Monday, January 2, 2012

This New Year, go on an energy diet

The New Brunswick Lung Association announced this week that they will be running a pilot program to help households monitor, manage and reduce their daily energy consumption. The 100 households chosen to participate in the program will be outfitted with energy metres enabling them to monitor how much they’re spending on electricity. The idea is that awareness will lead to change and that participants will begin to reduce their power consumption when they can see clearly what’s hogging the power in their homes.

According to the Lung Association, studies show that home energy monitors can motivate behaviour change in individuals and reduce electrical consumption between 5% and 20% which in turn reduces our dependence on dirty forms of power generation (ex.  coal fired generating plants). This means less air pollution, a key goal of the Lung Association.
Whether you’ve signed up for this pilot or not, it’s safe to say that we could all start the New Year on an energy diet, especially after the energy excesses of the holidays.
Wondering where to begin? The typical household energy consumption breaks down like this: 60% for heat, 20% for hot water, 15% for appliances and 5% for lights. You’ll get the biggest bang for your buck if you start by doing all that you can to keep the cold out and the heat in. An energy audit can help you identify sources of heat loss in your home, and offer many do-it-yourself fixes. Keeping your furnace in good working order is important, including changing your furnace filter regularly. Turning your heat down just one or two degrees offers big savings as well. For every degree you lower the thermostat during heating season, you'll save between 1 and 3% of your heating bill. (Programmable thermostats make this easier).  A sweater is worth about 2 degrees in added warmth and a heavy sweater about 4 degrees. To make the most of your hard-earned heat check that beds, couches and other furniture aren’t blocking radiators.
Tackling your hot water usage is another energy saver. Check your hot water heater to see that it’s set no hotter than 120 degrees (any hotter is a waste of money.) Install low flow shower heads for a more efficient use of hot water (up to 60% less for a typical shower). Limit or avoid hot water clothes washing. Cold water washes use 90% less energy than hot water washes and today’s detergents are formulated to work well in cold water.  

To reduce the amount of energy consumed by appliances, match your appliance size to your need. Ensure that your refrigerator and freezer seals are snug and that the rear coils are clean. Become less dependent on the clothes dryer and use a clothes line or drying racks instead, especially for large items that take longer to dry.

Reducing your energy consumption is a painless diet that leaves money in your pocket and will help to make our air cleaner. Here’s to New Year’s diet resolutions!

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