Home energy costs make up a big portion of an average household’s budget. It’s so significant, in fact, that heating cost even makes up an important part of the calculation lenders use to decide whether you can afford a mortgage.
Fortunately, your energy costs are at least somewhat within your control – especially if you own your home. Here are some ways you can save money on your home energy costs:
Trade your furnace for a younger model
An old furnace is an expensive furnace. Heating and cooling use up the largest share of home energy by far and inefficient appliances could be costing you a lot of money.
Older furnaces might perform as poorly as 60% efficiency – that means that for every dollar you spend on heating your home, 40¢ literally goes right up the chimney. Newer furnaces, on the other hand, can achieve 97-98% efficiency, keeping virtually all the heat they generate inside your home.
Another hidden cost of an older furnace is insurance. I recently learned this the hard way. When my furnace turned 25, I had to get it inspected before I could renew my home insurance. It’s rare that you’ll find a furnace that’s old enough to rent a car, but if yours is getting up there in years it could be costing you money in more ways than one.
The same can be said for your air conditioner – replacing your aging central air conditioner with a newer, more efficient unit can help keep you cool and save money in the summer.
Or just turn down the heat
Setting your heat a few degrees cooler in the winter and setting your air conditioner a few degrees warmer in the summer can make a big difference on your heating and cooling costs.
A great way to make sure you’re not wasting money on heating and cooling when you don’t need it is by installing a smart thermostat. Some higher-end models can even predict your temperature preferences and learn how your system will demand under different conditions, so you’ll always be comfortable and never spend a penny more than you have to.
Most single-family homes have a hot water tank that’s always ready with enough hot water for any task. But the downside to these water heaters is that the temperature has to be maintained, and you could be paying to keep water warm for hours at a time – even when you’re not using any water at all.
One way to save some money on water heating is to simply turn down the thermostat. There’s no appliance in your house that demands boiling water; you just need it to be warm enough for a comfortable shower.
If you’re more ambitious, consider replacing your old tank-style water heater with a tankless unit. These devices heat water on demand, so you’re only paying to heat the water you use. They cost a little more upfront, but they can save a lot of money on water heating costs over the long run.
Send your clothes for a polar bear dip
Unless you’re an extreme morning person who takes cold showers and drinks six raw eggs in a glass for breakfast, hot water for your shower is non-negotiable. But your clothes won’t mind if you take away their hot bubble bath and exchange it for a cold one.
A top-load washing machine can use up to 100 litres of water for a single wash. That’s a lot of hot water just for laundry. Try switching to cold water detergent and you might notice some savings on your energy bills. And your clothes might last longer, too.
Trade in your dinosaur light bulbs
When Thomas Edison patented the incandescent light bulb, he was on to something that would improve lives around the world forever. But energy efficiency wasn’t exactly top-of-mind at the time.
If you haven’t already, you can swap your old fashioned 60-watt light bulbs for CFLs that use about 16 watts to produce the same amount of light – that’s a 75% reduction in energy use. Then once you’ve done that, you can cut your energy use in half again by ditching your outdated CFLs for LED bulbs that use about 8 watts. Plus, LED light bulbs have a life of about 40,000 hours so you may never have to change a light bulb again.
Put your roof to work
What’s it doing up there anyway? Keeping the sun and rain off your head? So what?
Every day (even the cloudy ones) the sun beams down precious kilowatt-hours worth of energy on to your asphalt shingles that turn it into exactly nothing. But adding solar panels to your roof can generate electricity you can sell back to your hydro company for a significant markup over market prices (solar programs vary by province).
If you have the space, your panels will pay for themselves over the long run and you can save a lot of money on hydro while you’re at it.
Invest in the boring things
Have you upgraded to energy efficient windows? What’s the R-value of the insulation in your attic? Have you sealed around your windows, doors, floors, walls, ceilings, and fireplace? How many devices are plugged in all day long? Are you using water-efficient shower head?
There are lots of little things around your home (and out of sight) that can increase your energy bills if they’re not addressed. You might not get to enjoy an extra layer of insulation in your attic the same way you would enjoy a smart thermostat, but you’ll feel the difference in your home and in your wallet.
“Investing in insulation and new windows are great ways to save on energy and save on your bill,” says Derek Roldan, Marketing Advisor of Save on Energy at the Independent Electricity Systems Operator (IESO). “But energy-efficient upgrades to your home don’t have to break the bank. Small changes like adding a smart thermostat or weather stripping around existing windows can have a big impact and add real value.”
Every little bit counts
I’m the first to admit most of these aren’t small changes. As a homeowner, it’s up to you to decide which investments are worth the potential savings.
But even doing little things like turning off lights and unplugging your phone charger when it’s not in use will help ease your energy costs. It’s up to you how much you do and when you start.
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