Easy, eco-friendly home improvements.
There’s a lot you can do to make your home more eco-friendly without necessarily spending more money upfront on bigger renovation projects.
Follow these tips to turn your living space into a more efficient, less costly and positively pro-earth abode with our room-by-room green home guide.
Add more efficient lighting: Switching to energy-efficient lighting represents a great opportunity to reduce your carbon footprint and save money on your electricity bill, according to the David Suzuki Foundation. Compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) are the most prevalent energy-efficient bulbs currently available, consuming an average of 75 per cent less electricity than conventional incandescent lights. Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are even more energy efficient than many traditional light bulbs. While they are more expensive, they do last much longer, which means you will have to replace them far less frequently. Until they start to come down in price, you might want to consider using LEDs in the rooms you use most, such as the kitchen.
Use more sunlight and less electricity:Whenever possible, use natural light from windows and skylights to avoid using electricity. You can also use smaller desk lamps or reading lamps for specific tasks instead of having to light up an entire room.
Turn off and unplug: The Ontario Ministry of Energy notes that many electronic items, such as computers, TVs and cell phone chargers, continue to consume small amounts of electricity unless they are unplugged. Try plugging these items into a power bar with a switch so you can easily turn them off when they are not in use.
Try a cooler room temperature: Enbridge suggests setting your thermostat 3°C (5°F) lower while you’re asleep or away from home, which could save you up to six per cent on your heating bill during colder months. On the flip side, when it’s hot outside, set your thermostat as high as is comfortable. Ceiling fans are another great way to stay cool, save energy and cut costs. Just remember to turn the fan off when you’re not in the room.
Improve your hot water heater’s output: Enbridge also recommends keeping your hot water heater’s temperature at 54°C (130°F) to save energy and avoid scalds. Also, insulate at least the first two metres (six feet) of the hot water pipe and one metre (three feet) of the cold water pipe leading from your hot water tank.
Amp up your insulation: Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation states that one of the best ways to cut down on the amount of energy used around the house while also reducing your environmental footprint and lowering your monthly utility bills is to ensure your attic is well insulated. Insulating and air sealing an attic can help keep the heat inside the home where it belongs, and also help prevent icicles from forming at the roof edge. Visit the CMHC website for more tips on how to super-insulate your attic.
Paint right: Planning to spruce up your walls? Certain types of paint, cleaning supplies and other materials may emit volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which Environment Canada defines as organic compounds containing one or more carbon atoms that have high vapour pressures and therefore evaporate readily into the atmosphere. So read the labels and purchase paint with no or low VOCs to reduce the risk of potentially toxic gases in your home and the environment.
Choose energy-efficient appliances: If you’re considering any new appliance purchases, opt for energy-efficient models with an ENERGY STAR® label, which is the mark of high-efficiency products in Canada. The familiar symbol makes it easy to identify the best energy performers on the market.
Compost: According to Statistics Canada, in 2011, more than half of Canadian households (61 per cent) had participated in some form of composting — this is up 38 percentage points from 1994. Residential composting can reduce the amount of waste shipped to landfills and reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions formed from organic material decomposing in these landfills. A number of municipalities have introduced composting programs to turn organic waste into compost, and some of these programs include convenient curbside pickup. You can read more about municipal composting programs here.
Cook smart: Enbridge offers suggestions on how to use your kitchen appliances for greater efficiency, including choosing a burner size that matches your pot, using lids to conserve heat and decrease cooking time, turning your burner down once liquid boils, and defrosting your food before baking — which can cut energy use by a third.
Make a meal without meat: Adding one vegetarian dinner each week has essentially the same impact on the planet as a family of four switching to a hybrid car, according to Real Simple, because raising livestock creates abundant greenhouse gases.
Shut off the sink: Enbridge suggests several ways to conserve energy in the bathroom, including shutting off the water when brushing your teeth or shaving, installing low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators, and taking a shower instead of a bath — which uses far less water.
Wash in cold and air-dry: Use cold water to wash clothes whenever possible — 85 to 90 per cent of energy used to wash clothes goes to heating water, according to Enbridge. When it comes to drying, it’s always best to dry your wet clothing on an outdoor clothesline, if possible. If you do have to use the dryer, Enbridge suggests only putting in full laundry loads and putting heavy items through a longer spin cycle in the washer to rid extra moisture. You should also clean your dryer’s lint filter after every use.
Garnish surfaces with greenery: Add some potted plants, which absorb carbon dioxide and emit oxygen, making them useful environmental air filters.
There are many other ways you can save money and energy by going greener in your home. Find out more about energy-saving tips, incentives and programs in your area at saveonenergy.ca. You can also learn more about rebate programs available for green initiatives at Natural Resources Canada.
®*The ENERGY STAR name and symbol are administered and promoted in Canada by Natural Resources Canada and are registered in Canada by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.