Challenge 2: Home Electricity

Although appliances and devices have become much more energy efficient we have incorporated more and more of them into our lives over the same time. In this challenge families found ways to eliminate unnecessary electricity use and increase their household’s energy efficiency. 

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Reduce power consumption and green your electricity

According to the Canada Energy Regulator, residential consumption of electricity is associated with approximately 4% of Canadian GHG emissions. Everything from making small changes in our behaviours to making more informed decisions on appliance purchases to investing in solar help reduce your carbon footprint and save money.

Get the facts

Can solar panels work at night?

Obviously not, since they need sunlight to make electricity. But you can store excess energy in a battery to use at night or on cloudy days.

Electricity carbon intensity, 2020 (grams CO2 equivalent per kWh). Source: Canada Energy Regulator
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Decrease your home electricity consumption to lower your emissions

Carbon emissions related to electricity production, and in turn your home energy use, depend on the region your electricity comes from. 

British Columbia, Manitoba, Quebec, Newfoundland and the Yukon produce between 80 and 97% as hydroelectricity. Ontario produces nearly 60% of its electricity using nuclear power plants, and although only 8% of provincial production accounts for 35% of Canada’s total wind power.

Alberta has decommissioned or converted almost all its coal-fired power plants, so now the majority of its power generation is from burning natural gas. Coal and natural gas each provide approximately 40% of Saskatchewan’s electricity.

New Brunswick relies on a mix of nuclear, hydro, natural gas and coal to keep its grid full, while Nova Scotia primary mix is coal, natural gas, wind and hydro. Prince Edward Island is almost exclusively powered by wind. Whereas diesel generators provide 37% of electricity in the Northwest Territories and 100% in Nunavut.

See the above chart for the average CO2 emissions per kWh of electricity produced in your region.

The household challenge

The Home Electricity challenge saw competitors looking for ways to decrease their electricity consumption by changing behaviours and improving energy efficiency. They performed an audit of their electrical appliances and devices to see where the greatest energy – and emissions – savings will come from. They considered the age and efficiency of their appliances. Are they bigger than they need to be for everyday use? Do they really need that extra fridge in the basement? 

To get a more accurate measurement of how much electricity is drawn by individual appliances and devices families could use an inexpensive electricity usage monitor or system. They took into account the carbon footprint of electricity production in their region and explored greener electricity options such as a different utility plan, or installing home solar panels.

See how they did…

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    Home electricity tips for your household

    Non energy efficient appliances like washing machines, dishwashers, refrigerators and freezers can account for approximately 12% of your household energy use.

    Short-Term Savings vs Long-Term Costs

    • Avoid paying now and paying later: Non-energy efficient appliances that cost a little less up front, but they generally cost more to operate in the long run and result in a higher household carbon footprint.
    • Right-size: Typically, larger appliances use more energy. Think about the best size for your family and how your household needs might change over its lifespan (~10 years).
    • Optimize: Look for features that are built into the appliance to help minimize energy use.
    • Use more electricity: Replace your gas stove with an electric induction stove to reduce emissions and improve indoor air quality. 
    • Energy efficiency guidance: Check out the EnerGuide label to find the annual energy consumption and select the one that uses the fewest kilowatt-hours per year.
    • Find your inner accountant: Try Natural Resources Canada’s energy cost calculator for new appliances to see the lifetime energy cost. It will make that second price tag more visible.
    • Beyond online ratings: Look for ENERGY STAR® products and Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE) ratings to find and buy energy efficient appliances.

    In addition to increasing your energy efficiency, there are ways to decrease your household carbon footprint by decreasing the carbon footprint of the energy you use.

    Green your energy

    • A bright future: Talk to your local energy-efficiency and solar expert to find out if solar panels are right for you. Depending on your home’s location, the GHG emission reduction from using this equipment can be as high as 95%.
    • Level-up your energy plan: See if your utility provider has a greener electricity plan than the one you are on now.

    When you think about ways to reduce electricity, ‘turning off the lights’ and ‘turning down the thermostat’ immediately come to mind. But, you don’t need to sit shivering in the dark to save money.

    5 free and easy ways to reduce your electricity carbon footprint and save money on your utilities bill

    1. Wash only full loads of clothes and select a cooler water temperature.
    2. Hanging your clothes to dry is an easy way to reduce your carbon emissions and save money at the same time.
    3. Run full dishwasher loads and let the dishes air dry instead of using the heat dry setting.
    4. Set computers and accessories to sleep, turn them off, or use a smart power bar.
    5. Take shorter showers and install a low flow shower head.

    Did you know?

    • Switching to LED lights can decrease lighting energy use by 50-70% over other types of bulbs, and are the only recyclable option.
    • In Canada, on average, solar power systems pay for themselves in 8-15 years of installation depending on the cost of your system, your current energy costs, and available sunlight in your region. With a minimum 30-year lifespan, that means free electricity for over 15 years!
    • “Phantom” or “standby” power can account for up to 10% of your home’s energy use and the average Canadian household has over 25 devices drawing phantom power.

    Contest Rules & Regulations

    Get yourself to zero

    To help your own household get closer to a zero-carbon lifestyle, see how our five families navigated unique journeys to net zero and learn from their shared their personal tips and tricks.