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Earth-friendly household options

Home Green Home

Home sweet home. A place to relax, recharge, and rid yourself of stress. But how relaxed can you be, knowing that your home and the products within it may be contributing to increased greenhouse gas emissions?

Reduce those emissions by replacing older appliances with Energy Star models. The Energy Star program promotes over 50 kinds of energy-efficient products, including major appliances, home office equipment, lighting, and home electronics. Natural Resources Canada also promotes EnerGuide, an appliance label program that allows consumers to compare appliance energy consumption rates.

Replacing inefficient, worn-out products and wasteful practices throughout your home reduces energy and saves you money. If you’re committed to living greener and supporting companies that are committed to the same, implement the following practices and alternatives.

1: Windows and doors

One way to reduce your energy bill is to replace windows, doors, and skylights if they’re drafty or if your windows frost up on colder days. Energy-efficient windows and doors are Energy Star-labelled for one of four climate zones in Canada. Replacing them can deduct between seven to 12 percent from your energy bill. Shop for products that are Energy Star-approved for a zone colder than where you live to save even more in energy costs.

2: Switch bulbs

Incandescent lights are highly inefficient, wasting 95 percent of their energy through heat loss. The Canadian government plans to phase them out by 2012. Alternatives include compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). CFLs use 75 percent less energy than incandescent lights and last up to 10 times longer. Place them in heavily used and hard-to-reach places. LEDs are 90 percent efficient. Use them in desktop lamps and direct lighting, and for your decorative light strings.

3: Find a furnace

If your furnace is due to be replaced, consider condensing gas furnaces, the most energy efficient on the market. Look for the Energy Star label, and only buy a model with an annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating of 90 percent or more. For added savings, check for rebates offered by your regional natural gas provider.

4: Reduce water: kitchen

Install a low-flow aerator on your kitchen tap and reduce up to 50 percent in water flow. If you wash your dishes by hand, soak pots and pans before cleaning, and fill one sink or basin with soapy water, another with clean rinsing water. Dishwashers that display the Energy Star mark perform at least 25 percent higher than the minimum regulated Canadian standards. Save even more water and energy by only washing full loads.

5: Reduce water: bathroom

Sixty-five percent of water use happens in the bathroom. Replace your toilet with a low-flush model and your showerhead with a low-flow faucet. Get in the habit of turning off the tap when you brush your teeth or shave. Choose to shower instead of bathe; a 10-minute shower compared to a bath saves enough water to make 45 kg of ice.

6: Reduce water: laundry

Install an Energy Star-approved washer in your laundry area. Some models can save up to 40 percent of the water used when compared to conventional models. Front-loaders offer the best combination of cleaning ability and energy efficiency. Since heating water to wash clothes uses up to 36 percent of total household hot water use, switch to cold-water cycles with cold-water detergents and run only full loads.

7: Harness the sun

Incentives are necessary to make solar energy a viable option for the average consumer, and a new BC Hydro net metering program does just that. Customers generating excess electricity from the sun can sell the surplus to Hydro’s grid. On a smaller scale, solar photovoltaic panels can run electrical fixtures such as garden lights. Made of chemically treated silicon that generates electricity once exposed to direct or reflected sunlight, the fixtures have caught on in Germany, Japan, and certain US states; they’re also gaining popularity in Ontario, Alberta, and BC.

8: Get in on a grant

Check for rebates offered through federal and provincial grant programs. The ecoENERGY Retrofit grant program has just been infused with new cash and offers up to $5,000 per home to help offset the cost of making energy-efficient improvements. Check out the ecoENERGY website at ecoaction.gc.ca/ecoenergy for more details and complementary provincial programs. You might also benefit from the new Home Renovation Tax Credit

9: Bring in the green

Clean the air in your home by reducing product off-gassing. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are typically released from carpets, plywood, drapes, and paints. Control the source by selecting low VOC-emission products and air out products, such as carpets, before installation. The best way to clean the air in your home is to bring in the green: the spider plant, peace lily, golden pathos, and bamboo palm are especially effective.

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