Energy-efficient student living
What college and university students living off-campus should buy to save energy – and dollars – this year.
Ahh…that feeling when you get your first off-campus place. Freedom, excitement – maybe a little apprehension. You might be sharing with friends, but now more than ever, it’s up to you to choose how you want your home to be.
If you choose “energy efficient,” you could save money and keep your place comfy year-round. Whether your monthly electricity bill is wrapped into your overall rent, or your landlord prefers you to pay it yourself, it’s never too early to get into energy-saving habits.
Before you move, use our buying guide to make energy-efficient purchases that can help you get the most out of your home.
Late night studying, parties, binge-watching. Getting the lighting right is crucial for any student home. There’s only one place to start: LED light bulbs. They use significantly less energy and last longer than other bulb options, and the variety of strengths and shades will work just fine for lamps, decorative string lights or overhead lighting.
Consider looking for smart light bulbs, too. There are several models on the market that connect to your smartphone. That way, you can switch them on and off and even control their colour remotely using just the touch of an app, or even your voice.
Keep your cooking options open
As a student, you’re likely eating on the go and cooking for one. By trying these alternatives to a traditional oven, you could be saving money every day.
Microwave meals might get a bad rap, but the appliance itself uses about 1,000 watts – much less than an oven or stovetop.
Consider cooking in batches for your week ahead to limit how much you have to turn your oven on and off. It's even better if you can cook tasty meals that don't need reheating!
A general rule to follow when cooking is less time means less energy use. A plug-in pressure cooker, for instance, uses significantly less energy than a typical stove or oven, since it cooks food much more quickly. It also cycles on and off at a lower wattage to maintain heat, saving energy.
A slow cooker is another option that uses less energy than an oven, at about 1,000 watts. Look for models with an internal heat sensor, so they’ll automatically switch to a lower energy “keep warm” setting when your food is cooked.
The appliances you have plugged in all over your home – like your coffee maker, TV, printer and gaming consoles – can draw power even when they’re not in use. Blame “phantom power,” or standby power, for that.
Your microwave, for example, uses more energy powering its clock than it does heating food throughout the year, so unplug it when you’re not using it to avoid paying for energy you don’t really need.
To avoid falling victim to unnecessary power consumption, use power bars. There are various types on the market, but look for ones that include a timer, or smart strips, which automatically cut off power to electronics that are in standby mode only.
Consider setting up a charging area in your place so you don't forget to unplug your device and stop drawing power once it's fully charged.
Gross roommates aside, sharing a larger fridge might just be a better choice from an energy-saving point of view. Some mini fridges are energy intensive and can use almost as much energy as much bigger ones.
But if you simply have to have your own mini fridge for drinks and snacks, look for the ENERGY STAR® label. Those higher-efficiency models use significantly less energy than others. To keep your mini fridge running smoothly, don’t overfill it, and don’t place it near a direct heat source, including sunny areas.
If you clean just one thing in your place, make it the fridge. Dirty condenser coils can nearly double your fridge’s energy use! Make a cleaning schedule to share the work equally with your roommates.
Okay, it can be tempting to just hang up a sheet and be done with it. But the right window coverings can add a lot to your place and take a little off your bill. Black-out shades or curtains can help control light (for all those afternoon naps), plus limit the heat entering your place during the warmer months. Aluminum blinds are also a great option for heat and light control, plus they’re relatively inexpensive. They can let sunlight in during the colder months, which can help you reduce the need to turn up the heat.
If you have a ceiling fan, take advantage of it. Most models let you switch the blade directions so you can keep cool in the warmer months and stay warm during the long winters.
Let a smart thermostat do the work
Visiting everybody and their grandmother over the holidays? It’s time to finally embrace a smart thermostat. It’ll learn your schedule to make adjustments when you’re not around, so you can save more energy while you’re on the road.
Plus, if you’re entertaining your relatives and can feel the temperature rising, your smart thermostat will know it too, so you can make sure the only thing that’s roasting is the turkey.
Look for ENERGY STAR® products
The holidays are about family, of course, but they can also be about shopping for gifts (and prepping for big Boxing Day sales)! If you’re planning to upgrade your appliances or electronics, remember to look for ENERGY STAR®-certified products. An ENERGY STAR® TV, for instance, uses 27 per cent less energy than one that’s not certified.
Remember to unplug
This time of year is about relaxing and spending time with loved ones. Getting everyone together in one room can help you save energy all over the house, if you remember to turn off lights and unplug electronics you’re not using.
After all, the holidays really are about relaxing using as little energy as possible.