Global warming, climate change, energy crisis ... you see and hear these terms every day in the media but they don’t really affect your day-to-day life. Or do they? Your lushly landscaped lawn might not be threatened by rising sea levels, but steadily rising gas, oil, and electricity prices are shrinking your budget faster than summer sun on a mountain glacier.
What to do? Well, you may have already taken some steps towards a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. Driving a hybrid vehicle—yes, even if it’s a large SUV—can help reduce your carbon footprint (there’s another of those terms) while reducing the number of times you need to fill up with fossil fuel. That’s got to make you feel good, but face it: the satisfaction of going green is all the more savory when you’re saving some green in the process. Think about that as you pull your shiny new hybrid into your drafty, energy inefficient garage and ask yourself, “If I can go green economically on the road, why can’t I do the same at home?”
Chill Out, Don’t Shill Out
The somewhat surprising answer is “Yes you can!” and the savings can be substantial.
Today’s new generation of high-efficiency, energy saving home appliances is designed to help people who want to go green at home get what they want ... starting with a low initial cost with low effort, low inconvenience, and high savings over time. In fact, energy costs over the life of an average home appliance can add up to more than the original purchase price! With that in mind, it pays—literally—to buy the most energy efficient appliances. And guess what ... both our government and the utility companies WANT us to do just that!
The Ontario government’s wildly successful “beer fridge” program is a perfect example. In 2007, the Every Kilowatt Counts initiative set its sights on the estimated 1/3 of households who keep an old refrigerator in the basement. These white, blocky dinosaurs use up to 1580 kilowatt-hours annually compared to modern fridges, which consume as little as 380 kWh. Figuring today’s much higher energy costs, the mostly empty beer fridge guzzles about $150 per year out of your bank account while the upstairs kitchen cooler sips a mere $30 annually. Now how cool is that? Of course, your shiny new fridge should be as energy efficient as possible and the same goes for your dishwasher, oven, washer and dryer, you name it. Take the time to browse the websites such as Consumer Reports before you buy, and familiarize yourself with what brands and models of white goods are the greenest. Though salespeople at retailers should also be able to direct you to their most environmentally friendly models, “should” is a relative term. As the Boy Scouts say, “Be prepared.”
Going Green, by Degrees
Once the white goods have been squared away, look at the small stuff—minor adjustments can add up to major savings. Start with your thermostat. Honestly now, do you think anyone in your house is going to notice if you set the temp a degree or two lower in the winter and the same amount higher in the summer? If you think about it, global warming predictions forecast average temperatures worldwide to climb only a few degrees over a long period of time, yet the cumulative effect on the environment will be massive. A degree or two difference in your home thermostat settings, while hardly noticeable, will have a similar effect on your energy costs over the coming years.
We’ve looked at heat, now how about light? Admit it—you’re reluctant to invest in compact fluorescent lighting because (a) they cost more than incandescent bulbs and (b) well, the average house has a lot of bulbs. Bite the bullet now and slowly but surely you’ll see the results later—starting with your next energy bill. Read it and reap the benefits of lower power usage.
Savings by the Yard
Next, look outside ... patio lighting and heaters, mosquito traps, and pool heaters are historic power hogs but history doesn’t have to be repeated when you update your outdoor mod cons. Many of the newest outdoor lighting sets incorporate integral solar panels to power them all night long without drawing a single watt from the electrical grid.
As for the pool, a solar blanket is an absolute must these days. The amount of electricity needed to heat an average Ontario backyard pool over the summer can be—dare I say it—shocking! Blanket protection is the right direction.
Allrighty then, you’ve gone through your home, inside and out, and have noted the myriad ways you can go green. You’re becoming part of the solution instead of contributing to the problem, but you really haven’t sacrificed much in the way of comfort, convenience, and coin—and hey, that’s okay! “No pain, no gain” doesn’t apply here. At the risk of alerting the metaphor police, I’ll even go as far as saying you can have your cake and eat it too ... that is, if said cake is stored in an Energy Star rated refrigerator after being baked in an energy-efficient oven.