A growing concern in Canada is the efficient use of the energy resources we have available to us. Issues such as our shrinking supplies of natural gas and electricity, pollution in the air, and greenhouse gas emissions are compounding to a problem that is quickly on the rise. This growing concern affects all energy consumers, whether you’re a tenant renting a unit or a homeowner who owns a home or a condominium.
Common Energy- and Water-Wasting Problems
Wind drafts can enter your home through walls, floors, windows, ceilings and doors that have cracks and holes. This can cause problems during the winter, where your home would be cold and drafty, resulting in more heat being consumed to keep a desirable temperature. Homes that are drafty are more prone to problems with noises outside being more audible. In the summer, your home can get hot and sweaty, and more A/C would be consumed in order to have that cool temperature that is so needed in the hot summers. Both of these scenarios can make your home more expensive and lead to excessive consumption of energy when it really isn’t required.
If the interior partition walls, floors, and ceilings of your home have cracks and holes in them, it can cause a flow of air throughout out your home, and into other units if you live in a building.
Odours, noise, tobacco smoke and pests can move throughout your house or to neighboring apartments if there are small gaps. The cooled or heated air will tend to move in unexpected ways and eventually leave your home or building.
To achieve optimal air temperature and humidity in your home or unit, the reduction of air leakage is important.
Ventilating, Heating, and Air condition systems and Maintenance
To ensure your ventilating, heating, and air conditioning systems are using the least amount of energy, one must maintain the systems so it is always working in an efficient manner. This leads to less services and repairs in the system, which help you SAVE MONEY!
Windows and Doors
Use the Heat from the Sun
In the winter months, one can always use the FREE HEAT from the sun to keep your home in a desirable temperature.
o Blinds and curtains on the south-, west- and east-facing windows will have the most amount of sun shine, therefore keeping them open will help bring in the most amount of heat.
o You can also close radiator valves, and turn down your thermostat so your heater is not working during this time. Remember to put thermostat back up when the sun stops shining into the room.
o To keep the heat in your apartment at night, close your blinds at curtains.
Always keep in mind that closing blinds and curtains can lead to water to form on windows in the form of condensation. This is a problem because the window frames and surrounding surfaces can get wet and damaged. This leads to mold to begin growing in the window frames and surfaces, and can eventually threaten the tenant’s health. One good way to avoid this problem with condensation is to wipe up any water as soon as you see them on the window, and ensure you don’t leave your curtains closed for long periods of time. Also remember running your kitchen and bathroom fans longer can help the situation. Finally, if the condensation problem continues on your windows, it safe to keep the curtains open until the problem is solved, particularly if you want to avoid mold growing in your home.
Keep the Heat in During the Winter
Some people think opening up windows in the winter when it gets too cold is a smart way to adjust temperature without working the heating system. However, the heat you are allowing to leave your house is heat YOU HAVE PAID FOR! Also, with the cold air coming in, the heater begins to work harder. So best practice when it is too hot in the house, go ahead and turn off your thermostat and wait for the temperature to adjust accordingly.
One problem that could be causing your home to be extra hot during the winter is the overheating that may occur from the sunshine coming into certain rooms in your home. Best practice here is to close your drapes or blinds in the rooms that are being overheated. Living in a building may mean you are sharing a central boiler, in which case you can alert management your unit is too warm. This will lead management to adjust the boiler controls or provide you with more information on how you can adjust your heating system to reduce the heat in your home.
Dealing with the Heat in the Summer
During the summer months of the year, the best way to keep your home cool is to keep the blinds and curtains closed. During the day, the hot humid air coming into your home through an open window can have a negative effect on your desired temperature. So on hot humid days, keeping the windows closed would actually help. Cooler air is more apparent in the early morning, evening, and night times, so leaving your windows open during then would help with achieving desired temperatures.
Reduce Air Leakage
Window and door joints: DIY
Trim adjacent walls and caulk any open joints you find between windows and door frames.
Window and door weatherstripping gaskets: DIY
Take a look at your windows and weather stripping gaskets and make sure they are in good condition and intact. If the gaskets are worn or flattened, it is better to replace them. Indicators such as drafts, moving drapes or blinds, or rattles in the wind mean there is a leakage problem in the windows and/or doors.
Things to remember before you begin air sealing work:
· Make sure you have the necessary permission from your building management.
· To efficiently hide the caulk joint with paint (when necessary), purchase paintable latex caulking.
· Remember when using spray foam that some foams expand very quickly and can create damage on nearby surfaces and overall make a mess.
Floors and Walls
Reduce Air Leakage
Floor-wall baseboard joints: DIY/Contractor
Examine the exterior wall-floor joints and caulk any visible cracks you may see. Remember that you can only do this in instances where the baseboard trim, or wall, can be safely caulked to a floor surface that is rigid, such as tile, concrete, or wood. Due to this fact, its always best practice to do these repairs during renovations.
If the baseboard or quarter-round trim has to be removed and replaced, you can apply caulking between the wall surface and floor, which would then be covered by the baseboard. If you do decide to move forward caulking the joint between the baseboard or quarter-round trip and the floor, you need to first apply a strip of masking tape on the floor. 3 mm (1/8 in.) is a good distance from the wall along the wall-floor joint to be caulked. Once you have finished applying the caulking, remove the tape to help produce a clean caulked joint.
Electric wire penetrations: DIY/Contractor
Take a look at wire penetrations behind electric baseboard heaters and make sure they are sealed. To do this, you need to get a contractor to come by and disconnect the power and temporarily remove the baseboard heating units. Most of the time, there is a hole in the exterior wall where the electric wire serving the heater is found. This hole can be foamed, or caulked depending on the size. This is a great opportunity to sweep up or vacuum any dust or debris behind the baseboard or the baseboard heating elements. This will improve heat transfer.
Electric switch and outlet cover plates: DIY
Find your electrical panel and turn off the electricity to all the outlets you plan on working on. Purchase CSA-approved air sealing gaskets and install them behind the cover plates of light switches and electrical outlets, focusing on those found on exterior walls. CSA-approved air sealing gaskets are made to be used under electric cover plates and are found at most hardware stores.
To stop drafts that may come through holes in the outlet, insert child safety plugs into the outlets.
Pipes, wires and ducts: DIY
Locate pipes in the walls and floors, under sinks in the bathroom and kitchen, and behind toilet fixtures so you can caulk and seal around them. The pipe, duct and wiring penetrations in utility closets and other common spaces can also be sealed. Use caulking or spray in foam to seal these areas. Alternatives such as tape, rags, and fiber glass insulation are not effective.
Exterior vent and conduit penetrations: DIY/Contractor
Find the exhaust and supply-air grills, plumbing penetrations that are accessible from your balcony area, and electric boxes (the outside lights and plugs on balconies) and caulk the openings around them. Also check your exhaust fan when it is off, and make sure that hinged dampers that are found in the exterior vent hoods are fully closed.
To ensure your own safety, please do not attempt to access areas that are not easily reachable from your balcony, and always consult a professional for this nature of work.
Bathroom and Kitchen
Make Sure Exhaust Fans are Working Efficiently
Check your bathroom fans, range hoods, and range hood filters and see if the house and grill coverings on them are clean. If they aren’t, go ahead and wipe them down. Also, check the fan blades you can reach and see if they are dust free and clean. In some buildings, the exhaust fans will duct through the exterior wall of a unit (rather than it being through a rooftop fan). If your unit is designed like this and you can safely and easily reach the exterior hoods on the balcony, make sure they are clear and the dampers are fully open when the fans are running and fully closed when the fans are off. If a damper is restricted from freely moving, this can result in a restriction of airflow, which then can cause the fan to run longer and use more energy to keep the bathroom or kitchen properly ventilated.
An optimal situation is when the bathroom exhaust fan runs long enough to remove moisture and odours but does not unnecessary exhaust heated indoor air. To achieve this, get a contractor to install a timer in the exhaust fan.
Reduce Air Leakage
Bathroom and exhaust fans: DIY
Locate the exhaust fan that is causing the air leakage. Take some foil duct tape and seal or caulk the gap between the fan and its surrounding ceiling area. The gap is easily seen and accessed by removing the ceiling grill on the exhaust fan. Finally, when you place the ceiling grill back on, the sealed joint will be hidden.
Some homes have an exhaust grill connected to a central exhaust system that is found in the bathroom. If this is the case, it may be possible sea the exhaust duct to the surrounding wall by removing the grill. If this is not possible, at least seal the gap found between the wall with paintable caulking and the grill.
Bathtub surrounds: DIY
Take paintable, mold resistant caulking to your bathtub and caulk it and its surrounding enclosure to ceiling areas and adjacent wall. Always remember, you may need to get permission from your building management or owner if you are renting.
Fix Leaky Faucets and Toilets
Take a look at this statistic: if your faucet drips at a rate of one drop per second, you can expect to waste just about 200 Liters of water per week. That is a ton of water wasted for no good reason at all.
You won’t have a problem locating leaky faucets. Now a leaky toilet can be much more difficult to find. A quick way to check is to see if the toilet’s flapper valve needs to be replaced. To see if the valve needs to be replaced, put a couple of drops of food coloring in the water storage tank. Now let the toilet sit for at least 30 minutes and check the colour of the water in the bowl. If you see the water in the bowl tinted with the color, the valve may need to be replaced. After performing this check, avoid coloring your tank and bowl by flushing the colored water down the drain.
Getting a plumber or getting your building manager to make the repair is the best way to go. However, if you feel you can do the repairs yourself, then fixing a leaky faucet or toilet will consist of replacement flapper that is compatible with the make and model of your toilet. Using non-compatible flappers can cause leaks.
Install Low-Flow Shower Heads and Other Water-Conserving Devices
To reduce the amount of water that is flowing through showerhead fixtures and faucets while maintaining acceptable water pressure, install low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators. These will help conserve water and help you save money while ensuring you receive the same amount of water. While you are using soap or shampoo, you can stop the water with ease by installing on-off valves. This practice can help you save energy and soap along with water.
Install Low-Flush Toilets
Take this fact in: Most older toilets use between 20 and 26 L per flush. The more modern toilets use 6 L per flush to do the same job effectively. Also important to note is that toilets tend to the biggest water user in a home.
The best option would be to install a dual flush toilet, one flush for liquid waste, or the full 6 L flush for solid waste. Although, just installing a low flush model (6 L) will yield immediate savings.
Use Energy-Efficient Lighting
To get high quality, energy efficient lighting, consider purchasing and using fluorescent tubes and energy efficient compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). Fluorescent lamps last 6 to 10 times longer and are 75-80 percent more efficient than incandescent bulbs. You can purchase CFLS that are made in the same shape and size as traditional bulbs. You can also get them in different lighting levels and colors.
The energy and money that is saved over their much longer lifetime, fluorescent and compact fluorescent lamps are worth the extra money you have to pay when compared to purchasing incandescent bulbs.
ENERGY STAR is a label that you can look for when purchasing these types of products. Make sure you dispose of fluorescent lighting products in a proper fashion because the tubes contain mercury.
Use Energy-Efficient Appliances
20 percent of your household energy consumption are due to your appliances, with refrigerators and clothes dryers being the most consuming. When replacing or purchasing electronic equipment and new appliances, consider the energy consumption of the appliance when also looking at the price. Again, look for the ENERGY STAR ratings for electronics, office products and small appliances, while you look at the EnerGuide labeling on large appliance. In most cases, these labels will provide information on how much energy is going to be consumed by the appliance when it is in use.
Front loading washing machines use upto 40 per cent less water and 60 per cent less energy than top lop loading machines. They also require less detergent. Finally, front loading washing machines are capable of removing more water from the laundry, which means the clothes need less time to be dried, and therefore drying appliance will be used less. This will lead to more savings for you.
Keep Your Refrigerator in Good Condition
Old refrigerators tend to use more energy than required if they are not looked after accordingly. The following are a few ways to keep your refrigerator maintained:
· Once a year, clean the evaporator coils under, or on the back of the refrigerator. You can always refer to the owner’s manual.
· Make sure the door closes firmy against the gasket. You can clean the gasket with soap and water if it is damaged or dirty.
· When storing food in the refrigerator, let the food cool first.
· Always make sure the door is properly closed at all times, and don’t leave the it open for long periods of time.
· Don’t let freezers build up more than six mm of frost, and reguary defrost the freezers to keep them working their best.
Use Your Clothes Washer and Dryer Efficiently
1 – Reduce the number of loads
Fill the washer to save energy and water. When organizing your laundry, make full loads and avoid overloading the washer or dryer. Overloading leads to clothing not being properly cleaned and will take longer to dry.
2 – Use cold water for clothes washing
When using just cold water, use detergents that are formulated for strictly cold water. Only really dirty clothes need to be washed in hot water, and if this is required, separate your laundry into hot water loads and cold water loads. This will help reduce hot water energy use.
3 – Group similar fabric types together before drying them
Grouping similar fabric types before drying them will sometimes help save energy. For example, dry permanent press shirts can be dried in lower dryer temperature.
4 – Air-dry outdoors
By using a drying rack on your balcony to air dry clothes, you can save electricity that will add up in the long run. Make sure you don’t try air drying your clothes indoors because this may cause moisture issues.
5 – Keep your clothes dryer lint-free
Cleaning the lint from the dryer’s filter after every load to reduce clothes drying times and energy use and can be a serious fire hazard. There may also be another lint trap located along the dryer duct. If this trap needs to be cleaned, do so.
This may not be apparent but increased drying times also increase your air conditioning requirements in the summer, adding up to higher electricity use. Check to make sure the vent damper in the dryer is lint free and open and shut easily when the dryer is turned on and off. Do this only if your dryer vent hood is visible and accessible to you. A duct cleaning contractor may be needed if your vent hood is clogged with lint.
Clean and Service Your Heating System
Fan-coil units: DIY/Contractor
Your system works harder and uses more energy to provide comfort to your home when your fan-coil filters aren’t clean. So check your fan-coil filters and wipe any debris that may have been accumulated.
Depending on the type of filter installed and how quick it gets dirty, you may have to change or clean the filters every 1-3 months.
To remove dust build up in the supply and return air grills, use a vacuum. Grills that have adjustable louvres should be open when cleaning.
This next step should be done by a professional. Get the coils in the fan coil unit vacuumed and cleaned annually.
Repair any noise fan motors or water leaks.
Hot water/steam radiators and convectors: DIY
Radiators should be vacuumed several times a year. If possible, gently vacuum the coils or heating elements after removing the radiator cover.
When it comes to around the radiator, avoid placing furniture and heavy drapes where they block the movement of the room air.
This tip is for systems that have thermostatic zone valves that control the heat output from the radiators. You can confirm that the system works properly by resetting the thermostat and observing changes in the temperature of the radiator.
Depending on the type of furnace filters installed and how quickly they get dirty, you may need to change or clean them every 1-3 months.
To remove dust build up in the supply and return air grills, use a vacuum. Grills that have adjustable louvres should be open when cleaning.
Contact a service contractor or building management if you have noise fan motors.
In order to have a furnace that is in good working order, service it on an yearly basis.
Electric baseboards: DIY
Ensure that curtains or furniture do not block electric baseboard units and that the room air can move freely around it.
It is good practice to clean electric baseboard heaters at least on an yearly basis. You can do this by first deactivating the heater by turning off the electricity at the circuit breaker in your unit/home electrical panel. If possible clean the fins found under the cover panels. Remove dust build up by vacuuming around and in the baseboard unit. Make sure you do not damage the electrical element or fins. After doing this thorough clean, put the panel back, and turn the electricity to the heater back on.
If you want to make sure your thermostat works properly, start by setting it and then setting it low to hear a click. Depending on the setting thermostat, the baseboard unit should warm up and cool down. If you are not getting a change, contact a service contractor or building management.
Set Your Thermostat Back
You can lower your heating bill by lowering your thermostat. 20 degrees Celsius is a quite comfortable temperature.
13-15.5 degrees Celsius is a good temperature to leave your house at night or when you are away from the house.
for more comfort and convenience, you can purchase and install a thermostat that can be programmed to turn up the heat of the house when you are getting up in the mornings or when you are returning home from work. When your not home, the thermostat lowers and raises automatically at preset times during the day and week. Remember though, programmable thermostats only work when set properly and used accordingly.
The number of people in the home, the amount of moisture being produced from bathing, showering, laundry, and cooking, the use of bathroom fans and kitchen range hood, and the window and wall insulation values should all be considered when setting your thermostat back. You can maximize how far you set your thermostat back by using your bathroom fans and range hood as efficient as you can.
Keep in mind that you may find more condensation on your windows if you turn down your heat. Long periods of condensation can result in water pooling on windowsill and forming in concealed spaces in the exterior walls or roof spaces. This is amplified when you close your blinds and drapes at night. This can lead to damaged surfaces, carpets, finishes, draperies and lead to the growth of mold. So always keep an eye on your windows and exterior wall surfaces for condensation when you are turning back your thermostat, and always keep an eye out for mold. You can reduce condensation by turning the thermostat up and achieving warmer levels of temperature.
Buy an Energy-Efficient Air Conditioner
A correctly sized energy efficient air conditioners helps save energy and money while keeping your home cool. A rating called energy efficiency rating (EER) is found on air conditioners; an air conditioner with an EER of at least 11 is the best type to purchase, although you will face a higher cost. This cost will be covered and more savings will occur because of the less amount of electricity you end up using with these models. If you want less noise and a better forming air conditioner, it is best to buy one with high quality.
An air conditioner with too much cooling capacity will not operate properly, leading your home to feel cold and humid, and will end up using more energy and will cost more to operate. When picking out an air conditioner, small ones tend to run more efficiently and provide the cooling your home requires.
Use Your Air Conditioner Efficiently
Whether you have an AC system, or a window mount unit or permanent through-wall systems, the following tips will help reduce air conditioning electricity use:
When you are out of your home, turn thermostat higher or turn off your AC system.
Clean and remove window air conditioner filters every month
If you have a vent on the window mount or through wall AC that leads “fresh air”, close it so you’re not cooling outside air. Open the vent only when your home gets stuffy.
Shading helps improve air conditioner efficiency use in your home and reduces energy use. So to achieve this, if possible, install your window air conditioner in north facing or shaded windows.
To keep out heat and humidity, keep curtains, windows and blinds closed.
To supplement air conditioners, or as an alternative to air conditioning, install ceiling fans. If you can find ENERGY STAR rated ceiling fans, get them because they usually use very little electricity.
To help reduce space heating energy use, remove the AC if it is a window mount model and store it during the winter. After storing the AC, you can seal an insulated panel in place of the AC or replace the window pane.
Reduce Air Leakage
Window and through-wall air-conditioning units: DIY/Contractors
Using caulking or spray in foam, seal joints around the through wall or window mount AC units. Insert a foam backer-rod if the joint is wider than 3 mm to prevent the caulking from flowing into the joint. Make sure you do not block pipes or openings that are intended to drain condensation from the AC outdoors.
To stop drafts that go through the units themselves, apply plastic sheets over top of the through wall or window AC unit. Remember to use a removable tape. To ensure the tape does not damage the surface when you are removing it in the spring, find a surrounding surface that will not get damaged.
Turn Down the Water Tank Temperature
A good temperature to have your gas or oil fired hot water tank at is 46-49 degrees Celsius, so adjust the faucets on your water tank accordingly.
Remember not to set your electric hot water tanks below 60 degrees Celsius. There are thermostatic mixing valves that are recommended so the water that is being delivered to tubs, showers and faucets do not exceed 49 degrees Celsius to avoid scalding.
To keep the water warm, add an insulated cover over the hot water tank. If you have an electric tank, you can do this yourself. If it’s a gas and oil fired tank, get a qualified contractor to take care of it.
You should have your temperature safely reduced if your hot water is being provided by a central system that is hotter than 49 degrees Celsius. You can ask your building manager to reduce the temperature if this is a problem.
Turn Your Water Heater Down When You’re Away
If you plan to be away for a few days, you can turn your hot water tank down or off. If you are not going to be using the water, there is no point reheating it over and over again. Once you are back, your water in tank will be heated up in a few hours after turning it on and/or up.
Change your Habits
Turn Down the Heat Before a Party
If you are hosting a party, it would be smart to down your thermostat before they arrive. People generate heat, so once people start occupying your home, the temperature of your home will naturally rise. So if you turn down the thermostat BEFORE THEY COME, you won’t have to open the windows when the heat rises when the party begins and instead your home will get reheated by the body temperature.
Turn Off Lights, Electronics and Appliances
Always remember to turn off any appliances, lights or electrical equipment when you’re not using them. Remember that many of today’s products feature an “instant on” set up where the appliances are always ready to be turned. This means the appliance is not being turned off fully and so energy is being consumed.
“Phantom load” is when appliances such as TV’s, clocks, memory, timer, remote control power switch or a transformer continue drawing power even when they are turned off. Although these appliances only draw a small amount of energy when turned off, they do all add up to make a significant amount that is being wasted.
To make things easier for yourself, being able to turn off all your equipment with one flick would help. To do this use power bars to get together electronics such as audio systems, video systems or computers and its accessories. When you click the power bar off, you are fully turning off your appliances that may be “phantom loading”.
Use Your Appliances Efficiently
This is a neat idea when you are cooking. Using pot lids and containing the heat in the pot will help cook your food. When doing this, you can lower your heat settings.
When using your clothes washer and dishwasher, make sure you have full loads before cleaning (not overfilled) by running the dishwasher when it is full, you will be using less water and energy to wash dishes than if you do them by hand. Before placing your dirty plates in the washer, scrape the dirt off the plate before storing them into the dishwasher. Drying the dishes with air dry, and using the energy efficient drying cycle on the dishwasher will help save more energy.
Take the Stairs
You can reduce elevator energy consumption and get you in shape if you take the stairs rather than using the elevator.
Other Things You Can Do
Report Energy Hogs
Take not of equipment or system that are not running properly in your home or building, and get them fixed or report it to a building manager. Exterior doors and windows with worn or missing weather stripping should be fixed or replaced. Overheated parking garages and other common rooms and areas should have their temperature adjusted accordingly.