With a few tweaks to your habits and a little DIY, you can make your home more comfortable and save money too.
New high-efficiency furnaces use the least amount of energy, but older models can also be made more efficient. Annual servicing by a professional is the first step. That will involve cleaning the parts you can’t see or reach and making sure it isn’t working harder than it has to. For your part, replacing filters every three months more if you’ve done renovations or have pets ensures air moves easily into the unit and also prolongs your furnace's life.
On-demand water heaters are often the most efficient choice, since water is only heated when it's in use. For electric hot water tanks, try wrapping them in an insulating blanket to reduce heat loss.
Hot air can escape through joints in ductwork. That means you’re paying to heat places you don’t want to (for instance, an unfinished basement) and not getting heat to areas you do (upper floor rooms). Applying heating-vent tape to all visible joints will help.
Without an airtight seal, you’re wasting energy when heating and cooling your home. Check for drafts by holding a lit incense stick or a candle around window frames and doors. If it flickers, you have a draft. Use caulking around frames, install or replace weatherstripping, and add a door sweep. In colder months, applying exterior window film will increase efficiency even further.
Ceiling fans are great when you need to cool bedrooms, but not the whole house, especially at night. The fan will also help in cold months most come with a “reverse” option that pushes hot air down into the room.
The washer, dryer and dishwasher all use a lot of energy and often run for long periods of time. If you are on time-of-use rates, try shifting your schedule to wash clothes or dishes in the evening or any time on weekends. Also consider using the air-dry option on the dishwasher and washing clothes on a shorter cycle.
Dryers can account for up to six per cent of a home’s total energy use. Hang your clothes outside in warm months and inside to air dry during the winter when possible.
When the vent at the back of the refrigerator and the clothes dryer exhaust get clogged with dust, the motors work harder, requiring more energy. Vacuum those areas a couple of times every year.
A smart thermostat can reduce your heating and cooling costs by up to 15 per cent. It work by learning your habits and adjusting the temperature automatically. For example, if you tend to turn the temperature down before bed at 10 p.m., a smart thermostat will start making that adjustment automatically. You can also control a smart thermostat from an app, whether you're at home or not. So, if your schedule changes unexpectedly, you can still maintain control of your heating and cooling costs from the palm of your hand.
Automating your lighting can also help you save. For lights, install dimmer switches and motion sensors that turn off when you leave the room.
Plug countertop appliances and electronic devices into a power bar and program it to switch off at night. Remember that televisions, cable boxes, PVRs and game consoles suck energy even when they're not in use. Having them all on a single power bar makes it easy to switch them off before everyone goes to bed.
Chargers that are plugged in draw power even when no device is attached. Once your phones, tablets or other devices are fully charged, unplug it it keeps drawing energy if you don’t.
Once you’ve done everything you can accomplish yourself, a professional can tell you where there’s room for improvement and more savings.