While you're clearing out the cobwebs during spring cleaning this year, you might also consider trying a few things to make your home more energy efficient. Adopting green technologies isn't just about being good to the environment – it's also a great way to save you money! From very easy changes to major overhauls, here is a list of ways you can save money while being good to the environment.
The easiest step to take
Compact fluorescent lights use up to a third of the amount of energy as incandescent light bulbs, and last anywhere from six to 15 times longer. Replacing the lights in your house is about as easy as improving your energy efficiency gets!
They're more expensive initially (a pack of four costs about $10 compared to $3.50 for four regular bulbs), but once your house is fully switched over, you'll find you're needing to change light bulbs much less often, and one article suggests you could save $440 to $1,500 over the five-year life of the bulbs, which would be about a 12 per cent discount to your utility bill. Of course, you'll only get the energy- and money-saving benefits if you turn the lights off when you're not in the room.
A few years ago, installing CFLs meant you'd get somewhat garish lighting, but as the technology has progressed, “soft white" CFLs are now available that have the same warm light as traditional bulbs.
LEDs are poised to be the next step in energy efficient lighting, but at $30 per bulb, it's sometimes more than many people are willing to commit. But Popular Mechanics reports they can also last up to eight times longer than CFLs.
Buy some new toys
New appliances have much better energy efficiency than old appliances. Plus, by replacing your old stuff, you get a shiny new toy for your kitchen or laundry room that you can feel good about.
Especially look for appliances with the Energy Star mark, which identifies products that are designed to be more energy efficient. The rating also applies to electronics, windows and doors, and lighting.
Insulation: Boring, but important!
One of the best ways to improve energy efficiency in your home is with good insulation. Insulating helps keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
If you're going to need to tear down walls to improve your insulation, it's probably best to call a contractor, but there are a few things you can do yourself.
Plug leaks under exterior doors with an inexpensive door sweep, or if the leak is coming from the edges of the door, use foam weatherstripping. You can also buy cheap foam gaskets that fit behind the cover plates of light switches and electrical outlets. Check out this article for more easy and inexpensive home energy ideas.
Let the light shine in
Replacing windows also relates to insulating, as a lot of air can be lost through poorly sealed windows, but there are also some pretty smart technologies found in the window itself.
A window is not a simple piece of glass. As an article from Energy Saving Trust explains, energy-efficient windows “have two sheets of glass with a gap between them, usually about 16mm, to create an insulating barrier that keeps heat in." Often the gap will be filled with a clear gas, and the glass will be coated with an unnoticeable glaze, both of which help to stop heat from passing through the window, but still allow light through.
Natural Resources Canada reports that there are more than 300,000 types of window products on the market! With so many options, a little initial research and help from an expert will go a long way.
Build a net-zero home
If the sky is the limit for your energy efficient make-over, consider building a new home from scratch. With the right design, you could be living in a net-zero home: a house that creates as much energy as it uses.
Solar panel technology is becoming more and more affordable, and many cities (including Saskatoon) offer rebates for people who install solar panels. Solar panels can be installed in nearly any home, but when you build a home from scratch, you can also be sure to include passive solar design, like lots of south-facing windows, awnings to block the summer sun, and tons of other energy-saving measures.
Building a net-zero home costs more up front because you need to pay for the expertise of the builders and the initial expense of the solar panels, but right off the bat, your energy bill could be $0 per year!