your natural gas fireplace for zone heating

Use your fireplace to heat just the area you’re in and turn down the heating in the rest of the house to reduce energy costs.

Upgrade to a high-efficiency fireplace

If you’re shopping for a new, high-efficiency natural gas fireplace, freestanding stove or insert, look for the EnerChoice® logo. There is no ENERGY STAR rating system for natural gas fireplaces, so BC manufacturers created the EnerChoice designation to identify the most energy-efficient models. Rebates are available on eligible EnerChoice fireplaces.

Note: gas log sets do not qualify for EnerChoice. 

1Source: Natural Resources Canada, Office of Energy Efficiency, Comprehensive Energy Use Database, residential sector, BC, Table 2: Secondary Energy Use, 2015.
2When 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.

Save energy on water heating 

On average, about 25 per cent of a home’s total energy use goes towards heating water.1 Being efficient with your water use – both hot and cold – will not only help you save on water heating costs, but also help conserve a precious resource.

Take shorter showers and install a water-efficient showerhead

WaterSense

New water-efficient showerheads use about half to one-third of the water that some older showerheads use. Replacing even a now-standard showerhead with a WaterSense labelled model could save a family of four about $39 a year in water heating costs.2 Save even more if you’re replacing an older 17 to 20 litre per minute showerhead with a water-efficient model and reduce your shower time by one to three minutes every day.

Install faucet aerators in the kitchen and bathroom

If your faucets aren’t already water-efficient models, you can install faucet aerators on existing taps to help save water and energy, without any noticeable difference in flow. 

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.

Fix leaky faucets

A tap dripping water every second (3,600 drips per hour) could waste enough water to fill a bathtub about every two days (4,000 drips = 1 L; each bath = 45 L). A drip can usually be repaired by replacing the washer.

Wash your clothes in cold

Choose the cold water cycle for most loads of laundry, except for your dirtiest whites.

Fill up the dishwasher

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.

Put your water heater on a timer

If you have an electric water heater and 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.

When it’s time for a new water heater, invest in high efficiency

Natural gas water heaters

Save money on heating costs and get a rebate by choosing high-efficiency ENERGY STAR storage tank, tankless, hybrid or condensing water heaters, compared to standard-efficiency storage tanks. Learn more about the benefits and rebates on high-efficiency water heaters. 

Electric water heaters

High-efficiency heat pump water heaters are up to 200 per cent energy efficient and use heat from the ambient air to heat water in the storage tank. A four-person household could save about $350 per year in electricity costs compared to an equivalent electric water heater.3 Rebates may be available on eligible water heaters.

1Source: Natural Resources Canada, Office of Energy Efficiency, Comprehensive Energy Use Database, residential sector, BC, Table 2: Secondary Energy Use, 2015.
2By switching from a standard 9.5 litre per minute (LPM) showerhead to a water-efficient 6.5 LPM model, a family of four with a standard efficiency natural gas water heater, each taking a daily five-minute shower, can save 15,330 litres of hot water and about 4.7 gigajoules of natural gas per year. Dollar savings is based on November 2018 FortisBC natural gas residential rate of $8.34 per gigajoule, including carbon tax. Cost does not include basic charge or other applicable taxes
3Calculations compared water heating costs for a large (50 to 59 gallon) high-efficiency heat pump water heater with equivalent electric water heater using FortisBC electricity rates as of January 2018 using the FortisBC home energy calculator. Estimated savings do not include rebates and incentives. Savings may vary by household.

Save energy on cooling your home

In summer, using an air conditioner can cause electricity use to spike. Try these tips to help you stay cool and save on your electricity costs.

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. 

Use a fan

Fans cool you by creating a breeze, but you can turn them off if no one’s in the room. 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 cooled air in and heat out

If you’re doing renovations, consider energy-efficiency improvements. Sealing gaps and cracks, weatherstripping windows and doors and ensuring your house is well insulated can help promote a more even, comfortable temperature in summer, too.

Important: make sure your gas appliances and heating systems still have adequate ventilation after making your home more airtight. It’s also a good idea to install carbon monoxide alarms and test your home for radon.

Save energy on lighting your home 

Lighting accounts for about five per cent of a home’s total energy use.1 In addition to replacing older incandescent and halogen with energy-efficient LED lighting, you can take some simple actions to both save energy and enhance your home’s lighting. 

Make the most of natural light

A small amount of daylight can provide enough light for an entire room. When decorating, consider using lighter colours that will reflect natural daylight and other lighting.

Turn off the lights when not in use

In addition to turning lights off when you leave a room, consider how smart technologies such as occupancy or motion sensors, timers and dimmers could automatically control the lighting in your home.

Dust off light bulbs and fixtures

Keeping light bulbs clean helps maximize their light output.

Focus on task lighting

Direct light where it’s needed in work areas such as your desk, workshop or kitchen by using reading lamps, track lighting and under-cabinet lights to reduce the need for background lighting. 

Replace incandescent and halogen bulbs with LEDs

Incandescent light bulbs are less expensive than energy-efficient lighting products, but use more energy and have a shorter lifespan. ENERGY STAR® certified LED bulbs use less power, last about 15 times longer than traditional bulbs, and are available in a range of types, wattages and colour temperatures for most applications. Here’s a guide to choosing a bulb with the right colour for the task:

  • soft/warm white: yellowish colour like traditional incandescent bulbs, good for general use
  • neutral/cool white: good for kitchens and workspaces
  • natural or daylight: good for reading

Deck the halls with LED holiday light strings

Compared to their incandescent equivalents, ENERGY STAR certified holiday LEDs use up to 75 per cent less energy. Plus, they have no filaments or glass bulbs to break, can offer features such as dimming or colour shifting and produce very little heat, reducing fire risk. 

When the lights go out, recycle them

Keep old light bulbs and fixtures out of the landfill by recycling them. Visit LightRecycle to find out what products are accepted at depots near you.

1Source: Natural Resources Canada, Office of Energy Efficiency, Comprehensive Energy Use Database, residential sector, BC, Table 2: Secondary Energy Use, 2015.

Save energy with your household appliances and electronics 

Save electricity and extend appliance life by being smart about how you’re using your electric appliances and electronics. Here are some tips to help you maximize efficiency.

Shop for high-efficiency appliances and electronics

Here are some tips when reading product labels: 

  • EnerGuide® label: an official mark of Natural Resources Canada, this label tells you the energy consumption of various household electrical appliances, heating and cooling equipment and sometimes even new homes and vehicles. An EnerGuide label itself doesn’t tell you if a particular product is energy efficient, but can tell you how it compares to similar products. 
  • ENERGY STAR®: the ENERGY STAR logo is an international symbol designating the most energy-efficient products. You may find it on appliances, water heaters, furnaces, electronics and computers, windows and insulation and even on new homes that meet standards to be ENERGY STAR certified.

Keep your fridge and freezer at the right temperature

  • Keep your fridge away from direct sunlight and don’t locate it by the oven. 
  • Allow at least a three-inch gap between the back of the fridge and the wall. 
  • Use a thermometer to check your fridge and freezer temperature. The fridge should be between 2 °C and 3 °C. The freezer should be set to -18 °C.
  • Clean the dust from the coils on the back of and under your fridge at least twice a year.
  • Check door seals, as they can deteriorate over time and allow cooled air to escape.
  • If you manually defrost the freezer, do it when the ice gets pencil-thick in your freezer.

Fill up your dishwasher

  • Wash full loads to save hot water.
  • 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.

Be cool with your clothes washer and dryer

  • Wash laundry in cold water. 
  • 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.
  • Give your dryer some time off in the summer and hang laundry to dry on a clothesline.

Up your electronic efficiency game

  • Turn off electronics, small appliances and home office equipment when not in use. 
  • Unplug what you can to reduce phantom power use, such as phone chargers or coffee makers. 
  • Put multiple related items, such as your stereo, TV, home entertainment system or computer equipment on a power bar so you only have to turn them off with one switch. Better yet, use a smart power bar to save energy when items are on standby mode. 
  • Check for and use the power-saver settings on your TV and computer monitors.