If you have energy-saving devices such as programmable thermostats and low-flush toilets, chances are that you own your home, have a water meter and have higher levels of income and education.
Even though saving energy also means saving money for anyone who owns or rents a home, a report by Statistics Canada shows that there are significant differences between those who use energy-saving devices and those who don't.
Households who owned their homes had more than twice the odds of using a programmable thermostat or buying an appliance to save energy or water than households that lived in a rented dwelling, say researchers Avani Babooram and Matt Hurst. Renters may have less freedom than owners to change appliances and fixtures like toilets and showerheads, and water and electricity costs may be included in their rent, removing the monetary incentive to save. This may partly explain the differences in their adoption of conservation technologies.
The researchers say people with more money are more likely to buy the devices because they can afford them, while those with higher levels of education have had more opportunity to gain knowledge about environmental issues.
The report also says that the longer you live in a house, the more likely you are to have low-flow showerheads and toilets.
If you live in a house with a water meter, you're also more likely to have water conservation devices, the report says. When you can see what you're paying for, there's more incentive to save.
Overall, residential water-use rates for Canada reflect this relationship, says the report. In 2001, residential households who did not pay for their water by volume used 474 litres per person per day, which was 74 per cent more than those who paid by volume (and thus had meters), says the report.
Environment Canada says that 65 per cent of water used in a home is in the bathroom. Showers and baths use 35 per cent of that total, and toilets another 30 per cent. By installing low-flow showerheads and low-flush toilets, you could save around $150 a year. Environment Canada has a chart where you can calculate water savings here.
Aside from installing low-flow devices, simple maintenance can save water and energy. A running toilet can waste up to 200,000 litres of water a year. Environment Canada says to find out if the toilet is leaking put two or three drops of food colouring in the toilet tank and wait a few minutes. If the colour shows up in the bowl, there's a leak.
There are other ways to save money besides installing a low-flush model, such as buying an inexpensive toilet dam, or placing a plastic bag or bottle filled with water in the toilet tank to displace the water. Don't use a brick, however – it can disintegrate in the tank and cause problems with the flapper valve, and it may be heavy enough to crack the tank.
Many municipalities across Canada offer rebate programs as an incentive to buy low-flow devices. To see if a rebate is available in your area, check out the interactive map at the Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) site. Some other ways to save water:
* Take shorter showers – five minutes or less
* Keep a bottle of drinking water in the fridge rather than letting the tap run to get cold water when you want a drink
* Don't overwater lawns and gardens – more than 50 per cent of the water applied is lost due to overwatering or evaporation
* Water lawns early in the morning after the dew has dried
According to NRCan, heating accounts for 63 per cent of residential energy use, followed by major appliances at nine per cent and lighting at four per cent. Using a programmable thermostat can lower heating bills by up to 15 per cent, but only 34 per cent of households have one, according to Statistics Canada.
You can cut your electricity costs by purchasing Energy Star appliances, which have been certified as the most energy efficient in their class. There's also the EnerGuide program, which labels each major appliance with a kWh number so you can compare how much energy it uses compared to other models you may be considering. NRCan says 100 kWh of saved energy could run your clothes washer 50 times – almost a free load of laundry every week for a year.
The good news from the Statistics Canada report is that most households (70 per cent) are using compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and 64 per cent have low-flow showerheads – this includes both homeowners and renters. It shows that when the water or energy-saving devices are inexpensive to buy and easy to install, people will happily embrace them – if not to save money, then to help out the environment.