Take steps to make your home or cottage cool, comfortable and sustainable this summer since energy efficiency is always in style, says Phil Dorner, president of the Ontario Real Estate Association.
“Make sure your home and cottage are as eco-friendly as possible, whether you are buying, selling or staying,” says Dorner. “Improving the efficiency of your property doesn’t have to be overly expensive or labour intensive. Focus on making select upgrades and simple changes to your routine.”
Property owners who save energy will reap clear benefits, including lower utility bills and a more sustainable indoor environment, he says. Home buyers are also increasingly conscious of energy efficiency and don’t want to deal with the cost and upkeep of an inefficient home any more than owners do. With that in mind, Dorner offers the following tips for homeowners to reduce energy use and utility costs:
- Air conditioner filters: Replace dirty filters, which restrict airflow and can cause the system to run longer, increasing energy use. Get your air conditioner serviced on a regular basis. Clean the outside compressor with a hose, removing debris that impedes air flow. If your air conditioner needs replacing, invest in an energy-efficient model.
- Swimming pool filters: Reduce the operating time of your pool filter and automatic cleaning sweep to four or five hours and only use it during off-peak times.
- Plants: Strategically planted trees and shrubs help keep your home cool. According to the Ontario Ministry of Energy, planting a tree or shrub to shade your central air conditioner can improve its efficiency by up to 10 per cent.
- Shade: Install patio covers, awnings, and solar window screens to shade your home from the sun. Remember to close blinds and curtains during the day, which can block up to 65 per cent of incoming heat.
- Breeze: Install a ceiling fan and make sure it runs in a counter-clockwise direction to help circulate a breeze throughout your home.
- Cold water: Whenever possible, wash laundry in cold water. Almost 90 per cent of your washing machine’s energy consumption comes from heating water. Hang clothes to dry naturally.
- Cooling: Open windows at night and use fans to blow in cool air. During the day, close your windows. When you aren’t home, set the thermostat a few degrees higher.
- Barbecue: Stoves and ovens not only use energy but also heat up the home. Fire up the grill or make fresh, light meals that don’t require cooking.
For cottages, many of the same rules apply, he adds. The key to reducing waste at the cottage is to plan your trip well. Bring only what you need – many perishables won’t last between visits, so be conscious of quantity. To streamline recycling, remove excess packaging before you leave home and create a compost heap at the cottage. (One third of landfill waste is made up of compostable materials.) Set up your compost pile well away from the cottage and avoid adding meat or cheese to minimize wildlife issues. You will also benefit from the creation of nutrient-rich soil.