Eight energy-smart ways to cut household expenses

Proper maintenance of your appliances extends their life and helps with energy efficiency at home.

By Patrick Langston, All Things Home

With our dollars stretched thin and climate change upon us, household energy efficiency is more important than ever..

Cutting back on energy consumption and bills — along with the greenhouse gases that often accompany energy use — doesn’t have to be complicated.

Here are eight simple household energy efficiency tips to get started.

Adjust the thermostat: Every one degree Celsius that you raise your thermostat in summer or lower it in winter saves you two to three per cent on your energy bill. It’s not a fortune, but why not use the money you save for a family outing instead of putting it into your energy supplier’s bank account? Remember in particular to adjust the thermostat when you go to bed or when the house is empty.

Furnace and air conditioner tune up: An annual, professional inspection and cleaning of your air conditioner and furnace helps ensure they are operating at maximum efficiency, keeping your home comfortable and your energy bills under control. Don’t forget about maintaining your heat recovery ventilator (HRV) and changing furnace and other filters on a regular basis, both of which are tasks homeowners can often do themselves by checking their operating or homeowner manuals.

Max out your stove: Check your oven door seal to ensure expensive heat is not escaping. Except when baking, there’s no need to wait until the oven has hit operating temperature to put food in it; the food will warm as the oven does and, in most cases, reduce cooking time. Remember to turn off the oven a few minutes before cooking is completely finished; the remaining heat inside the oven will finish the job for you.

Washing machine smarts: For greater household energy efficiency, wash clothes in cold water whenever possible. If that doesn’t work, wash in warm water and rinse in cold; you’ll use only half the energy compared to washing and rinsing in hot water. Maintaining your washing machine and dishwasher can extend their life and improve their performance, saving you money in the process.

Dryer tips: Cleaning the lint trap every time you use the appliance not only reduces the risk of a dryer fire, it maximizes efficiency by improving air flow. Put all your thin, fast-drying items in the same load so you can reduce drying time. Better yet, why not use a clothesline whenever you can? It slashes energy consumption, saves the expense and waste of dryer sheets, gets you outside and makes your clothes smell naturally fresh.

Outdoor lighting: If you haven’t already done so, switch to energy-miser LED for general outdoor and seasonal lighting. This move to household energy efficiency will pay for itself many times over during the life of your home.

Energy-efficient electronics: When it’s time to replace those household electronic devices like fridges, stoves and dryers, insist on Energy Star models. They cost more but are big energy savers. For example, an Energy Star television uses 25 per cent less energy than a standard model.

Power thieves: Computers, gaming units, microwave ovens and other electronics consume power even when turned off because they remain in “standby” mode. That can add five to 10 per cent to your household electrical bill. Save unnecessary expense by plugging them into power bars and turning off the bars when the devices are not in use.

Patrick Langston is the co-founder of All Things Home Inc. The veteran journalist has covered the Ottawa housing industry since 2008.


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