Reducing Energy Waste is a Win-Win
Saving energy is one of the best things you can do for the earth – and yourself.
By Angela BischoffThe planet wins because we use fewer resources and produce less pollution, including greenhouse gases that are rapidly destabilizing our climate. You win because getting energy fit can save you money while making your home more comfortable (goodbye drafts and cold spots).
We all win because reduced energy demand means the province doesn’t have to pump billions of dollars into new gas or nuclear plants and transmission lines. And you know those dollars are going to eventually come out of your pocket.
So how do you start saving energy? Look around. Is your home equipped with energy efficient lighting? How about your appliances? If you’re thinking of replacing any, make sure you look for EnergyStar-rated models. But don’t stop there. Also check the Energuide label on the appliance to see exactly how much energy it will use – not all EnergyStar models are created alike. A particularly good investment is a front-loading clothes washer, which will save loads of energy and water with every dirty sock you throw at it. And look for appliances with built-in delay functions so you can conveniently run them in off-peak power periods.
Now let’s move on to the bigger issue – your home itself. Almost all of us use natural gas to heat our home, and more and more of us use electricity to cool them. Reducing your energy consumption by better insulating your home, sealing cracks and gaps, or installing better windows and doors can make your home a lot more comfortable while slashing your heating and cooling costs.
And have you ever noticed where the exhaust from your furnace and water heater goes? Probably right out of the side of your house and into your neighbourhood at nose level. So you’re really doing yourself and your neighbours a favour by investing in the most efficient heating equipment possible.
Again, pay close attention to those EnerGuide labels and also consider going tankless for water heating. An air exchanger that heats fresh incoming cold air with the warm stale air going out can also be a good investment. And another neat add on is a drain water heat recovery unit that uses a coil wrapped around the outside of your main drain to capture the heat from that hot shower water to pre-heat the water flowing into your water tank. Visit https://saveonenergy.ca/Consumer/Programs/HVAC-Rebates.aspx for information on current incentives available for upgrading heating and cooling equipment.
Air conditioning is becoming more and more common in our city and with predictions of strings of 40 degree summer days coming to Toronto courtesy of climate change, it will probably only become more standard. Of course one of our big problems is that right now we often fire up polluting gas plants on hot summer days to feed power to our A/Cs. The same steps you took to reduce your heating load – more insulation, fewer leaky doors and windows – will help reduce your air conditioning demand (and peak period electricity bills). Try closing windows and drawing blinds during the day to keep heat out; consider awnings over south and west facing windows, and plant a tree on the south or west sides as well.
If you are going to use A/C, make sure you are enrolled in Toronto Hydro’s peaksaver plus program. This program allows Hydro to dial back banks of air conditioners during extreme peak demand periods so we don’t have to use those gas plants so much. You probably won’t even notice it has happened and it will only happen a handful of times (at most) each summer. Plus you get a nifty free energy display for enrolling. Find out more at https://www.torontohydro.com/sites/electricsystem/electricityconservation/residentialconservation/Pages/peaksaver.aspx
Now if efficiency is such a great thing, you might wonder why our governments aren’t doing more to promote these kinds of measures. It’s a good question, because efficiency is the cheapest and most environmentally friendly way to meet our energy needs. The Clean Air Alliance is calling on Premier Wynne to become our “Efficiency Premier” and commit the province to helping its residents and businesses to do everything they can to reduce energy waste. That would be the best way to celebrate Earth Day.
Angela Bischoff is Outreach Director of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance