With electricity rates soaring across the continent, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep your energy bill at a reasonable level. Our whole lives revolve around pumping a steady stream of electricity into our homes and businesses, and, on average, 40% of it is converted to heat or AC to keep us nice and cozy – whatever the weather. While more homes are being built with energy efficiency as a priority, the reality is that the majority of people live in older dwellings with outdated and inefficient technology.
A lot of home heating problems can be fixed quite easily – but it can come at a significant cost. For a culture that’s emphasizing green living more and more, it’s sometimes hard to find a solution that won’t break the bank. New windows and insulation are the first steps in making any home more reliable, but retrofitting an entire house can start to run the bills up to thousands of dollars. Same with installing a new furnace or heat pump. The innovations of the future, like residential solar panels and batteries, are rapidly decreasing in cost but still remain out of reach for the budgets of many families. Studies have shown that over half of North Americans live paycheck to paycheck, and even more would not be able to support themselves for more than six months without a job. Even with many government programs and financial subsidies, it’s beyond the financial reach of many homeowners to start the process of turning houses green.
That leaves most people at a double disadvantage: they’re spending more money to heat their homes than they should have to and they don’t have the money to fix it. It’s a cycle that’s hard to break. Luckily, there are a number of more cost-efficient options and general tips that can help you drastically lower your energy bills.
1. Sealing Your Windows
Window efficiency and glass technology have made huge strides over the past few years to become more efficient, but the actual window is only one part of the energy picture. A drafty window could be caused by a number of things – where it’s placed and how it’s installed and sealed can make a huge difference in energy loss. If replacing your windows is outside your budget, the next best thing you can do is reseal the frame of your window and replace the weatherstripping.
Some people take this even further. Beginning in the late fall when temperatures begin to drop, and throughout the winter, people often seal up their windows with sheets of plastic to add an extra layer of insulation protection to their homes. This process is by far the easiest method; it takes little more than a couple of hours, some tape, and a hairdryer!
2. Power Bars and Surge Protectors
No, not the ones you eat, silly! The ones you plug into the wall! Not only are they a great solution for cord management and general organization, they also act as a great way to stop some electricity dependent appliances from running up your power bill. Leaving certain electronics plugged in all day (laptop, TV) adds up even when they’re not in use, as they draw small amounts of energy – which is referred to as a “Vampire Load”. Keeping similar devices on a single power bar allows you to turn things off with one flick of a switch.
Although it will cost you more, this is another piece that can integrate into your smart home. You can purchase power bars with these features starting around $80 and moving up from there. Even if you forget to switch things off before you go to bed or leave for the day, you can do it through app access or even set schedules for when you’re away. The amount of energy smart technology uses is negligible in the scope of your household energy picture.
3. More Layers… On Everything!
It might sound like common sense… and it is. Instead of cranking up the thermostat when a cold break hits, wearing a trusty set of pyjamas, your favourite sweater, wool socks, or cuddling up under a blanket should be your first line of defense if you’re trying to be frugal. You’ll be surprised by how much of a difference it can make and how quickly you get used to it.
If layers on your body keep you warm, let’s use some logic – layers on your house should too! Insulation is basically a blanket for your house, but historical building methods haven’t always been the most efficient. A big oversight? Floors – old-school hardwood flooring that you’ll find in a lot of urban centers is notoriously bad for letting that precious heat escape. Carpet became standard for a reason, and modern laminate and hardwood flooring is installed with home heating in mind. So you should consider tying that room together with a rug; it might help you save money, too.
4. You’re Already Making Heat… Re-Use and Recycle It!
The energy consumption that comes with day-to-day activities can take its toll on your power bill. Are you cooking? Watching TV? Playing videogames with a console? Taking a shower? Doing laundry? What about all of the above? …and you’ve still got the heaters on?! You need to be more aware of your heat generation! All of the common household activities listed above generate some amount of heat either directly or as a by-product.
While electronics have become less wasteful with advancements, gaming consoles and desktop computers still output a fair amount of heat. If you’re baking something in the oven, leave the door open a crack once you’re done – why let that heat dissipate? Same goes for a shower or your dishwasher. If you can, open the door instead of containing the excess heat of a hot shower to just your bathroom. Being aware of your energy use and coming up with innovative ways to re-use it is not just a great way to save money, but a major step towards a green lifestyle.
5. Smart Thermostats
Sometimes more tech is better than low tech. Smart home technology has come a long way. Once a novelty that made your house seem like something out of a 70s sci-fi movie, it has now become a crucial way to allow you to have tighter control over your household. This applies to virtually everything – your lights, outlets, locks, smoke detectors, security cameras – whatever you can think of. And for energy savings, one of the most important things to consider is your thermostat.
Your thermostat is the gateway for up to 40% of your energy usage, so more control can mean big savings. And smart thermostats give you exactly that. Whether it’s setting up heating zones or using advanced technology to learn how your room heats up, “smart” means a better and more efficient experience from your home heating. Remote control over your heating through smartphone apps allows you to come home to a warm house, regardless of if you’re running early or late. Not to mention they’re a very affordable option for the average homeowner; depending on the size and heating type, outfitting a house starts at around $100.
If your house has a furnace or central air, you have low voltage heating. and there are many prominent brands that offer great solutions: Nest, Ecobee, and Honeywell. If you use electric heating, you’re definitely more at risk of an inflated power bill. For a long time, there wasn’t a good solution on the market for baseboard heating or fan-forced heating – also known as line or high voltage systems. But now, there’s the Mysa Smart Thermostat, a way to make sure that millions of homes have smart control over their electric heat. It integrates with all major virtual assistants (Google Home, Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa) and offers all of the smart temperature control features of its biggest low voltage counterparts. Check here for more information on Mysa, and here, and here to see how it stacks up against other “smart” line voltage options.
Check out our guide to smart thermostats for more information.