Frequently Asked QuetionsQ: I've heard gas fireplaces are not very efficient yet this is my main mode of heating my condo unit; what can I do to reduce energy use?
A: You are correct, most gas fireplaces fairly inefficient and the ones that are open or not sealed behind glass can actually draw more warm air for combustion than they return to the room - most of the heat produced goes up the chimney! Two simple and cost effective steps are to ensure you turn off your pilot light in the spring and install a timer on your fireplace switch. Many people turn their fireplace on for ambiance but sometimes forget to turn it off when they leave. In one case study a condo building in Vancouver reduced its gas consumption by 22% and paid for the timers in four months, after which the strata was saving $14,000 a year!
Q: I was curious about the topic of unplugging appliances and how much energy it saves. Should we unplug everything? Like lamps and chargers? Or just the bigger ones? How much energy can be saved?
A: Thanks for asking the question on unplugging appliances. It is actually a very hot topic as utilities are just realising how much power goes to this rather unnecessary loss of power. When looking at just one home, the energy savings are relatively small but become significant if a large percentage of the population participates. The primary source of this "phantom power loss" is stereo equipment, computer equipment and chargers--and by putting them on a power bar (that you turn off at a flick of switch) is the easiest way to eliminate the losses.Although there are many varying estimates of how much energy these phantom losses are, one sample reference is the website http://www.aspencore.org/sitepages/pid51.php. Although it states energy use in terms of U.S. energy costs and includes things like air conditioning, it does provide a sample view of the approximate energy savings available (compared to other potential actions you could take) and provides some interesting background information. To provide a local context, 75% of the typical energy used in B.C. homes goes to heating and hot water; there is often a bigger opportunity for savings by setting back your thermostats a few degrees, using low-flow spray heads, using ENERGY STAR appliances or washing with cold water. (You can get some other energy savings ideas at www.onedayathome.ca.)
The Vancouver community is working hard to reduce greenhouse gases and questions like yours demonstrate an interest in saving energy and helping the environment at the same time. Thanks for taking the time to investigate.