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  • Writer's pictureLily Dittschlag & Dennis Dittschlag


Passive House Toronto

Earth day was created 51 years ago to support environmental protection. As homeowners, we ask ourselves: How can we do more than just celebrate Earth Day on April 22? How can we make Earth Day as part of our every day?

To better understand what makes the biggest difference, it is important to first understand what uses the most energy in your house. The thought is that you can create the biggest impact by saving on the biggest energy consumers. Here is a great overview of the average household's energy consumption:

Passive House Toronto

Just as in the 80/20 rule, there are only a few things that cause the majority of the impact. In the case of home energy consumption, around 86% of the energy consumed is used for

  • heating and cooling

  • water heating

  • washing machine and dryer

  • lighting.

With this information, you now have a pretty good overview of the items to be addressed for maximum impact. Now let's dive into some tips on each one!

Heating and Cooling

Passive House Toronto

The energy demand for heating and cooling a home is considered the Primary Energy demand. Reduction of this demand is a core principle of the Passive House concept.

Simple tips to save energy are to slightly raise the temperature when using the air conditioning in the summer and slightly lowering the temperature when heating the house in the summer. It is perfectly fine to wear a sweater in the house during the winter months and t-shirts and shorts in the summer. Just a slight adjustment to the temperature will result in the furnace or A/C running for a shorter time and wasting less energy.

Another tip in the colder months is to lower the temperature at night and when you are away from the house (for work, vacation, or otherwise). Colder temperatures actually support better sleep and there is no reason for having a warm house when nobody's at home.

To help with the temperature settings and have the furnace and air conditioner running mostly in eco-mode, it is a good idea to install a programmable or smart thermostat. This can be tied into your home automation setup and be controlled remotely when you're away in case you forgot to change the settings. There may even be programs in your area that will subsidize such a thermostat.

Water Heater

Passive House Toronto

Hot water is used a lot daily, just think about showers, washing dishes, or doing laundry. With a tank-based system, water is heated constantly and must be housed to stay warm, only to cool down again when flowing through colder pipes and hoses. Outside of investing in insulated pipes or a more efficient tankless water heater (that heats water only on demand), what are some of the other options to save on heating water?

Similar to the case for the furnace, your water heater can generally be set to a lower temperature. Most water heaters are installed with a default temperature setting of around 140 degrees Fahrenheit. It is actually safer (to avoid burns) and still hot enough to use a temperature setting of 120 degrees or less. Not all water heaters have a temperature scale, so you can use the following guidelines and figure out what works best for you over time:

  • Low (or Warm) = 80-90°

  • Hot (or triangle symbol) = 120°

  • A = 130°

  • B = 140°

  • C = 150°

  • Very Hot = 160°

Another tip is to use low-flow showerheads and sink faucet aerators that are simply using less water than a generic type. And using less hot or warm water means using less energy to heat it and using less water too.

Washing Machine and Dryer

Passive House Toronto

It is not a secret that all major appliances have the potential to use a lot of energy. You could (and should at some point) upgrade your appliances to energy-efficient models, preferably some that are Energy Star or EnerGuide rated.

But even without investing in new appliances, some things can be done to conserve energy:

  • To stay with the temperature theme of the tips above, washing machines and detergents are almost equally effective at cleaning clothes at lower temperatures. So you can use the cold wash cycle confidently.

  • Another logical approach is to only use the washer and dryer for full loads.

  • Finally, hanging clothes out on the line whenever possible is a good choice to save energy.


Passive House Toronto

Lighting can use a lot of energy depending on the size of the home, the number of people in the household, and of course personal habits.

The first tip is to switch your light bulbs to long-lasting, energy-efficient LED bulbs as an effective action to save energy. Outdoor lights can be switched to solar-powered lights.

Other tips include timers and dimmer switches to either turn down or turn off lights. At the same time, it can be more efficient to have task lighting like a desk lamp compared to using the ceiling lights to illuminate the entire room.

But the most simple and straightforward method is to switch your lights off when you're leaving a room.

Small Changes, Big Impact

Passive House Toronto

Many small changes can make a big difference over time. Larger changes often require an investment of your money that you will earn back over time. But many of the tips discussed above can be done by changing simple everyday habits that don't cost you any money at all. And it's really a win-win situation because these tips don't just help the environment, but they also help save you money.

Earth Day is a nice reminder that, collectively, we need to understand our impacts and become more responsible about protecting the environment. While totally worth celebrating, Earth Day happens only once a year and it should serve as a reminder to check our habits and make adjustments that can be applied regularly because every day is Earth Day!

We wish you a happy and safe Earth Day 2021!

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