When it comes to making your home more energy efficient, you can easily make small changes that won’t cost you a dime. With even a modest budget, big changes are possible, especially if you qualify for some of the grants and rebates available to home buyers and owners going green. And you’ll recoup energy costs in the long-term making these change worthwhile. Where to begin?
Here are 50 ways to help green your home.
Choosing where you live
1. Green neighbourhoods. Buy a home in a neighbourhood close to work, transit, shopping, community centres and other services.
2. Transit-oriented density (TOD). New, compact, complete green neighbourhoods are being built with transit as their focus. Instead of owning a car, join a car share cooperative, take transit, cycle or walk.
3. Lower-cost luxury. If it’s features such as a gym or pool you want, buy a strata unit with these amenities and share costs.
4. Score your location. Walkable neighbourhoods offer health, environmental, financial and community benefits. Enter your address or the address of a home you want to buy at www.walkscore.com. This tool calculates a walkability score based on the home’s proximity to transit, grocery stores, schools and other amenities.
Heating and cooling
5. Get an energy audit. LiveSmart BC will cover $150 of the cost.
6. Install a high-efficiency heating system. Make sure it’s ENERGY STAR rated.
8. Insulate your pipes. It will prevent costly heat loss. Here’s how.
9. Insulate your hot water heater. Buy a pre-cut jacket or blanket for $10–$20. You’ll save up to 10% on heating costs.
10. Install a programmable thermostat. Set it lower at night and during the day when you’re away. Lower the temperature. Each degree below 20C saves you 3-5% on heating costs.
11. Clean your furnace filter. This optimizes performance.
12. Get the most from your fireplace. Here’s how to make it efficient.
13. Use curtains. In the daytime during summer, close to help cool your home.
14. Install ceiling fans. The energy it takes to run a fan is less than an air conditioner. In summer, make sure the fan's blades are rotating anti-clockwise for a cooling effect. In winter, the fan should be running clockwise, pushing the warm air down.
15. Use a portable fan. On hot summer days, place a bowl of ice in front of it to cool down.
16. Fix leaks. Fix leaking taps. One drop per second equals 7,000 litres of water wasted per year.
17. Install a filter. Stop buying costly bottled water which adds to the landfill.
18. Change your light bulbs. Lighting accounts for 15% of your energy bill. Replace old bulbs with ENERGY STAR rated bulbs. Check for rebates.
19. Sensor lights. Turn lights off outside when not in use.
20. Keep it dark. Light pollution is an increasing problem. Turn off outdoor lights to save energy and encourage night life such as bats and frogs. A single bat can eat tens of thousands of mosquitoes nightly. If you have safety concerns, use motion detector lights – which come on, only as needed.
21. Holiday lights. Use LED lights.
22. Replace your fridge. An old energy guzzling fridge costs you about $85 a year to operate. Replace it with an ENERGY STAR fridge. BC Hydro will rebate you $50. BC Hydro will also not only come and pick up your old fridge free-of charge, they’ll rebate you $30.
23. Replace your dishwasher. Buy an ENERGY STAR appliance. BC Hydro will rebate you $25.
24. Replace your freezer. Buy an ENERGY STAR appliance and BC Hydro will rebate you $25.
25. Low flow shower. Hot water accounts for 25% of your energy costs. For a $15 investment you can save half the water of a standard shower say experts.
26. High efficiency or dual flush (you choose the amount of water used) toilets. These are now required in new homes because of water savings.
27. Use smart strips. Also known as power bars, this lets you power off all equipment at the same time.
28. Buy energy smart electronics. There are rebates.
29. Recycle your old electronics.
30. Conserve water. Fresh water comprises just 3% the world’s total water supply, so conserve. Get a rain barrel and harvest water you can use in your garden. Local governments such as Vancouver and Richmond will subsidize the cost.
31. Drip irrigation. It saves water compared to sprinklers.
32. Elbow grease. Don’t power wash your driveway. Sweep it or use a scrub brush and pail.
33. Less lawn. Lawns waste water. Instead conserve and beautify using indigenous plants such as ferns, tiger lilies and hostas.
34. Grow your own. How much more will you spend on food this year? Even a few miniature fruit trees and a small vegetable garden in a raised bed or in containers will help keep you healthy and save you dollars. Lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries and blueberries thrive in our climate. Here’s how.
35. Preserve your produce. Invest in home canning jars and equipment and a small freezer and enjoy your produce year round – at considerable savings. Here’s how.
36. Bee friendly. We need bees to pollinate, so get a few plant bee-friendly annuals such as asters, marigolds, sunflowers, zinnias; or perennials such as clematis, foxgloves, hollyhocks, roses or shrubs such as Buddleia.
37. Go chemical-free. “Get rid of weeds without using chemicals that harm us and our pets,” advises REALTOR® and Richmond City councillor, Derek Dang, who led the way to a bylaw banning cosmetic pesticides. His suggestion, “Use dish detergent or weed by hand.”
38. Plant fruit trees. They’ll give you shade and fruit. Plum, apple, pear and more.
39. Compost. It will make your garden grow and divert waste from the landfill.
Green and clean
40. Clean green. Vinegar, baking soda and lemons clean as well as expensive, chemical-filled cleaning supplies for a fraction of the cost.
41. Green Laundry detergent. Use phosphate-free, biodegradable detergent. top of page
42. Upgrade your washing machine. Replace your old washing machine with an ENERGY STAR washer that gets clothes clean using cold water and BC Hydro will rebate you $75. Wait until you have a full load instead of washing clothes as you need them. Clean your lint trap after every use.
43. Install a clothesline. Dryers use a huge amount of energy.
45. Recycle. Recycle plastic, newspaper, glass. Recycling facts: just one glass bottle saves enough electricity to light a 100-watt bulb for four hours. Each of us produces 4.4 pounds of solid waste each day, adding up to almost a ton of trash per person, per year.
46. Buy local. Your food doesn’t travel long distances, you support local farmers and the local economy and you consume less pesticides.
47. Don’t use paper or plastic. Use cloth bags when you shop or reuse your plastic bags.
48. Borrow green. Most financial institutions offer “green” mortgages, including:
• BMO Eco Smart Mortgage offers home buyers a 3.89% rate on qualifying green properties.
• RBC Energy Saver™ Mortgage gives home buyers a $300 rebate for a home energy audit and a five-year 4.34% rate.
• TD Canada Trust offers a Green Mortgage and Green Home Equity line of credit. For each green mortgage TD donates $100 to the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation.
• Vancity offers a Bright Ideas home renovation loan at prime +1% to home buyers and owners making green renovations.
• CMHC offers a 10% Mortgage Loan Premium refund and possible extended amortization for buyers purchasing an energy-efficient mortgage or making energy saving renovations.
Pay-as-you-Save (PAYS) loan program will help home owners and businesses finance energy efficiency improvements through a loan from BC Hydro or FortisBC. Expected to launch in 2012.
Vancouver/Vancity single-family home energy upgrades: a new pilot project offering home owners (detached only) in Vancouver low-interest financing of $4,000 - $10,000 for qualifying energy-efficiency retrofits. Loan payments will be made through the City’s utility billing system and property tax bills and forwarded to Vancity.
49. Get your $100 Green Your Home Kit. Lighthouse Sustainability Building Centre’s Greening Your Home Kit contains $100 of healthy, eco-friendly supplies, from laundry soap to adhesive weather stripping to help you go green.
50. Green Tool Kit. BC Real Estate Association’s Green Tool Kit provides information, references and links. It also provides comprehensive information on rebates and incentives.