With climate change leading to unpredictable extremes in weather, navigating the seasons comfortably is becoming more difficult — and expensive. Nearly one in 10 Canadians spend more than 10 per cent of their income on heating or cooling their home. On top of that, inflation has hit a 40-year-high.
While many people are understandably focusing on the rising price of gas and groceries, utility bills can also have a significant impact on your wallet. According to Statistics Canada, energy costs increased 34.8 per cent year over year in May.
With energy costs on the rise, it is important to know where your money is going and where you can save money. Around 81 per cent of your residential energy use goes to heating your space and water, and about 16 per cent goes to operating appliances and lighting. This totals about $2,102 per household per year.
That’s why it pays to get smart with how you consume energy. Here’s how to run a tight ship and make every dollar count.
Appliances and electronics
Did you know that a device that’s plugged in draws power even if it’s not in use? That’s called a “phantom load” or “vampire load,” and it costs the average family around $150 per year.
Think about whether it’s really necessary to leave a toaster or microwave plugged in all the time. It may be convenient, but the energy use might not be worth it.
Consider using smart outlets or power strips. These devices plug into standard wall outlets and can help eliminate phantom load used by devices. They also allow you to monitor energy use and turn devices on and off remotely.
And when it comes time to buy a new appliance or electronic device, make sure that the item is energy efficient. While most new appliances meet a certain standard, it never hurts to check for better options.
Heating and cooling
Walking into a cool house after being out in the hot sun is always refreshing. But if you’re in the habit of leaving the air conditioner on when you’re out of the house, it’s time to change your ways.
According to National Resources Canada heating your home makes up about 64 per cent of your utility bill, while cooling is about two per cent.
When it’s warm out and you’re not home, either turn off your AC unit completely or set it at a higher temperature so it’s not using as much energy. Conversely, lower your thermostat in the winter to help reduce your costs.
You can also invest in a smart thermostat to help you out. These devices allow you to program the temperature for different times and situations.
Some smart thermostats let you operate it via your mobile device. That means you can have the temperature raised while you’re not home, then when you’re on your way back, simply start the AC again and your home will be cool when you enter.
The lights you use in your home are a major source of energy consumption.
When you leave a room, or if it’s bright outside, do your best to keep the lights off. This simple act will help you cut down energy costs.
The next time an old incandescent lightbulb burns out, install an LED bulb instead. LED bulbs use around [90 per cent less energy]https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy-efficiency/spotlight-energy-efficiency/2021/11/14/everything-led/23946) than incandescent bulbs and can last at least 15 times longer.
In fact, you can save up to $6 a year for each light bulb you switch to an incandescent one.
Use focused task lighting, like a lamp, instead of overhead lights when possible. Having the focused light will not only require less lights to be used, but it can also make whatever job you’re doing easier.
The way your household uses water is another major contributor to energy costs — water heating amounts to about 18 per cent of your total energy use, and each Canadian uses about 329 litres of water per day.
If you leave the water running while you’re shaving or brushing your teeth, try shutting the tap off when the water is not in immediate use.
Turning your tap off while brushing your teeth alone can save 30-50 litres of water each day.
Shortening the time you take in the shower can also significantly reduce hot water usage. Long showers are nice, but they aren’t the easiest on energy (or water) usage.
And that dripping kitchen faucet isn’t good, either. A tap that drips at a rate of one drop per second wastes about 10,000 litres of water per year.
In the kitchen
Using your microwave and slow cooker(or crockpot) will use less energy than your oven. In the summertime, this exercise also helps reduce cooling costs since less heat is emitted into your home.
You’ll also want to check to make sure that your fridge and freezer are properly sealed, so that you’re not losing energy even if they’re closed.
If you have a second fridge or freezer, consider whether you really need it right now. If you only need it for certain periods, like around the holidays, unplug the device.
While you’re at it, check out the settings on your dishwasher. Using heat-dry, where the dishwasher uses its heating elements to dry the dishes, consumes a lot of energy. If you don’t need it, turn it off.
When it comes time to do a wash, use cold water to reduce energy costs. Hot water in laundry accounts for about 90 per cent of the energy used by the machine.
If possible, hang your clothes to dry and save yourself from having to run the dryer. If you need to use it, make sure you’ve got a full load in there and not just one or two items.
Windows and doors
New windows and doors often come with energy efficiency certification. Having properly sealed doors and windows reduces energy loss and helps lower the cost of heating or cooling your home.
Your doors and windows might be responsible for 25 per cent of your home’s heating and cooling cost.
Replacing your windows and doors is expensive, even when you take into account any government rebates that are available. If this isn’t in the cards for you, take the time to check for any broken seals around windows or doors. Most hardware stores offer solutions to help you fix drafts around doors and windows.
Similarly, buying good window coverings can help you manage the amount of energy that enters and escapes your rooms. Drawing blinds closed can help you reduce the temperature in a room in the summer, and opening them can help warm the space in the winter.
Having good air circulation can also help regulate the temperature in a room, so opening a window and turning on a fan in the summer can help cool a space without having to turn on the AC.
If you’re looking to improve the energy efficiency of your home, the good news is the government’s here to help.
The Canada Greener Homes Initiative offers grants ranging from $125 to $5,000 to help you retrofit your home to make it more energy efficient. The program can also help cover costs of getting a home evaluation and provide interest-free loans to help with retrofits
Those new windows may be expensive, but knowing that the government offers rebates up to $5000 to replace windows and doors with Energy Star models helps lessen the burden.
If you live in Quebec or Nova Scotia, before you start your retrofit, be sure to have an evaluation performed by Rénoclimat or Home Energy Assessment respectively. They will provide you with a detailed list of work that can be done to improve your home’s efficiency, in addition to information about how to receive the grants.
In other provinces, EnerGuide will perform the home evaluation and help you on your way.
Lowering your home energy use not only helps the environment, but it saves you money. Take a look at your habits around your home and see if there are ways you can reduce the energy you use.
You might be surprised that simple changes in behaviour can save you money on your hydro and water bills.
This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.