How to conserve electricity use by lights, appliances and air conditioners

This is Lesson 10 of our informal online course: Home Energy 101All lessons by Philip Drader.

Our focus in this post is on how we use electricity to see and in our labour saving appliances.

As a kid I was often afraid of things in the dark that I couldn’t see. Now that I’m an adult, I’m afraid of the electrical bill instead.

Lighting efficiency: an easy upgrade

Residential energy use in Canada by activity, 2010
Source: Energy Efficiency Trends in Canada 1990-2010, Natural Resources Canada.

Well, I’m just joking, but it’s not that far from the truth. I have LED (light emitting diodes) lights and CFL bulbs (compact fluorescent lights) installed in my house. And I know that they use 1/10th to 1/5th the power of incandescent lights while having the same light output.

And while lights aren’t a huge piece of the energy pie  at 4%, they are still a significant contributor and easy to do something about.

Replace light bulbs with LEDs

LEDs have been dropping in price year after year and are an investment that most people should be making. If you don’t want to change every bulb in your house immediately, that’s not a problem. Just buy a pack of LEDs and replace bulbs as they burn out with new energy efficient ones. This way you’ll naturally tend to get the bulbs that are used the most replaced with something that will get you the same amount of light, while costing ten times less for electricity.

Upgrade old appliances for Energy Star models

washing machine at REEP HouseUpgrading appliances can be more challenging due to the money required to make a change.

It’s fairly safe to say that if it’s older than 20 years old, replacing it with a new ENERGY STAR appliance is a good choice. It’s tougher to make the call when it’s between 10 and 20 years old but still working just fine. There is no hard and fast rule there, though you can look up its energy consumption online and see how much money you’ll save each year if you bought a new one.

On the other hand, you might be thinking that each year you delay means you can get a more energy efficient appliance than what may have been available just a year before. But that is a false argument if we’re talking about a 20 year old fridge because the annual improvement is not enough to justify waiting. Replace that old fridge now! But, don’t put your stove to the curb over this since there is not much to gain in energy efficiency when it comes to heating food. This technology simply hasn’t changed much.

Consider a home energy monitor

Often times we are unaware of the power that is used to keep us comfortable. A whole-house energy monitor is an excellent device that you can install that will show you how much energy you are currently using. Place the monitor in a convenient location so that you can be aware of how much energy your house is using on your behalf. You’ll become knowledgeable enough to know when something is still on that doesn’t need to be.

We love our air conditioning too much

The electrical load from air conditioning is fairly low overall, but collectively our energy use from air conditioning is increasing. To save on air conditioning, going to a higher efficiency unit is probably not going to provide enough of a payback to justify that upgrade. But if you are going to replace your air conditioning unit anyhow, you definitely want to select a high efficiency model.

There are things you can do, behaviour-wise that can make a big impact on your use of air conditioning. First, don’t run it when you are not home– set your thermostat to a higher temperature if you aren’t there. Second, turn it off and open the upstairs windows when it’s cool at nighttime to pre-cool your home. Ideally you’ll have windows on opposite sides of the house open so you can benefit from cross-ventilation, or if you have multiple levels, opening a window one or two floors up can provide a very nice airflow boost thanks to the buoyancy of hot air.

If you have a ceiling fan, you will feel cooler when it’s running. But since it just moves air around, and doesn’t actually cool the house, turn it off when you aren’t in the room.

Things you can do to feel more comfortable when it’s hot in your home

  1. Wear less clothing, and light, free flowing fabrics that wick moisture are lovely – take those socks off.
  2. Move air around – open windows (if you don’t have the A/C on), or run fans to blow air over your skin.
  3. Don’t use incandescent lights, and turn lights off when possible.
  4. Try to cook less by eating more cold meals. If you are going to use the stove, use the rear burners and have your range hood fan on to move that heat out right away. Use the microwave more than the oven if possible.
  5. Shower with colder water, and make sure that the bathroom exhaust fan is on so you don’t end up steaming up the rest of the house when you get out.
  6. Make sure your dryer exhaust pipe is well sealed and no hot and humid air is escaping into your home.
  7. Exterior blinds for windows should be lowered if you have them, or internal shades drawn – preferably before you already have heat inside the house.


photo credit: Just looking via photopin (license)

About The Author

Leave a Reply