Energy 101

Energy Efficient Appliances

Shopping for new appliances?

Whether you're renovating your home or building a new home, you might be in the need to update your appliances. You have lots of options when picking appliances, but which is the right one for you?

When considering new appliances, remember to take into account upfront costs as well as operating costs.  If your home is set up for electric appliances, converting to natural gas can cost you money and vice versa. Generally speaking, gas appliances can cost more upfront if your home isn't set up for it, but the operating costs for gas appliances can be five times cheaper than electricity!  

When looking for an energy-efficient appliance, look for the EnerGuide label which indicates the annual amount of electricity used. Appliances with the lowest number on the EnerGuide label are among the most energy-efficient.

The international ENERGY STAR symbol which is displayed alone or as part of the EnerGuide label identifies major electrical appliances that meet or exceed technical specifications designed to ensure they are among the most energy-efficient in their class, without compromising performance.


  • Refrigerator

    Refrigerators account for about 11 per cent of the electrical consumption in a typical Alberta home. 

    Refrigerators come in three basic models: top-mounted, bottom-mounted and side-by-side. The most energy efficient model is bottom-mounted because it is easier to access frequently used items, which is convenient and saves energy. 

    Side-by-side models offer easy access to both the main compartment and the freezer; however, they use more energy and are less efficient than top- and bottom-mounted models.

    What steps can I take to use my refrigerator as efficiently as possible?

    • Unplug a second refrigerator when it is not needed.
    • Ensure there is plenty of room for air to circulate inside the refrigerator portion of the unit. A refrigerator that is too full will not operate efficiently.
    • Locate the refrigerator:
      • Away from heat sources, such as an oven, a dishwasher or windows.
      • At least five cm (two inches) from the wall to allow for adequate air flow.
    • Check the seals on the refrigerator doors regularly to ensure cold air is not leaking out. You can do this by closing the door on a piece of paper and then trying to pull it out. The paper should remain snugly in place. Replace the seal if the door does not close tightly.
    • Clean the condenser coils on the back or bottom of the refrigerator regularly.


    What do I need to know about refrigerator safety?

    When disposing of your old fridge, remove the door. Abandoned refrigerators can be a safety hazard for children.

  • Freezer

    Freezers account for about 12 per cent of the electrical consumption in a typical Alberta home.

    There are two types of freezers, chest and upright styles, and they use different amounts of electricity. Chest freezers cost less to operate because they do not require a fan to circulate the air and very little cold air escapes when they are opened. Upright models are less efficient because cold air, which is heavy (more dense), quickly falls to the floor and escapes from the compartment each time the door is opened.

    What steps can I take to use my freezer as efficiently as possible?

    • Unplug an unused freezer. This could be your single largest waste of electricity.
    • Locate the freezer:
      • Away from heat sources, such as an oven, a dishwasher or windows.
      • At least eight cm (three inches) from the wall. This will provide adequate air circulation for the compressor coils and motor.
    • Set the freezer temperature at -18°C (0.4°F).
    • Keep your freezer at least two-thirds full. Fill containers with water and freeze them at the bottom of the freezer if you are not able to keep your freezer full. In the event of a power outage, these large frozen blocks will help keep food frozen until power is restored.
    • Do not put hot food in your freezer.
    • Defrost the freezer when the ice buildup exceeds six mm (one quarter-inch).
    • Do not keep a freezer in an uninsulated and unheated garage as both the extreme heat and cold will affect the operation and life of the freezer.


    What do I need to know about freezer safety?

    When disposing of your old freezer, remove the door. Abandoned freezers can be a safety hazard for children.

  • Range

    The kitchen is often the place where family and friends gather, especially for meals. Kitchen ranges (the unit combination of the cooktop and the oven) account for about 11 per cent of the electrical consumption in a typical Alberta home

    There are two types of ranges: electric and natural gas.

    Induction cooktops are the most efficient electric ranges, while those with flat surface cooktops tend to be the least efficient.

    Natural gas ranges may be more expensive to buy, but the operating cost is significantly less than electric. Many people prefer natural gas ranges because they offer precise temperature control and instant availability of heat compared to some electric cooktops.

    Dual fuel models are also available which include a natural gas cooktop and an electric oven.

    What steps can I take to use my kitchen range as efficiently as possible?

    • Ensure the food you prepare on the range has been fully thawed to reduce cooking time and save energy.
    • Reduce the number of times you open the oven door while cooking. Approximately 20 per cent of the heat inside the oven is lost each time the door is opened.
    • Use a pan that is the same size as the heating element.
    • Use flat-bottomed pans that make full contact with the element. A warped or rounded pan will waste most of the heat coming off the element.
    • Use a lid, when possible, to speed up cooking time.
    • Cook or reheat meals in smaller appliances, such as a microwave, toaster oven or slow cooker. These use less energy than a range.
    • Turn off the oven when a few minutes are left in the cooking time; the residual heat in the oven will finish cooking the food.
    • A convection oven is more energy efficient and will cook food faster.
    • When the self-cleaning function for the oven is required, activate it immediately after regular cooking while the oven is still hot. The range will use less energy to reach the cleaning temperature.
    • Ensure the oven door is tightly sealed and the hinges are operating properly. You can do this by closing the oven door on a piece of paper and then trying to pull it out. The paper should remain snugly in place. Consider replacing the oven door seals if the paper slips out easily.


    What do I need to know about kitchen range safety?

    • If you’re considering a flat, glass-top range, look for one with a feature that indicates when the cooking surface is hot.
    • If you have young children, choose a range that does not have controls on the front of the unit where they can be easily reached.
    • Ensure the range hood exhaust fans are properly maintained and are vented to the outdoors.
  • Washing Machine

    Washing machines account for about 12 per cent of the electrical consumption in a typical Alberta home. 

    Clothes washers come in two designs: top-loading and front-loading. Front-loading washing machines with an ENERGY STAR® rating use up to 50 per cent less water and much less electricity than top-loading models. They also have a high-speed spin cycle, which removes more water from clothes and reduces drying time.

    What steps can I take to use my washing machine as efficiently as possible?

    • Use cold water and cold-water detergent. In most cases, cold water cleans clothes just as effectively as warm or hot water.
    • Adjust the wash cycle to match the size of the load and the type of clothes being washed. This will help save water, energy and detergent.
    • Consider using the pre-soak option or a spot/stain remover prior to washing heavily soiled or stained clothes.
    • Fill your washing machine to capacity for each load to optimize appliance efficiency. Front-loading washers can accommodate more clothes per load because they do not have a central agitator taking up space like top-loading models do.
    • Carefully review the owner’s manual to learn how to operate your clothes washer at optimum efficiency.


    What do I need to know about washing machine safety?

    To help prevent mildew, odours and mould in front-loading washing machines, dry the door seal (or gasket) with a towel after each load. 

  • Dryer

    Dryers account for about 12 per cent of the electrical consumption in a typical Alberta home. 

    Two types of dryers are available: electric and natural gas. Many Alberta householders use electric dryers because they cost less to install. However, a variety of natural gas models are also available.

    What steps can I take to use my dryer as efficiently as possible?

    • Avoid drying partial loads.
    • Do not overload the dryer. This reduces airflow and will increase drying time significantly.
    • Never put dripping wet clothes in the dryer. Instead, put very wet clothes through an additional spin cycle in the washing machine to remove excess water.
    • Take advantage of the dryer’s retained heat by drying two or more loads in a row.
    • Use the cool down/permanent press cycle, which allows clothes to finish drying using the residual heat in the dryer.
    • Clean the lint screen after every use. A blocked screen decreases the performance of your dryer and causes it to use more energy than necessary.


    What do I need to know about dryer safety?

    • Ensure your dryer uses an approved vent and vents to the outdoors.
    • Use rigid metal ducting for venting exhaust as opposed to flexible ducting. Flexible ducting is subject to damage and traps lint fibres more readily.
    • Lint buildup in the dryer vent and duct is a fire hazard. Inspect the vent regularly to ensure it is clean and air is flowing easily. The exhaust vent opening, located on the outside wall, should also be kept clean.
    • Have a qualified plumber or gas fitter install your natural gas line for your dryer.
  • Fireplace

    The warm glow of a fireplace takes the chill off winter and adds cheer to every season. 

    Can I convert my wood-burning fireplace to a natural gas fireplace?

    Absolutely. You can convert a wood-burning fireplace to a more efficient natural gas fireplace by installing a fireplace insert. These inserts are designed to fit directly into the existing masonry of your wood-burning fireplace and require an approved vent liner to replace the existing chimney.

    What do I need to know about venting?

    Venting is important to ensure combustion gases are moved from your fireplace to the outdoors. There are three types of venting.

    • A direct vent fireplace is typically the most efficient because it is a sealed unit that uses outside air, for combustion and the combustion gases are vented outside. Most natural gas fireplaces installed today use direct venting.
    • Power vents use a fan to move combustion gases through a horizontal or vertical flue. This type of vent is used when a conventional flue cannot be installed. Power venting uses less indoor air for combustion, making it more efficient than natural draft venting.
    • Natural draft vents take advantage of the natural drafts created by the chimney of a fireplace insert or, in some cases, a free-standing fireplace. Because natural draft venting normally uses heated indoor air for combustion, they are the least efficient type of venting.


    How efficiently does a natural gas fireplace operate? 

    All natural gas fireplaces have an FE (Fireplace Efficiency) rating, which is expressed as a percentage. You can find a fireplace’s FE on the EnerGuide label. The higher the percentage, the more efficient the fireplace.

    What do I need to know about natural gas fireplace safety?

    As with all natural gas appliances, you should have a heating professional inspect your natural gas fireplace according to the manufacturer’s specifications to ensure it is working safely and efficiently.


  • Lighbulbs

    Lighting accounts for approximately 10 per cent of the electrical consumption in a typical Alberta home. 

    How do I know which type of lighting is best for me?

    When deciding which type of lighting to use, you need to consider a few different factors. Following is an at-a-glance look at each type of light bulb.

    • Light-Emitting Diode (LED)

    LED bulbs use up to 90 per cent less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs, so switching to LEDs can mean big energy savings. Besides using less energy, LEDs reach full brightness immediately, are suitable for use in cold weather applications, typically last much longer, and do not contain mercury.

    • Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs)

    Compact fluorescent lights use up to 75 per cent less energy than traditional incandescent light bulbs. However, many CFLs take time to reach full brightness, especially in cold weather. CFLs also contain mercury, so they must be disposed of properly. A wide of variety of CFLs are available, including tri-lights and dimmable types.

    • Halogen

    Incandescent halogen light bulbs are about 10 per cent more efficient than traditional incandescent light bulbs. Halogen lighting is most commonly found in recessed, track, and floodlighting, and is suitable for use in dimmers.

    What else can I do to reduce my lighting energy consumption?

    • When renovating or building a new home, consider installing skylights, which supply plenty of natural light.
    • Motion sensors ensure lights come on only when needed. They are also useful for outdoor security lighting.
    • Photocells automatically turn outdoor lighting on at dusk and off at dawn. A timer can be used in conjunction with a photocell to turn off lights at a specified time.


    What do I need to know about lighting safety?

    • A qualified electrician should replace fixtures, switches and other controls.
    • Before you replace bulbs, ensure they are the correct size, voltage and base type.
  • Water heater

    In Alberta, natural gas storage water heaters are the most commonly used residential water heater. Natural gas on-demand water heaters are also becoming popular because they are highly efficient and have sidewall venting capability.

    When you think about the cost of installing a water heater, it’s important to think about more than just the immediate costs. Installing a natural gas water heater is typically higher than electric water heaters, but the annual operating costs are much lower. The total life-cycle costs of natural gas water heaters are lower. So, before you know it, you’ve recovered the money you spent on purchase and installation.

    What can I do to use my water heater efficiently?

    • Once a year, drain a few litres from your hot water tank. This will minimize the sediment buildup that causes a water heater to work harder, wasting costly energy.
    • Dishwashers and washing machines use large amounts of water and energy, so only run them when they are full. Washing clothes in cold water will save additional energy.
    • Install a low-flow showerhead to reduce the amount of hot water used.
    • Fix leaky faucets. A faucet that drips once every second wastes 33 litres of water every day—the equivalent of 40 baths each year!
    • Set your water heater temperature control to “vacation mode” when you are away for extended periods of time.

    What do I need to know about water heater safety?

    • Ensure appliance venting is tightly secured and in good condition.
    • Keep the area around the hot water tank clear of flammable objects, such as paint thinners, cleaning agents, paper and other combustible materials.
  • Furnace

    There is nothing quite like stepping into a warm, cozy home on a cold Alberta day. It’s even better when you can do it economically.

    Condensing gas furnaces with an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) of 90 per cent or higher are typically the only type of furnaces available on the market today. High-efficiency condensing gas furnaces may increase the resale value of your home, lower the operating costs and may reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to older furnaces.


    What does AFUE mean?

    AFUE stands for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. You can find your furnace’s AFUE rating on the EnerGuide label or in the manufacturer’s brochure. The higher the rating, the more efficient the model and the lower its operating cost. The Government of Canada requires all newly manufactured gas furnaces to have a minimum AFUE rating of 90 per cent.


    What can I do to heat my home more efficiently?

    • Apply weather stripping around doors and windows to form an airtight seal that will prevent air leaks and drafts.
    • Insulate the attic and the basement. These are the two areas of your home that have the potential to lose the most heat.
    • Use caulking and weather stripping to make your home as energy efficient as possible. 
    • Buy a furnace that is the right size for your home. An oversized furnace will not operate at or near peak efficiency and an undersized furnace will not heat your home properly.
    • Reduce energy consumption by purchasing a furnace with a high-efficiency, brushless direct current (DC) motor, which uses up to 70 per cent less electricity. Alternating current (AC) motors use large amounts of electricity.

    What do I need to know about furnace safety?

    Have a certified heating professional inspect the furnace, vents and chimney regularly, according to the manufacturers’ specifications, to ensure they are operating efficiently and safely.

    Do not store combustible materials, such as paint thinners, gasoline, cleaning agents and other flammable objects, near the furnace.

How much electricity does my household use?

Typical Alberta home electrical consumption
Energy Smart Pie Chart