By Chantal Keerak
If you are like most renters, you would like to save energy but you don’t want to invest money into a home you don’t own. Luckily, there are some low cost energy saving solutions that both homeowners and renters should take advantage of.
Programmable thermostats – You can get a good Energy Star programmable thermostat for less than $40. If you have a forced air furnace in your home there is no excuse not to have a programmable thermostat. Programming your thermostat to drop to 16°C at night and when not at home can add up to 13 per cent in energy savings.
Cut your phantom loads – Did you know that a typical North American home has 20-27 electronic devices that draw power even when sitting in standby mode? These phantom loads can easily add up to 10 per cent of your home electrical usage. The most inexpensive way to stop these loads is to unplug things like your coffee maker, microwave, chargers and similar equipment when not in use. Plugging in all your audio-visual and computer equipment into a powerbar and simply flicking the switch when you aren’t using it will also help stop the phantom loads. For about $45 you can get a really cool Smart Strip Powerbar. When something that is plugged into the master outlet on the power bar has been turned off it automatically cuts power to all the peripheral outlets. Smart Strip also has a charging station that you can plug all your chargers into and when your electronics are fully charged it will automatically cut power to them. When purchasing new electronics look for Energy Star models which tend to use less energy and have much lower standby loads.
Stop your Drafts – You can take care of most drafts very easily. All you really need is some inexpensive caulking, weather-stripping, window film, foam gaskets for the electrical outlets and maybe a door sweep or two.
Energy efficient lighting – Compact Fluorescents (CFLs) are 75 per cent more efficient than incandescent light bulbs. The cheaper CFLs tend not to last as long in places like bathrooms where the lights are flicked on and off for short periods of time. For these locations look for higher quality bulbs that use cold cathode technology. I may run the risk of sounding like your nagging parents but if you are going to be out of a room for more than five minutes turning out the lights really is a no brainer!
Reduce hot water usage – If you have an older shower head it is likely dropping about 15-30 litres of water on your head every minute, meaning a 20-minute shower uses 300-600 litres of water. I don’t care how dirty you are I doubt you really need that much water to get clean! The wasted water is one thing but what about the energy required to heat that water? Low-flow shower heads are inexpensive and easy to install. The performance of low flow shower heads are also continually improving and there are many now that work just as well as the old water hogs. One other way to cut your hot water usage is to wash your clothes in cold water. Many new detergents are designed for cold water usage. While we are on the topic of laundry dryers are one of the highest energy consumers in the home. Why not hang those freshly washed clothes and save even more energy?
Electric heaters – At current energy prices, if your home is heated by oil, using electric heaters will reduce the overall energy cost. Zone heating the rooms that you occupy and lowering the temperature in the other rooms can also help you save money. Make sure you don’t drop the temperature in the other rooms below 16 °C however or you may run into moisture problems.
Routine maintenance – When a dust bunny colony has settled on your refrigerator coils they tend to impede its performance. So arm yourself with your vacuum and relocate them to the bottom of your vacuum bag. The same thing applies to your baseboard heaters and radiators. A coating of dust, hairballs, and who knows what else on the fins makes it hard for the heat to be distributed effectively. Furnace filters should also be replaced at least every three months. If the filters are clogged your furnace has to work even harder to get the heat distributed throughout your house dropping its efficiency.
Chantal Keerak is a professional mechanical engineer. Her Revelstoke-based company, VerdaTech Energy Management and Consulting B.C., provides heating and ventilation system design and energy efficiency assessments for residential and commercial buildings throughout B.C.