Photo by Brian Smith
When I think of winter, I think of snow-covered trees, warm fires, cozy blankets, wool mittens… and my heating bill.
Last week, the National Energy Board released their annual Winter Energy Outlook, forecasting an increase in gas costs this winter, meaning those home heating bills have nowhere to go but up.
“Despite abundant supply and storage, a seasonally normal winter weather forecast, and a slow growing North American economy, natural gas prices this winter are expected to be higher than they were last winter due to higher demand.” –The National Energy Board
While I’m fortunate enough to have utilities included in my current rental, this wasn’t always the case. And for the 70 per cent of Canadians who currently own homes, and for those renters that do pay utilities, this is a big deal.
Luckily, by making a few small changes to your lifestyle and home, you can easily reduce your heating costs this winter.
Turn down your thermostat
Grab a warm sweater and turn down your thermostat. According to The Office of Energy Efficiency at Natural Resources Canada, by lowering your thermostat just one degree you can save three per cent on your bill.
Better yet, by drastically turning down the thermostat when no one is home, you’ll save even more. If you have a programmable thermostat, set it so that it turns down automatically when you leave in the morning and turns back up about 30 minutes before you get home.
Have a Wi-Fi enabled thermostat? There are a variety of apps out there that let you control the temperature from your smartphone when you’re out of the house, so you can turn the temperature back up when you’re on your way home.
Finally, turning your thermostat down several degrees at night when you’re cozily tucked into bed can save you money – just make sure you layer up your blankets!
Get a space heater
If you spend a lot of time in one area of your home, you can reduce the overall temperature and simply heat the room you’re in. For instance, if you spend your evenings in the family room watching TV, dial down your thermostats, close the door to the family room and turn on a space heater, to help you stay warm while keeping your heating bill low.
A word of caution: Space heaters can be a fire hazard if not used properly, so be sure to read the instructions and keep it well away from any walls, curtains or other flammable objects. And never leave a space heater on when you’re not home or in another room.
Reseal your windows and doors
Sealing drafty windows and doors means a 15-to-30 percent decrease in energy consumption, which directly translates to savings on your bill. Spend a Sunday afternoon checking all your windows and doors to ensure those seals are still tight. If not, simply replacing the caulking or weather stripping will help keep the heat trapped inside your home, keeping you warm and with a few extra dollars in your pocket.
Also, it’s a good idea to keep your doors and windows shut as much as possible during the winter – frequent in-and-out traffic means you’re letting the heat escape.
Renovate and replace
Replacing your windows and old appliances, and upgrading your insulation, are all ways you can renovate your home and save money long-term.
Windows account for 25 per cent of heat lost in a home. By upgrading to ENERGY STAR windows, homeowners can save between $126 and $465 annually. Don’t want to upgrade right now? According to the City of Toronto, wrapping your windows with plastic can help you reduce the heat loss by as much as 50 per cent.
Poor insulation means a 10-to-30 percent heat loss – that can cost you between $180 and $540 annually. Finally, by replacing an outdated furnace with a newer, high-efficiency model you can save hundreds of dollars each year.
A great way to fund a renovation like this is by refinancing your mortgage and accessing the equity in your home.
Do you have any money saving tips for staying warm indoors this winter? We’d love to hear them!