Are you looking for ways to squeeze extra cash out of your monthly budget? Well, chances are you’re probably eyeing your electricity bill as a possible source of savings. The average Canadian spends $1,300 a year on electricity alone, which means that your energy bill can consume upwards of 5 to 10% of your income. What’s even worse is that there are dozens of fees and charges in one supposedly simple bill—and figuring out exactly what to focus on is the most challenging part of lowering your monthly energy costs.
Every individual, family, and home has its own energy profile; that’s why you should tailor your energy-saving efforts to your unique environment. We’re always keen to ensure that the lights are off when a room isn’t occupied, and we try to keep heating and cooling costs to a minimum. But do you know that there are other strategies for saving significant amounts of money on your monthly energy bill without sacrificing any of your daily comforts?
Here are a few simple steps you can take to reduce energy costs and free up more cash each month.
Start with an Energy Audit
A home energy audit is the first step toward an energy-efficient home. An energy audit can help you identify areas of energy loss and the steps you can take to improve energy efficiency. A professional auditor can help ensure that your home is up to standards; if it’s not, they might unearth hidden energy issues in your home.
A professional home energy assessment is an in-depth evaluation of your home’s energy use. An energy auditor will normally conduct a room-by-room examination of the residence in addition to an analysis of your past utility bills. Before the auditor visits your home, prepare a list of existing concerns, such as condensation or drafty rooms. Also be sure to have a summary or copy of your home’s energy bills on hand since the auditor will use this information to determine what areas or weaknesses to look for during the assessment.
A home energy assessment typically starts outside and then moves indoors. The auditor may use specialized equipment, such as infrared cameras, blower doors, surface thermometers, and furnace efficiency meters, to detect sources of energy loss. Accompany the auditor as they move through your house and ask questions. The answers to these questions may help you identify areas where you could trim your household’s energy consumption.
Resources for locating professional energy assessment or auditing services include your state or local government energy office or your electric/gas company.
Switch to a Smart Thermostat
Being smart about how you control your temperature settings will help you save money and stay comfortable in your home. A smart thermostat connects to your heating and cooling system in ways that a conventional thermostat can’t. For starters, an intelligent thermostat monitors your energy use to help you save money by programming itself to suit your needs. Besides increasing or decreasing the temperature in your home, an intelligent thermostat quietly learns your schedule even if you don’t stick to a consistent nine-to-five routine. With motion sensors that detect when you’re away from home, a smart thermostat will automatically switch your heating and cooling system to low-power standby mode to cut energy consumption.
A smart thermostat can do a great job of managing your energy use, but you can go a step further and control your household’s energy consumption remotely. Just log into the smart thermostat’s mobile app to switch off the lights in an unoccupied room or set the thermostat to start heating your home 30 minutes before you arrive.
It takes a lot of work to shave money off your energy bill, but a smart thermostat can do most of the heavy lifting.
Install Ceiling Fans
Ceiling fans can help you conserve energy in your home—but only when used with other energy-saving methods. Even if using a ceiling fan results in you making only minor adjustments to your thermostat, the energy savings can be significant. The average power consumption of a ceiling fan at high speed is about 75 watts, which is far lower than the 750 watts consumed by a small electric heater or the 2,000 watts used by an air conditioner.
You’re probably aware that a ceiling fan makes a room more comfortable in warm weather, but there is one detail that is often ignored: A ceiling fan doesn’t actually cool a space. It creates gentle air movements that provide a wind chill effect so that you feel cooler and more comfortable. As a result, a ceiling fan provides little or no benefit when the room is unoccupied—it will only add to your energy bill. However, experts say that it can help prevent mold and limit humidity.
Even so, using ceiling fans to maintain constant air circulation in your home helps ensure that your air conditioner doesn’t have to work so hard.
Service Your HVAC Unit Regularly
HVAC systems need regular maintenance to ensure they are functioning properly. You can’t expect your HVAC system to maintain a comfortable temperature in your home without giving it anything in return. You can increase your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning efficiency by having the HVAC system inspected and cleaned at least once a year. An added advantage is that you’ll also have clean air circulating in your home.
Leverage Off-Peak Rates
Utility companies aren’t always looking to slap you with a hefty energy bill. Thanks to programs like time-of-use plans, electricity rates—usually per kilowatt-hour—will vary based on peak and off-peak usage. As a result, you can control your electricity costs by taking into account the time of day or even the day of the week that energy is consumed.
Time-of-use programs encourage customers to heat their homes, do their laundry, run their dishwashers, and use other electric appliances during off-peak hours. In return, they receive savings in the form of rebates or reduced electricity rates from the utility company. However, it’s essential to fully understand the electricity provider’s pricing schedule and know the cheapest times of the day or week to use electricity.
Also know that peak and off-peak hours may vary by provider. While calling your provider is the best way to understand the pricing schedule, some common peak times include:
- Early evenings and late afternoons
- Summer and winter
Use Optimal Fridge and Freezer Temperatures
Keeping your fridge or freezer set unnecessarily low can consume more energy and leave you with a higher energy bill. Maintain an optimal temperature of 35 to 38 degrees F so that your fridge can work at peak efficiency, reducing your energy costs. Your freezer should be set at 5 degrees F.
Built-in temperature gauges aren’t always accurate, so you’ll need a freestanding thermometer—placed in the fridge for about 20 minutes—to measure its temperature. If you’re close to the recommended or ideal temperature, that’s great. If the results say otherwise, you’ll need to turn to your fridge’s temperature control panel. Do the same in your freezer and aim to get the temperature as close to zero as possible.
Use Energy Star Certified Appliances
Energy Star is a widely recognized and trusted label awarded to products that meet strict energy-efficiency requirements set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Energy Star appliances are third-party certified and subject to ongoing verification testing.
Products that have earned the Energy Star label help you save energy and money without sacrificing performance. By consuming less energy, these appliances also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. Today, the Energy Star label is found on more than 65 different kinds of products found in our homes and workplaces, including office equipment, lighting, consumer electronics, and heating and cooling equipment.
By integrating advanced technologies and premium features, Energy Star certified products help offset initial acquisition costs through energy savings over the life of the unit. Here are examples of Energy Star certified appliances and how they help you save on your energy bill:
- Refrigerators and freezers. Improvements in insulation and compressors ensure that today’s refrigerators and freezers consume much less energy than older models. A new Energy Star certified refrigerator is about 15% more energy efficient than the minimum standard for refrigerators and costs, on average, about $50 a year to run. Surprisingly, it uses less energy than a 60-watt light bulb.
- Dehumidifier. A standard dehumidifier, running constantly, consumes more energy than a clothes washer, refrigerator, and dishwasher combined. An Energy Star certified dehumidifier removes the same amount of moisture as a similarly sized standard appliance but consumes 15% less energy since it is equipped with more efficient compressors, refrigeration coils, and fans.
- Dishwashers. Modern Energy Star certified dishwashers, on average, are 10% more energy efficient and 20% more water efficient than their standard counterparts. They also cost less than $35 annually to run while saving an average of 1,900 gallons of water over their lifetime.
- Clothes washers. The average Canadian family washes about 300 loads of laundry each year. An Energy Star certified washer can slash your energy costs by about a third and your water cost by more than half.
Install Energy-Efficient Lighting
Did you know that you can light your home for less? On average, a household allocates about 5% of its energy budget to lighting. Traditional incandescent bulbs consume a lot of energy and are no longer recommended, as 90% of their energy is given off as heat. This lost energy equals money being thrown away.
Switching to energy-efficient lighting is one of the fastest ways to slash your energy bills. By replacing your home’s bulbs or lighting fixtures with models that bear the Energy Star label, you can save up to $45 on your annual energy costs. Additionally, there are numerous energy-efficient lighting options, such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs), halogen incandescents, and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). Although initial costs may be higher than traditional bulbs, newer energy-efficient bulbs cost less to operate, last longer, and consume less energy, which saves you more money during their lifetime.
Electricity powers our homes, and the choices we make affect our overall energy costs. Reducing energy use in your home saves you money, increases your energy security, and reduces the amount of pollution emitted from any non-renewable energy sources in your household. By following the simple tips in our energy saver guide, you can make your home more comfortable and easier to heat and cool—all while saving money.