Sometimes it’s difficult to understand how the steps you take to help the environment actually makes a difference. You recycle, cut down on your consumption, but what impact is it really having? When it comes to conserving energy, you’re probably asking yourself the same question. But making your home more energy efficient does play an important role in preserving our environment.
Why is energy-saving important?
Saving energy at home has a direct impact on the environment. Many power plants burn coal or other fossil fuels to produce electricity. Carbon dioxide is one of the byproducts of burning fossil fuels, which, on its own, isn’t a problem. The problem is excess carbon dioxide traps a lot of heat in our atmosphere, which is not good for our environment.
When you increase your home energy efficiency, you reduce your energy consumption, which reduces the amount of electricity that power plants need to generate. This leads to fewer fossil fuels being released into our atmosphere, which has a positive effect on the environment.
What does it take to conserve energy at home?
It doesn’t take a lot. Conserving energy at home is all about changing or adjusting some of your daily behaviours. Adjusting your behaviour starts with changing your mindset. You have to believe that what you are doing is actually making a difference. We gave you one example of how saving energy at home has a direct effect on the environment. But conserving energy can also help you save money, which is never a bad thing.
Whether you’re motivated more by the financial savings or the environmental impact, the important thing is to start taking steps to conserve energy. There are small things you can do, and as you become more knowledgeable and comfortable with those steps, you can move on to larger actions that require a bit more effort.
5 Easy ways to immediately make your home more energy efficient
There are dozens of ways to save on energy in your home. Here are some simple actions you can take today to get started.
1. Adjust your daily habits
There are things you can do daily to reduce your energy consumption. Turn off lights when you’re not in the room, turn down your thermostat in the winter and wear warm clothes inside. These may seem inconsequential, but heating and cooling make up about half of your energy bill, so turning down your thermostat saves both the environment and your wallet.
Pro Tip: Try investing in smart-thermostats. They can automate to your preferred temperature, so you’re not cranking up the heat or AC.
2. Cut down on shower times
Canadians and Americans are some of the highest water consumers in the world, averaging four and sometimes five times the amount of water consumption than European countries. To combat this, cut your shower time in half. Set a timer for five minutes and stick to it, and don’t turn on the water till you’re actually in your shower.
Pro Tip: Investing in a low-flow shower head. They can save over 42,000 litres of water and 1180 kWh of power each year. That can lead to savings of about $100/year.
3. Unplug electronic devices when not in use
This is a surprising statistic: “75 per cent of the energy used to power household electronics is consumed when they are switched off.” That phenomenon is called Phantom Energy and can cost you up to $200 CAD a year. Unplugging your devices will ensure that power isn’t wasted when they’re not in use.
Pro Tip: Smart Strips shut the power off to electric devices when they’re not being used. You can also upgrade your appliances to Energy Star certified models for more savings.
4. Replace your light bulbs
Another simple but effective way to save energy is by replacing your lightbulbs. It’s a longer-term investment in energy savings because LED and similar energy-saving bulbs cost more than standard incandescent. However, they last longer and can use up to 80 per cent less energy.
Pro Tip: In addition to LED bulbs, you can also try compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). Both are great for energy efficiency.
5. Wash your clothes in cold water
It might be hard to believe, but washing your clothes uses more water than showering and using your dishwasher combined. On a positive note, it means there are lots of opportunities to save. Washing your clothes in cold water helps, in addition, to hang drying instead of using the dryer.
Pro Tip: Invest in a high-efficiency model washing machine. It will help save energy regardless of which cycle you use, though cold water is always preferred.
Looking for more tips on reducing your carbon footprint? Read more about how to achieve sustainable living and the top 5 sustainable living tips.
3 Advanced ways to conserve energy in your home
We just gave you five basic ways to immediately make your home more energy-efficient. If you incorporate any or all of these actions into your daily routine, you’ll already be making a difference. That said, there are a few more advanced home improvements you can take to conserve energy at home.
1. Double-pane windows
With windows taking up about 20 per cent of your home’s surface area, they can be a source of heating and cooling loss for your home. Air can leak through even the best single-pane windows, and investing in double pane windows can save you up to 25 percent of your yearly heating costs. Upgrading to Energy Star certified models makes these savings possible.
2. Plant hedges and shrubs for Insulation
Planting hedges and shrubs within 30 cm from your wall’s exterior can actually help insulate your home. They act as windbreakers, and if you’re able to plant enough of them, they function much the same way as trees do in protecting your home from the sun.
3. Give your HVAC system an upgrade
Upgrading your HVAC system should be thought of as an investment rather than a singular cost. Heating and cooling your home has such a significant impact on your energy consumption that it would be worth considering RBC’s Energy Saver Program to offset the upfront investment. If your system is more than 15-20 years old, the efficiency of the upgraded model will save you money by reducing your energy usage. As you think about the maintenance of your home and what that means both for your current and future value, an RBC energy loan really is a smart investment.
4. Invest in solar panels
When we said advanced, we meant it. But don’t feel too overwhelmed at the thought of installing solar panels in your home. Solar panels help maximize energy from the sun, which is the ultimate source of renewable energy. It’s a long-term investment that will save you money while making a measurable difference in reducing your carbon footprint. If cost is a challenge, there are options. RBC has loan programs specifically designed for eco-upgrades for your home. In addition to easy payment options and optional loan protection insurance, the RBC Energy Saver loan program allows you to skip what is equivalent to one payment each year. That’s a crucial offering as we continue to manage the future of our economy. Alternatively, your province may offer some grants or programs. More on those opportunities below.
Start with a home energy audit
In your mission to make your home more energy-efficient, it’s a good idea to start with a home energy audit. A home energy audit is a report generated by a licensed professional who is specially trained to examine your home’s major heating and cooling systems. They will make recommendations to help you improve your home’s energy efficiency and lower your energy costs. You can use their assessment to decide what you want to do and how much you want to spend.
RBC has an Energy Saver loan program for homeowners that can help with the cost of an audit.
What programs are available to help you save?
As we already mentioned, the RBC Energy Saver Program is a great place to start. It offers a rebate on the cost of your home audit, which can help you find ways to make your home more energy-efficient. The RBC plan also offers flexible terms, so you can choose how long (between 5-10 years) you’d like to pay off your loan.
There are other programs and incentives available. The Canadian government has a directory of energy-saving programs which include home energy-saving rebates that you can search by province. These programs offer incentives for homeowners to make their homes more energy-efficient. There are also programs like the Low Income Energy Assistance Program designed for lower-income households to take advantage of.
If the environment is important to you and you want to take steps to help, plus save money in the process, check out RBC’s Energy Saver Loan.
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This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.