Canadians know that winter weather often doesn’t wait for December – around these parts, the chill comes much sooner than that, and this year’s been no different. Freezing temperatures seen in much of the country can take a toll on even the hardiest of Canadians, and on their heating bills.
The good news? Keeping warm in wintertime doesn’t have to put a hole in your wallet. But short of walking around in a human tea cozy, what can you do to save on heating and utilities? Take off that Snuggie and keep reading to find out!
It doesn't have to be this way...
1. Dial down your thermostat
It’s the oldest trick in the energy-saving book, but it’s there for a reason. Cranking down your thermostat really does save money – by setting your thermostat back just 1 degree, you can save about 3% off of your heating bill. Let’s say your average energy bill on a cold winter month is $400 – you can save $12 a month just by dialing down the heat.
You’re probably reluctant to lower that thermostat during the frigid Canadian winter, but give the lower levels a chance – there are plenty of ways to stay warm without breaking the bank. Turn down the heat when you go to work, then when you get home put on a sweater and warm slippers to stay warm without cranking it back up. You can even put a space heater in the living room, or other family gathering area, to stay toasty without having to heat up the whole house.
2. Turn off and switch out those lights
“Get back here and turn that light off!”
Does that sentence bring back childhood memories? Ever since the first light bulbs illuminated Victorian households, parents have been chiding their children to turn off the lights when they leave a room. But this age-old trick isn’t just parental nonsense – by turning off the lights when leave the room, you actually save a lot of money off your electricity bill.
How much money you save depends on what kind of lights you have, and the amount of energy they use per hour. For example, let’s say there are two 60 watt lights in your house that you usually leave on for 8 hours. With the average price of electricity in North America at 10 cents per kilowatt hour, you’ll save almost $3 a month, and $35 a year just by switching those lights off.
What’s more, if you’re still using those energy-sucking incandescent bulbs, it’s time to bring your lighting into the 21st century. To save money and energy, switch out your old incandescent lights with LED (light-emitting diode) or CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) ones – an incandescent bulb ends up costing $300 over 50,000 hours, while a CFL light bulb will cost only $70, and an LED even less, at $50.
Incandescent, CFL, and LED light bulbs
3. Unplug those vampire appliances
Beware of vampires lurking in your home in the form of energy-sucking appliances.
Your TV, microwave, toaster, laptop and more are all draining energy, even if they’re turned off. They’re called vampire appliances, and they can take a bite out of your wallet. Don’t be fooled by stand-by modes either, they still use power until you turn them off completely. So pull the plug and save some green – your electricity bill will thank you.
4. Reach for the (energy) stars
In the market for new appliances? If you need a new fridge, stove or other major appliance, make sure to keep an eye out for the international Energy Star symbol – these efficient models can help cut your energy use and monthly costs by 30% - 50%!
There are more than 65 types of Energy Star products
on the market in Canada, ranging from lighting to heating to office equipment, so there’s no excuse not to go green.
Good for the environment, and your wallet.
5. Dial down that hot water
Everyone likes a long, hot shower, especially after coming in from the brisk winter chill. But all that steamy water and time spent luxuriating under the showerhead can lead to one hefty bill. The good news? Making your shower shorter and cooler can help you save money, but doesn’t require cutting down to a 2-minute navy-style rinse.
Just set your water tank thermostat two degrees lower, between 60 to 65 degrees Celsius, or midway between “low medium” or “warm normal”. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a hot water heater set at 60 degrees or higher wastes money keeping temperatures that high – $36 to $61 per year. Plus, it costs upwards of $400 to heat fresh water past 60 degrees. To save even more, install a low-flow shower nozzle – these mix air with the water flow, and reduce the amount of water needed by 50%.
6. Weatherproof your home
We’ve already been through this process – in September, we brought you a list of fall home maintenance tips
to help ready your house for the chilly season. If you went ahead and weatherproofed your home already, you’re all set for winter. If not, it may be time to prepare your humble abode, before the freeze sets in for good. This includes:
- inspecting your gutters
- patching up air leaks: including fixing gaps in weather-stripping and re-caulking trouble areas
- getting your furnace inspected
- changing and/or vacuum your furnace filter
- checking your insulation
7. Take advantage of energy-saving incentives
Natural Resources Canada has a slew of incentives and programs
to help Canadian businesses and households save energy. Just click on your province or territory and check out the list of grants and financial incentives available to residents in your area.
Plus, if you’re a Union Gas customer, make sure to order your free energy saving kit – these kits include an energy-efficient showerhead, kitchen swivel aerator, bathroom aerator and more. So roll up your sleeves and start saving on energy this winter!