If you're like most people, you'd love to find a way to decrease your daily expenses. You may have tried cutting back on your daily coffee habit or limiting impulse clothing purchases, but have you tried to lower your electricity bill yet?
The average electric bill in Vancouver, Canada comes to $87.77/month, adding up to over $1,050 each year. If you're not already tracking and managing your regular home energy consumption, there are several things you can do to reduce your total energy costs that have little to no impact on your daily life.
Today we're going to dive into 5 ways to save energy at home including: Understanding your energy consumption, ways to reduce home heating costs, the power of insulation, how home automation can help, and how to use your home appliances to help lower your energy bill. Let's get to saving!
Get Familiar with How Much Energy You Really Use
When your monthly power bill arrives, do you just look at the amount due or do you dig a little deeper to understand where all that electricity was spent? If you're like most people, you probably just pay the bill and move on, but you could be missing out on significant savings opportunities.
If your power bill doesn't include an itemized list of where and how the energy was consumed (most don't), you might benefit from a home energy audit. An energy audit is one of the quickest and easiest ways to understand your energy consumption patterns and truly save money on your electric bill. The best part is, many companies offer grants and rebates for energy audits to reduce the cost or even offer the audit free of charge.
How Does an Energy Audit Work?
Energy audits take about an hour and are conducted at your home where an expert can test and understand the intricacies of your house. They generally start with a blower door test to identify any places air may be leaking in and out through cracks, unsealed vents, windows, and inefficient insulation. Rather than manually look for each and every crevice, they'll attach a very powerful fan to one of your exterior doorways and suck the air out of your house to lower the inside air pressure, making it very easy for the energy consultant to quickly identify each and every location of even the smallest leak.
Next, your energy consultant will use an infrared camera and thermal imaging to identify any areas of your home where heat is lost such as near windows or behind your clothes dryer. By the end of the audit, you'll receive a report of any potential energy inefficiencies in your house along with suggestions for improvements and updates that will actively reduce your energy costs. Contact your energy provider for more information.
Monitor Your Energy Usage
If your home runs on high voltage heating, managing your daily consumption with a smart thermostat, like Mysa, is an excellent way to reduce energy costs. Another great way to get familiar with your daily energy consumption is to install an energy monitor like Smappee or Sense. Energy monitors automatically track the electricity flowing to and from outlets, appliances, and heating, and provide detailed reports to help you and your family identify inefficiencies.
On a day to day basis the energy monitor might alert you that the heat was left on, heating an empty house while you're at work or that your refrigerator is using more energy than usual. Viewing the data as a whole, you might find that you could lower your energy bill simply by running your dishwasher during off-peak hours and track your energy consumption to accurately predict your monthly power bill. The more you know, the more you can save!
Get Smart About Heating Your Home and Reduce Your Power Bill
Home heating, including high voltage baseboard heating, accounts for 60-70% of your overall electric bill. We certainly don't suggest you reduce that number and suffer through the cold months, but a smart baseboard thermostat can make a world of difference in improving your heat energy consumption.
Most baseboard and radiant heating systems are high voltage and can be easily identified by the label on your thermostat (100, 115, 120 or 240 VAC). If your home runs on a high voltage heating system, it's very important you choose a smart thermostat that is designed for the high voltage system. Smart thermostats like Nest will only work with low voltage heating systems and others, like Ecobee will require rewiring the heating system before use. If you do have a high voltage heating system, your quickest and easiest option is to choose a smart thermostat that comes ready to track and manage baseboard heating, like Mysa.
Installing a smart thermostat makes it incredibly easy to automate your indoor temperature settings and lower your energy bill by automatically reducing the temperature at night for a better night's sleep and waiting until you're on your way home from work before getting the house warmed up for the evening. Once set up, you'll never need to adjust the temperature again!
Another smart thermostat feature to look for is the option to control multiple heating zones. This smart heating feature can significantly reduce your energy costs by heating only the rooms in use, making it easy to eliminate heating in guest rooms when they're unoccupied. This feature also gives you the power to heat rooms independently so the baby's room and the kitchen can stay a little cooler while your bedroom and the living room remain toasty warm. Smart thermostats make heating your home effortless by simply selecting your desired heating zone on the app.
Proper Insulation Makes a BIG Difference in Reducing Energy Costs
If your walls feel cool to the touch even when the heat is running, it's possible your insulation is in need of an upgrade. Conducting an energy audit is an easy way to identify insulation problems and also find any gaps where air may be leaking.
Insulation deteriorates over time, so if you live in an older home or haven't checked your insulation recently, now is the time. Improving your wall insulation will help keep the heat in and the cold out, significantly reducing your heating costs and lowering that energy bill.
Washington State's HomeWise Weatherization Program offers free improvements to homes in need of updated insulation, air sealing, furnace repairs and even provides free energy audits to help homeowners like you improve the energy efficiency of your home. Learn more >>
Windows are another culprit of potential heating leaks, which may also be identified by an energy audit, a window that's cold to the touch, or chilly to sit next to. Upgrading to double pane windows will not only make it possible to sit next to the window again, but will also lower your energy bill by preventing the heat from leaking out. Can't afford the window upgrade just yet? Pick up a couple sheets of window film that you can quickly install yourself to create an inexpensive DIY insulation for your windows.
Enlist Home Automation to Help Lower Your Electric Bill
New smart home automation systems can be very effective in helping you save money on your electric bill and live a little easier. Smart assistants like the Google Home Assistant and Amazon's Alexa make it possible to verbally dictate the powering on and off of appliances, lighting, heating, and more, and can even be programmed to do it all on your schedule, automatically.
Compatible smart home devices like smart thermostats, smart light bulbs, and smart locks can be paired with a smart assistant to automatically adjust your indoor air temperature to comfortably heat your home, turn lights off as you crawl into bed, and lock your doors when the last person returns home for the evening. Automating your routine not only makes your life a whole lot easier, but will also help lower your energy bill by avoiding heating and lighting an empty house. Smart home devices can even be checked and managed from an online dashboard if you worry about anything while you're away on vacation or a business trip.
Learn more about home automation options in The Ultimate Guide to Green Home Automation, published last week >>
Upgrade Energy Vampire Appliances to Reduce Your Monthly Energy Costs
Last, but certainly not least, let's talk about your clothes washer and dryer, refrigerator, dishwasher, oven, stove, water heater and all those other major appliances that suck your energy dry. These types of outdated, inefficient appliances have been comically dubbed “energy vampires” as they selfishly suck far more energy than necessary.
All appliances are different, depending on the model and age, but almost of all them can be improved to reduce their energy cost. If your appliances are on the older side, it's possible they may be consuming more energy than necessary. It's not their fault!
10 years ago, energy efficiency wasn't as important as it is today and many appliance manufacturers simply didn't prioritize energy consumption as high as other features such as drawers, size, and finish. Now manufacturers realize the importance of energy efficiency both as a cost savings for your household and as a larger benefit to the economy.
If your energy audit or energy monitor reports back a significant energy drain from any of your appliances, it may be time for an upgrade. As you survey your options like GE and Whirpool, keep in mind that Energy Star appliances consume an average of 20% less energy than traditional models.
Regardless whether you choose to upgrade to new energy efficient appliances, you can still save money on your electric bill simply by practicing proper appliance maintenance. Your appliances work hard and, over time, will become less efficient as they become blocked by dust, lint, ice, and pet hair. Regularly cleaning your refrigerator inside and out will help it stay cooler, consume less energy, and help it last longer. Similarly, removing lint from your dryer vents will not only reduce the energy cost of your clothes dryer, but also keep your family safer by avoiding the potential for fires.
The More You Know, The Easier it is to Reduce Energy Costs at Home
It's surprisingly easy to save money on your electric bill with a little awareness and forethought.
Lowering your energy bill doesn't have to mean sitting in a cold house or being a stickler about turning lights off. In fact, it's possible to live an even more luxurious lifestyle with upgraded Energy Star appliances, automatic high voltage baseboard heating systems, and smart home assistants to manage your entire house for you.
Today we discussed just 5 ways to save energy at home, but there are so many more things you can do. Bigger initiatives like installing solar panels will help you save so much more in the long run, too! Can you think of any? Share your ideas and experiences in the comments section below!