ESVI endorses the four “R’s” of sustainable community energy planning and use. The first step is to reduce our energy use by turning off lights and appliances when we’re not using them and employ other energy conservation measures such as draftproofing and insulation improvements as well as upgrading appliances to Energy Star when practical. The next step is to re-use any available waste energy for home or water heating applications. A classic way of doing this is with a District Energy System. The next step is to use renewable sources of heat for our home or business energy needs. Generation of renewable electricity is actually the last step in sustainable community energy use.
The reasons that generation of renewable energy is the last step is that saving energy not only makes environmental sense, it also usually makes more financial sense than investing in new energy sources. While it is not sexy to add insulation to one’s attic, feeling comfortable and having lower utility bills are certainly benefits! Having a certified energy audit can really help in these ways, plus your home may increase in value.
What are the best ways to save energy in your home?
- If your home is older, and especially if it has more than one level, draft-proofing is the least expensive measure you can take to improve comfort and save heat.
- Insulation matters! Having at least a foot of it in your attic makes a real difference, and cuts down on unwanted summer-time heating, too! Most of us, however, are unaware that the #1 mover of heat is radiant (such as the heat from the sun, and your lover!). Radiant heat moves in all directions, including down! Homes without insulation above the crawl space and a lack of insulation on the slab and especially the concrete basement walls are the most typical sources of heat loss.
- The thermostat pictured above, like most, is very inefficient. Replacing baseboard units with Energy Star models can save you up to 10% on your heating bills!
- Fireplaces are very wasteful unless they have air-tight inserts that are well sealed (many are not). Most people leave their fireplace dampers open through the winter, effectively air conditioning their homes!
- Windows are often the #1 source of heat loss (and gain). Replacing them is expensive, but the increase in comfort and resale value, the reduced heating and air conditioning costs as well as street noise levels, makes them well worth the effort to upgrade.
- Heat pumps offer superior efficiency -often three times better than simple baseboard heaters! Newer models are far quieter than are the old ones.
- Building new? The most efficient heating delivery system (and the quietest, too) is in-floor radiant hot water. Add a heat pump to this and you’ll enjoy relatively very low heating costs.
What about heat losses in commercial buildings? Many such buildings are poorly insulated, and in non-office spaces are often drafty as well. Lighting and windows are a prime locations to upgrade. Incentives are available from BC Hydro for lighting!