Every year we make resolutions to better ourselves and our families. This year, why not make a resolution to save yourself some money with habits you can use for many years to come. In this list, we have gathered 10 simple changes we feel are the best ways to increase electrical efficiency in your home and decrease consumption, saving you money on your electricity bills and helping you maintain a greener footprint.
#1- Switch Old Bulbs for LED’s
Incandescent and fluorescent bulbs may have been the main light source in your home for many years however with new technology LED bulbs are more energy efficient lasting up to 7.5 times longer! Even though the initial cost is slightly higher, LED’s can save you up to 90% a year off your average annual lighting costs. Add in the safety features of LED’s and the fact that they help reduce greenhouse gasses from power plants and we have a winner! Learn more about choosing the proper LED bulbs by clicking here.
#2- Install Motion Sensors and Dimmer Switches
Motion sensors automatically turn lights on and off so you only get (and pay for) light when you need it. These are best suited for outdoor lights on the garage, the deck, or in the porch. In the home, you can purchase special switches for rooms that you can manually turn on but the sensors automatically turn off. These are ideal for bedrooms so the lights don’t turn on when you roll around in your sleep. Timers are also useful for items like fans in your home. You can turn them on when you need them and they will shut off automatically after a pre-set time. Make sure to install the correct sensor for each device you use. Dimmer switches are also a smart addition to any home. Dimming your lights reduces wattage and output and helps save energy. Some dimmers can be controlled by an app on your phone while others are manually controlled. Be sure to purchase bulbs that can work with dimmer switches though or they will not work the way they were meant to when installed.
#3- Install and Use a Programmable Thermostat
Upgrade your thermostat to a programmable one that you can pre-set to various temperatures during the day. When you are away from home, set the thermostat to cycle at a lower temperature. You can also set it to stay slightly cooler while you are sleeping. According to Energy Efficiency Alberta, a programmable thermostat can save you up to $150 per year in heating costs without you even noticing a difference in your home.
#4- Seal Drafts and Cold Spots
Check entry doors for signs of drafts where cold air can leak into your home. This includes tightening loose door hinge screws and replacing worn, loose, or missing weather stripping. Weather stripping kits for doors and windows are inexpensive, and blocking up drafts will help make your home feel more comfortable and keep it warmer. Windows are often an energy waster, losing up to 25-35% of heat from the home. Installing thermal backed drapes and curtains can save up to 25% of this loss when kept closed. If possible, replace windows with ones that include double glazing or Low E coating and are rated with Energy Star to dramatically decrease heat loss and gain. Another thing you can do is to buy an inexpensive infrared thermometer and use it to detect temperature differences that indicate where drafts might be getting in, such as outlets, light switches, and window frames. You can then make informed decisions about replacing the energy consumers. And don’t forget about the attic which accounts for up to 11% of annual energy loss. Seal all electrical and plumbing holes in walls and between floors. Increasing insulation in the attic can save dramatically on heating and cooling costs.
#5- Use Power Strips
Gadgets and appliances, electronics and chargers all use power even when devices are turned off. These devices have power bricks that are inexpensive AC adapters which use a transformer to convert wall current into low voltage DC. Even if the device or gadget is turned off, these power supplies stay on and linger in stand by mode waiting for you to push a button to bring them back to life. These energy wasters include TV’s, cable boxes, home theatre systems, gaming consoles, wireless printers, and more. Lights on small appliances such as microwaves and coffee makers also waste power by supply electricity to the unit 24/7. Control the wastage by installing inexpensive timers for when you know you won’t be using the device or using power strips where you can manually turn devices off overnight.
#6- Use Appliances Wisely
Sometimes it is the little things that can make a big difference. Here are a few tips to help with your energy consumption:
- A full freezer maintains the appropriate temperature more efficiently. If your freezer is often empty, think about downsizing to a smaller one. You may also choose to make your own ice blocks if you travel often. Fill jugs and containers with water and place in the freezer to fill up space and save energy. Use the blocks to keep food cold on your next trip. As the water thaws you also have cold water to drink. Replace these often to keep fresh.
- Match the correct pot to the burner. Using a larger burner for a small pot can waste energy by heating the air and the reverse (a large pot on a small burner) can multiply the time your stove is being used to cook. Another option that can work for most dishes is to turn your burner off a few minutes earlier than the recipe calls for. Burners will usually release enough heat to finish cooking your dish while saving electricity. You can use this trick in the oven as well turning it off early and leaving the door closed will maintain the temperature to finish cooking your meal.
- Do your laundry back to back instead of a few loads a day. Dryers account for approximately 6% of a home’s total electricity usage and can use more than your refrigerator even though it runs less often. You can decrease this energy usage by cleaning the lint tray after every load (and the duct at least once per year) and only run the dryer until the clothes are dry. Over drying can damage your clothes and needlessly increase your energy consumption. Try to dry loads back to back to eliminate the dryer from cooling down completely in between. A warm dryer uses less energy to heat up again. Also, choose to wash your clothes in cold water instead of warm or hot. This simple trick can save up to 40 cents per load on your annual electricity bill and for the average family that can mean up to $63 per year in savings.
- Use your dishwasher. Dishwashers may use electricity but if used properly, they can save more energy, water and time than hand washing. Opt out of the heated dry cycle and instead open the door just a crack to let your dishes air dry. But you won’t save energy if you restart the dishwasher just because your dishes don’t come clean. Make sure you let your dishwasher do the cleaning, just scrape off the big stuff and don’t worry about rinsing and this can actually trick the dishwashers’ sensors. Also, place large pots in their own load so they don’t block jets leaving the dishes on top dirty. Place large pots and dishes away from the door so they can’t block the detergent from deploying. Also, complete a pre-wash check before you start the load. Make sure there isn’t any food, utensils or other items that can block the filter or spray arm.
#7- Buy Energy Star Appliances
When you look for replacement appliances, make sure you look for the Energy Star label. This label means the appliance meets certain energy efficiency guidelines and can cut household costs by about 30%. Currently, when you purchase any eligible energy efficient refrigerator, washing machine or smart thermostat; Energy Efficiency Alberta is offering rebates of $100. Check their website for details on these and other home improvement rebates being offered.
#8- Maintain Appliances
Perform maintenance checks on all appliances in the home. Many appliances don’t perform to their capabilities due to build up or residue.
- Furnace- keeping your furnace tuned up helps it run efficiently and prolongs its life span. Clogged filters can make the motor work harder and use more power. Change filters often making sure you install them the correct way to allow the air to flow through.
- Refrigerator- Your refrigerator is the largest power consumer in the home. Keep your energy costs lower by cleaning the coils at least twice a year. This helps improve its functionality by 30-50%. Keep the temperature between 0 and 5 degrees F (35 and 38 degrees C). Door seals wear out over time. Test your seal by slipping a sheet of paper in the door when you close it. If the paper slides out easy when you pull on it, replace the seal.
- Duct Work- Dryer ducts need to be lint free just like the lint trays. A clogged duct can drastically reduce the efficiency of your dryer and possibly cause a fire. Air ducts with holes, clogs and leaks can lose up to 20% of your furnaces efficiency. Have ducts checked and cleaned annually to maintain efficiency and reduce your energy costs.
- Air Conditioners- Roughly half of an average homes power bills are spent on heating and cooling. Air conditioners placed in direct sunlight can use up to 10% more electricity. Plant tall shrubs or shade trees near by making sure to not enclose the unit or impede air flow. Window units should be placed on the north side of homes or under an awning. If you don’t own an air conditioner, don’t worry. Ceiling fans can make a room feel 10 degrees cooler and uses 10% less energy than an central air conditioning unit.
#9- Reduce Water Heating
If you only use electrical water heaters at certain times of the day, you are wasting electricity keeping it hot 24/7. Install an electrical timer switch available for 120 and 240-volt heaters that can be programmed for daily or weekly schedules so you only heat the water when you need it. Much like a programmable thermostat, these timers can generate great savings over the year. Once a year you may want to consider draining your tank and flushing out the sediment in the bottom. Without doing this annual maintenance, you could be causing your tank to heat through inches of sediment before reaching the water. Another option you may want to look at is replacing your tank style system for an on demand hot water heater. These systems only heat water as your tap calls for it eliminating the time spent keeping the water hot.
#10- Perform an Energy Audit
Conduct a home energy audit. Call in experts to analyze every aspect of you home and help you identify energy-consuming issues that may be overlooked. In 2-3 hours, auditors can show you areas where your home is energy deficient and suggest improvements or upgrades to further save.
Reducing your energy consumption even a little can mean large savings on your annual electricity bills. In order to further reduce your energy consumption, you may want to consider installing a solar power system which can either assist with or become your sole power provider. For more tips and rebate options provided by the Government of Alberta, visit www.efficiencyalberta.ca. If you have any questions on the products or services mentioned, contact us at any time and we can assist you in finding the right fit for your electrical needs.