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Conservation tips


Conserving water and energy is good for the environment and our pocket books. In the short term, lower consumption means lower utility bills for you. In the long term, lower energy and water use translates to lower infrastructure building and operating costs, keeping the cost of providing energy and water to your home or business lower.

This comprehensive guide offers nearly one hundred energy and water conservation tips to help you save energy, water, and money at home and at work.

Want to do more to help the environment and save money? We offer additional information, tours and demonstrations, and even financial incentive programs to help you implement conservation measures at home, in your garden and at work.

  • Appliances

      • Run your appliance only when it is full.

      • Reduce the amount of laundry you wash – clothes don't have to be washed every time you wear them, as long as they pass inspection! This can help you save money in the long run and keep your clothes looking newer longer.

      • If you’re on the Time-of-use pricing plan, use your appliances between 7 PM and 7 AM when demand for electricity is low prices are off-peak (less expensive).

      • Be sure to keep the clothes dryer’s lint filter clean to improve efficiency and for safety.

      • On your washer, using cold water saves a tremendous amount of electricity. Look for cold water detergent.

        85–90% of the washer’s electricity is used to heat the water.

      • When buying a new clothes washer, look for an ENERGY STAR qualified front-load model to reduce water use by 45% and energy use by 65%.

      • When buying a new dishwasher look for:

        • The ENERGY STAR label
        • A short-cycle or “econo wash” features
      • Use the dishwasher’s air-dry setting or leave the door open to naturally dry dishes.

      • Use an outdoor clothesline and/or indoor drying racks to save electricity.

      • Ensure that refrigerator and freezer door seals are tight and secure.

      • Instead of using your oven to reheat food, use a toaster or microwave oven to save energy.

      • Maintain a space of 5 cm around your fridge and freezer so heat can circulate away from the compressor and condensing coil.

      • Refrigerators are one of the biggest electricity users in the home, so it pays to consider an ENERGY STAR qualified model.

      • Remember, a full freezer operates more efficiently than an empty one.

      • Use pots and pans that match the size of the stovetop’s heating element.

      • When buying a new freezer, look for a smaller chest freezer or an ENERGY STAR qualified model. Front loading models use more energy.

      • Keep your freezer at -18°C. Setting your freezer colder than that will use more electricity.

      • Preheat ovens only for a minimum amount of time. Preheating is only really necessary for baking.

      • Keep the back and underneath of refrigerators and freezers dust-free with regular vacuuming.

  • Heating and Cooling

      • When shopping for a new central or window air conditioner, consider the newer ENERGY STAR qualified models.

        These can be up to 70% more efficient than older models

      • Replace your older air conditioner with a new, efficient model

      • Have a licensed contractor service your central air system annually.

      • Create a cross breeze: open a few windows to create cross ventilation. For the best results, open a lower window on one side of your home and an upper window on the opposite side.

      • Clean or replace your window air conditioning filter monthly.

        Dirty filters restrict air flow and reduce efficiency.

      • Ceilings fans help keep the temperature in your home regulated in the summer and winter. They also use less electricity. 

      • In the summer, set your central air conditioner to 25°C when you are home, and  28°C when away. Or if you can, turn it off.

      • Follow the manufacturers’ guidelines for cleaning or replacing your dehumidifier filter to keep it operating efficiently.

      • Newer ENERGY STAR qualified dehumidifiers use 10% to 20% less energy than conventional models and offer the same features – effective moisture removal, quiet operation and durability.

      • For wood-burning fireplaces, close the damper when not in use.

        Even a closed damper can leak a large amount of heated air to the outdoors.

      • Avoid having your furnace thermostat in a room with a fireplace.

      • Keep warm-air registers, baseboard heaters, and radiators clean and unblocked.

      • Insulate heating ducts that travel through unheated areas of your home to prevent heat loss.

      • Set the furnace fan switch on “automatic” instead of “on” or “continuous”.

      • Clean or replace the furnace filter frequently to keep your furnace operating efficiently. 

      • Save gas and electricity by installing the most efficient furnace you can afford. To reduce electricity use, make sure that your new furnace has an ECM motor and variable speed fan drive.

      • Foam gaskets will insulate electrical outlets and lights switches on your home’s exterior facing walls.

      • Have a licensed HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) professional service your furnace yearly to ensure it is operating at maximum efficiency.

      • In the winter set the thermostat to 20°C when you are home and 18°C overnight or when away.

      • Insulate your home thoroughly to keep it cooler in summer and warmer in winter. Install a minimum of 25 cm (10") of insulation in your attic.

      • Open soffit, roof, and gable vents to let in air and control moisture, thereby preventing damage to insulation and wood (daylight should be seen through vents).

      • Add exterior and interior insulation to your basement.

      • Seal areas around plumbing stacks, ceiling fans and light fixtures where they join the floor or ceiling to prevent drafts.

      • Ensure attic insulation doesn’t block air movement.

      • Air leaks account for the largest amount of heat loss from your home! Seal leaks around light fixtures, plumbing stacks, windows, exterior doors, attic hatches, pipe and wire entrances, wood-burning fireplaces, electrical outlets, and ceiling fans.

      • Install the thermostat on an interior wall where there are no vents or drafts.

      • In the winter set the thermostat to 20°C when you are home and, 18°C overnight or when away.

      • Avoid having your furnace thermostat in a room with a fireplace.

      • A properly set programmable thermostat can reduce heating and cooling costs by up to 10%.

      • In the summer set the AC to 25°C when you are home, and 28°C when away.

      • For an electrically-heated hot water tank, install pipe insulation around as much of the incoming cold water pipe and the outgoing copper hot water pipe as you can conveniently access.


        Gas-heated hot water tanks should only be insulated by a professional

        Never insulate plastic hot water tank pipes as they can overheat.

  • Home Offices

      • Electronic devices left plugged in, even when turned off, still draw power. That’s called phantom power or standby power, and it’s costing you money. By reducing this unnecessary power use, you could help save up to 15% of your electricity use.

      • Make sure any computer you purchase has an automatic power-down function that will automatically switch the monitor into sleep mode or, preferably, deep sleep mode after a set period of inactivity. (A mandatory feature for ENERGY STAR models.)

      • Shut your computer down when not in use to save electricity and reduce wear on your system.

      • Laptops use less energy than desktop models.

      • Plug the following electronics into a power bar with a timer or auto-shut off and make sure they are off during periods of inactivity:

        • televisions and home theatre systems
        • computer, computer monitor, printer, scanner
        • rechargeable devices (MP3 players, 
          cell phones, battery chargers, etc.)
        • game consoles
        • and more…
      • Your computer’s screen-saver doesn’t save energy!

      • When replacing your computer, look for an ENERGY STAR qualified model.

  • Lighting

      • LEDs are available in a wide variety of shades of white light, ranging from yellowish to white to bluish white light, which allows you to customize the mood of your space.

        Many LEDs come in “warm” colours to match the yellowish light of incandescent bulbs, but you can also choose “cooler” colours with whiter or bluer light. Light colour is measured on a temperature scale referred to as Kelvin (K). Lower Kelvin numbers mean the light appears more yellow; higher Kelvin numbers mean the light is whiter or bluer.

        • For a whiter light, look for bulbs marked 3500–4100 K.
        • Bulbs that measure at greater than 3500 K will enhance cooler colours (blue, green, violet) in your home.
        • For bluer white light, look for bulbs marked 5000–6500 K.
      • Whether welcoming visitors, searching for your keys or ensuring safety, motion sensors are an electricity-saving option for lighting your way, because they only operate when they detect movement.

      • Consider photocell timers, which react to sunlight.

      • The outdoor porch lamp is one of the most-used light fixtures in any home, making it the perfect place to install highly efficient ENERGY STAR qualified lighting products.

        Many LEDs will fit easily into existing porch lights. Be sure to use bulbs approved for use outdoors.

      • Whenever you leave a room, get into the habit of turning off the lights.

      • Compact fluorescent light bulbs contain a small amount of mercury. Please dispose of your used bulbs in an environmentally friendly way. Check the City of Kingston’s Waste Lookup tool for the proper disposal procedure.

      • Replace your high-use incandescent light bulbs with ENERGY STAR qualified compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). They use up to 75% less electricity and last up to 10 times longer.

      • For those lights that are on all night, use the lowest wattage bulbs possible.

      • Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs provide focused lighting, making them a great choice for reading lights, desk lamps, night lights, spotlights, security lights, and other applications. They are extremely energy efficient, long-lasting, and mercury-free.

      • Use area or task lighting instead of full, overhead lights. This is a great use for LED lights.

      • ENERGY STAR quality light fixtures use only 25% of the electricity of standard fixtures and distribute light more efficiently and evenly.

      • Motion sensors are ideal for rooms where you may forget to turn off the lights.

      • Make a point of keeping your light fixtures clean for maximum brightness.

      • Install programmable timers or motion sensors on interior and exterior lights.

      • Install dimmer switches and use dimmable LEDs.

        Not all LEDs are dimmable! Check the packaging for compatibility.

  • Pools, Spas, & Hot Tubs

      • Bulk up the insulation inside your hot tub cabinet. Consult with a qualified professional first!
      • Create a wind break around your hot tub area.
      • For operating efficiency, turn off the air to your hot tub when not in use. Otherwise, your hot tub will try to heat this air.  
      • Uncovered pools can lose 30% of their heat – over 1,000 litres of water and expensive chemicals each month – just through evaporation!

      • Run your pool and spa pump only as needed.

        For pools, run the pump overnight when demand for electricity is low and Time-of-use pricing is off-peak (least expensive).

      • Keep your pool, hot tub, or spas covered when not in use.

      • If your pool has a heater, use a timer to preset the hours the pool is to be heated.

        Heat overnight when demand for electricity is low and Time-of-use pricing is off-peak (least expensive).

      • Inspect your pool, hot tub, or spa heater every year for scale, mineral deposits, and corrosion.

  • Water Conservation

      • Take shorter showers to help conserve water.

      • Pick up a free conservation kit from Utilities Kingston including toilet leak detection tablets, two faucet aerators, gaskets to prevent heat loss through outlets, and a flow-rate measurement bag to test the efficiency of your shower heads and faucets at 85 Lappan’s Lane.

      • Use low-flow showerheads to reduce the flow by 40 to 60% and save up to eight litres of water per minute.

      • Fill the bath only half-full to save 80 litres per bath.

        The bather in the current image is not following this suggestion!

      • Baths and showers account for 25% of indoor water use.

      • Dishwashers can account for 6% of indoor water use.

      • Doing a full load on a shorter cycle saves 28 litres per load.

      • If your dishwasher is more than 10–15 years old, dishwashing by hand and rinsing in a dishpan can save 32–60 litres per load.

      • Teach children to turn off the water when brushing their teeth.

        Small children can learn about the source of Kingston tap water (Lake Ontario) when you encourage them to “save some water for the fishies”.

      • Fix any leaky taps!

        A single faucet with a constant drip can waste up to 182 litres of water per week. If it’s a hot water tap that’s leaking, you’re sending your energy dollars down the drain.

      • Install a flow restrictor or an aerator save up to 20 litres per day.

      • Faucets can account for 12% of indoor water use.

      • Rinse dishes in a tub of clean water or a second sink, instead of under hot running water.

        If you have an ENERGY STAR dishwasher, use it instead of hand washing to save even more water!

      • Always turn the faucet off when it is not needed and save 10–40 litres per day.

      • Checking for leaks (and fixing them) can save 1,400 litres of water per month.

      • Toilets can account for 33% of indoor water use.

      • Install single-flush toilets that use 4.8 litres per flush or less and/or dual flush toilets with a maximum of 6 litres per flush.

        Landlords: Check out our Multi-Residential Toilet Rebate Program.

      • High-efficiency, front loading washers can drastically reduce water use.

      • Using full loads and shorter cycles can save 95 litres of water per load.

      • Washing machines can account for 24% of a household’s indoor water use.