By Mitchell Beer, publisher of The Energy Mix
Energy efficiency. It’s the best way to save energy and money at home, while making your living or work space more comfortable and cutting your carbon footprint. It combines smart technologies with new mindsets, looking at how to get the things we need and want—heat and cooling, lighting and electronics, convenient mobility—while using and paying for less energy, not more.
It’s often the most affordable way to cut energy and carbon, since you only have to do it once—the dollars you pay to boost your energy efficiency deliver savings on your energy bill month after month.
And that makes it the first, fastest, cheapest step you can take to fight climate change.
That’s why TAF is accelerating the adoption of energy-efficient building retrofits through its TowerWise program, and helping households and businesses calculate the environmental benefits of their energy efficiency projects.
Energy efficiency is often forgotten in the drive to reduce electricity bills and get climate change under control. But that’s a problem we can each do something about. It means learning about the technologies and techniques we can use every day—at home, at work, and at play—then understanding the bigger-picture solutions we can work together to put in place.
One Step at a Time
Just as there’s no single, silver bullet to solve climate change, there’s no one thing you can do to boost your energy efficiency and consider the whole job done.
But every step along the way makes a difference.
A well-rounded efficiency program feeds on itself, with the dollars you save at each step helping to pay for the next. And if you’re in Toronto, the City is standing by to help you cover the upfront cost.
- If there are still any old, 60-watt incandescent light bulbs lurking about your home or office, you can cut that part of your electricity use almost seven-fold with nine-watt LEDs. You’ll put up more cash for each new bulb, but they more than pay for themselves through the energy you save. LED costs are falling fast, and you’ll rarely have to buy new ones, since they’re built to last a decade or more.
- Smart, programmable thermostats make your home more comfortable and reduce your energy bill, and they work well in larger apartment buildings.
- Heat pumps rely on the temperature difference between indoors and out, using heat from the ground, air, or water to warm your living space. Then you can run them in reverse in the summer to provide air conditioning. Heat pumps cut your energy costs and carbon emissions by replacing the natural gas that provides much of the GTHA’s home heating.
- Whether you live in a single home or a high rise, the moment to upgrade your building envelope is when you’re already scheduled to replace the windows, doors, or roof, patch the foundation, or make other major repairs. The added cost of the energy retrofit is just a fraction of the bigger project. The savings come back to you in the form of reduced gas, electricity, and water use, lower maintenance and equipment replacement costs, and higher resale value.
- Similarly, the moment to look at the energy efficiency of your major appliances is when you first begin to think about replacing them. Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) maintains a list of certified ENERGY STAR devices.
- If you work in a larger organization or any kind of commercial space, an energy manager program can help your employer unlock energy and dollar savings they may never have expected to find. Even if your motivation for raising the issue is to cut your company’s carbon footprint, don’t be too surprised if the winning argument is the opportunity for cost savings that go straight to the bottom line. If you’re looking for program support, TAF can help.
- You can cut your commuting costs by driving less, leaving the car in the driveway for when you really need it. From car-sharing and microtransit, to varying your work hours to avoid peak congestion, to working from home one day per week, to walking and biking when you can, you can cut the cost and the stress of car ownership. One researcher says reducing every household’s driving distance by just 6.4 kilometres per day would be enough to meet a fairly ambitious carbon reduction target.
- And once again, fuel efficiency is one of the factors to keep in mind if your next car is not an electric or hybrid model. NRCan’s latest fuel consumption guide helps you do your part on tailpipe emissions, after Canada made the tough decision to join California’s push for a more rigorous North American tailpipe standard.
The Bigger Picture
There’s plenty we can do in our own lives to reduce our everyday energy use. There’s also a whole other level of bigger-picture solutions—from lake-cooled district energy, to electric rail, to wider use of green roofs, to more compact city development—that we can get at by working together with our neighbours, friends, colleagues, and city officials.
It begins with digging into your own consumption, calculating the energy and carbon you can save, and looking at how fast those savings will pay back the initial investment. Once you’ve made that personal commitment, the next step is look at how our public institutions can follow suit and support the drive to cut the GTHA’s greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050.