If you are like most renters, you would like to save energy but you don’t want to invest money into a home that you don’t own. To help keep the fuel bills lower here are some low cost energy saving solutions that renters, and homeowners, should take advantage of.
You can buy an Energy Star programmable thermostat for around $40. Setting the thermostat to drop to 16 C at night and when not at home can add up to approximately 13 per cent in energy savings. Also, if you have baseboard heating, then a thermostat in each room will enable you to zone each room at different temperatures according to its use.
Cut your phantom loads
There are several devices in the home that will continue to use electricity even when you think they are turned off. The usual culprits include phone chargers, coffeemakers, microwaves and much of the audio-visual and computer equipment used in most homes.
The cheapest way to prevent phantom loads is to simply unplug the appliance. Another way is to invest in a power bar that can then be turned off when you have finished using the equipment. There is a simple tool that you can buy at most hardware stores called a Kill-A-Watt. With this you can find out which appliances are using phantom loads and how much power is being used for each appliance. They cost around $30-$40 and you will probably save that amount in the first year or so simply by unplugging the guilty appliances.
Stop the drafts
There is nothing worse than sitting in a draft. Draft proofing is cheap and easy to do. A few tubes of caulking, some good door seals and sweeps, and a packet or two of foam gaskets for the electrical outlets will work wonders.
Energy efficient lighting
Compact fluorescents (CFLs) are up to 75 per cent more efficient that incandescent light bulbs. The quality of these has improved greatly over the last two or three years and they can now be bought for dimmable lights, and in several colour temperatures from yellow through to bright white.
Keep a look out for LED lights, as well. They may be a little expensive at the moment, but the cost is coming down. And don’t forget, the most energy efficient light bulb is one that is turned off.
Reduce hot water usage
If you have an older showerhead, it is likely dropping 15-30 litres of water on your head every minute. Apart from the waste of water involved — that’s another topic entirely — there is a big energy cost involved in heating this water. Low-flow showerheads are inexpensive and easy to install. The performance of these heads is continually improving and there are many that now work as well as the old water hogs.
Try washing your clothes in cold water. Many detergents are designed for cold-water usage.
While we are on the topic of laundry, did you know that the dryer is one of the highest energy consumers in the home? For many months of the year, why not invest in a solar powered drier, also known as a washing line? Hang out the washing and save some money.
Just occasionally run the vacuum over the coils on the back of the refrigerator and also over the fins of any baseboards you may use. Removing this layer of dust will ensure maximum efficiency. Change the furnace filter every two or three months. A clogged or dirty filter will need the furnace to work harder to effectively distribute heat throughout our house.
Ray Smith was a builder of very energy efficient houses in Europe before arriving in B.C. in the fall of 2007. His Creston based company, Kootenay Energy Advisor, provides heating and ventilation system design, energy efficiency assessments for residential and commercial buildings and also the Energuide for New Homes program.
— RAY SMITH/KOOTENAY ENERGY ADVISOR