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Energy-saving tips from around the world

From northern Europe to Asia, there are plenty of innovative ways people across the globe are saving energy at home.

Around the world people are finding ways to minimize their energy consumption and save money, starting in their homes. Check out these five energy-saving tips inspired by other countries and see how you can make them work for you, here in Ontario.

Japan: Living curtains & green walls

living wall in Japan

Japan’s energy-saving living curtain is the solution to hot summer days and cold winter nights. This trendy tip has roots in Japan’s commercial industries, including buildings and factories. Since then, it’s spread to many residential areas throughout the country.

Picture floor to ceiling draping vines of foliage that not only make for beautiful decoration and a focal point to your home, but also provide shade and cooling to windows and balconies. Plus, they offer insulating effects, too.

Exterior green walls have also been shown to reduce the temperature of walls by 10 degrees by reflecting direct sunlight. In the winter, these green walls can insulate your home and reduce energy costs for heating. 

Want to integrate a similar technique into your own home? Look for evergreen plants to keep green curtains and walls fresh all year long. 

Germany: Passive housing

Passive house in Germany

The concept of passive housing, which started in Germany, has become an international phenomenon in recent years. Passive housing promotes voluntary, performance-based energy standards when constructing homes. The standard includes continuous insulation, well insulated windows and appropriate shading, airtightness, ventilation, and eliminating thermal bridges.

If you’re building a new home, you’ll find that Ontario’s building codes already incorporate some elements of passive housing. Recently, The Ontario Building Code standards were updated to include the use of more energy efficient building products (such as insulation, windows, furnaces and water heaters), making homes 15 per cent (minimum) more energy efficient. 

If you’re not building a new home but are inspired by this kind of German efficiency, start by making gradual improvements throughout your home over time. Upgrading to more energy-efficient windows is a simple place to start. There are also specialized passive house companies in Ontario that provide retrofitting services and can help get you started.

Norway: Reduced light-mode technology

auto-dimming streetlights on road by the sea at night


Norway has successfully incorporated smart lighting into its infrastructure, especially on roadways. For example, some stretches of highway include auto-dimming street lights. The LED lights dim to 20 per cent when there are no vehicles, bikes, or pedestrians in the area but climb back up to 100 per cent once the lights detect movement. After the movement passes, the light returns to its dim state, saving energy when not in use. The initiative saves 2,100 kWh per week from just one of the highway installations.

Homeowners can take inspiration from Norway by using smart lighting throughout their homes. Outdoor motion detection lights that turn on and off based on movement can help save energy on porches, garages, and other less frequented areas of the home.

Reduced light mode technology, meanwhile, turns on fully when movement is detected and turns down to dim lighting after 20 seconds. These are great additions for hallways because they let you easily navigate your home in the dark – an important feature for parents of young kids, and for that occasional late-night snack. Try incorporating both motion detection lights and reduced light mode technology in your home to help reduce your energy consumption.

Netherlands: Hunting for phantoms

unplugging from loaded outlet


The Dutch Central government gave its residents a neat exercise to find phantom electronics in their homes by telling them to turn off all the lights and be on the lookout for any shining light glaring back at them. Phantom electronics are all those sneaky appliances and devices that continue to consume energy even when they’re not in use. Think gaming consoles, phone chargers and TVs. Phantom electronics continue to use energy and add to your electricity bill even if not in use. If the appliance is connected to the wall, it’s using electricity.

Homeowners can try hunting for phantom electronics and unplug less used appliances (that blender you use every morning) and electrical devices. 

All around the world, homeowners are proving that saving energy can be simple while adding comfort and value to your home. Whether installing a green curtain, unplugging phantom electronics or investing in ENERGY STAR-certified windows, these small steps can lead to big energy savings over time.

New Zealand and Australia:
Prioritizing energy-efficient products

man setting eco mode on an appliance


New Zealand and Australia have partnered to bring energy-efficient products to their residents with the E3 Programme. Under the program, minimum energy performance standards are set for a number of products such as lightbulbs, home appliances, electronics and more. Only products that meet or exceed the standards set by the countries can be sold. 

To help consumers identify how energy-efficient a product is, an Energy Rating Label is attached to each E3 programme product. The label includes a star rating out of six, the more stars a product has the more energy efficient it is. It also includes an estimated annual energy consumption of the product so consumers can easily compare energy use between similar models. 

Back in Ontario, look for ENERGY STAR-certified products when you’re purchasing new electronics or appliances for your home. The ENERGY STAR rating and label helps easily identify which products are energy efficient. Similar to the E3 programme, the ENERGY STAR label includes information on how energy-efficient a product is so that you can easily compare it to other available models.

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