The #1 contributor to carbon emissions across Canada is the heating of our homes, a concerning fact for the 70% of us concerned about protecting the environment from climate change. But there’s reason to be hopeful because, as it turns out, there’s a lot we can do — from small, simple tweaks to more significant changes — to lower our homes’ emissions while also reducing our energy bills.
Here are seven ways to make your home more eco-friendly and lower your emissions and energy bill in the process (it’s a win-win-win).
#1. Upgrade to LED lighting
LED light bulbs last 15 times longer and use up to 90% less energy than your old-school incandescent and halogen bulbs, according to Natural Resources Canada. They also shine brighter and — unlike other bulbs — produce almost no heat, lowering your cooling costs and making them safer.
Another plus? LEDs don’t contain any hazardous materials, so they’re better for the environment both during production and — in 10-13 years when they finally burn out — once disposed of.
#2. Switch to a smart thermostat
Brands like Toronto’s own ecobee — which saves customers up to 26% on annual heating and cooling costs — and Google’s Nest Thermostat give you ultimate control over your home’s temperature, including options to automatically change it throughout the day and when you’re away. They also come with energy-saving settings and can be adjusted straight from your phone.
PRO TIP: If you live in a detached, semi-detached, or a rowhouse and heat your home with natural gas, you may be eligible for up to $75 off a smart thermostat through Enbridge’s Home Efficiency Rebate program. Learn more here →
#3. Invest in double-glazed windows and window coverings
Having more windows and plenty of natural light is a huge selling point for many homebuyers. But windows can also be a major source of heat loss, contributing to increased electrical costs during cold months. The solution is double-glazed (or even triple- and quadruple-glazed) windows.
These windows are better at keeping cold air out (and hot air in), lowering your heating costs during the winter. They also keep out heat from the sun in the summer, so your AC and/or fans don’t have to work overtime to cool your home.
PRO TIP: If a full window replacement isn’t in the cards right now, window treatments — like blinds and curtains — can be highly effective insulators too.
#4. Choose a sustainable flooring alternative
Planning to redo your floors soon? Or buying a pre-construction home that you have the freedom to fully customize ahead of move-in day? Choosing sustainable flooring — like bamboo, coconut timber, cork, natural linoleum or engineered hardwood — can reduce your carbon footprint because the materials are either recycled or require much less water and electricity to produce.
#5. Power your home with solar
Gone are the days when solar panels felt like something out of a science fiction film. Now they’re fully available for residential use and are one of the most meaningful ways you can make your home more eco-friendly, lower your energy costs, and even increase your property’s resale value.
The upfront price of setting up a solar system for a Toronto home is not insignificant— ranging from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars — but the long-term cost savings make up for it. “Depending on the size of your solar system, roof space, and shading, you can easily offset 30 to 90 percent of your electricity costs,” according to the City of Toronto website.
PRO TIP: There are numerous programs available to make the switch to solar more feasible financially, including the city’s Home Energy Loan Program, a low-interest loan of up to $125,000 and the Canada Greener Homes Grant, which offers up to $5,000 to eligible homeowners.
#6. Install a green roof
If setting up a solar system doesn’t seem like the right investment for you — perhaps because you have little roof space or a shaded roof or your electricity costs are already low — another option for making your home greener, both literally and figuratively, is installing a green roof.
These roofs are partially or completely covered in vegetation, which acts as an insulator (reducing your heating and cooling costs by up to 75%), cleans the air and reduces stormwater runoff. Plus, it adds further aesthetic appeal to your home.
PRO TIP: Like solar panels, Toronto offers a grant for green roof installations too.
#7. Make sure your home is properly insulated
Heating our homes is the primary cause of greenhouse gas emissions across the city — accounting for 57% of Toronto’s emissions. And if your home isn’t well insulated and that heat is escaping at a higher rate than it should be, your emissions (not to mention your electricity costs) are higher too.
It’s worthwhile to check that any openings to your home — windows, doors, fireplaces and more — are properly sealed off from the outside world, and if you find any gaps causing drafts, plug them up with caulking or weatherstripping. If your home is older, reinsulating certain parts of the building (like the attic, which may lack any insulation) is also a highly effective way to lower your carbon footprint and heating costs. Updated attic insulation alone could save you up to 30% in heating costs, so for most people, it’s a very worthy investment.
Want to make one of these tips a reality and need a product or service provider recommendation to make it happen? At our community-focused concept space at 1120 Yonge Street, expert staff are ready to help. They’ll connect you with anything and everything you need — from recommendations for green home furnishings to pro contractors and more. Visit us →