Energy consumption and costs have risen steadily since the end of the twentieth century with the increase in energy costs far outpacing growth in disposable income.
A study by the Fraser Institute showed that over one million Canadian households spend more than 10% of their income on electricity, natural gas, and other heating fuels, leaving them energy poor.
In the United States, energy costs make up more than one-fifth of the after-tax income of about 25 million households.
Here are 15 easy ways to save on energy costs this winter!
1. Lower the Thermostat to 20°C
When you are home, leave the thermostat at 20°C (68°F) and wear a sweater if necessary. Reduce to 18°C at night when you go to bed.
When you are away from the house, keep the thermostat between 12°C and 16°C. Temperatures below 12°C increase the possibility of water pipes freezing and bursting.
Installing a programmable thermostat can take the chore out of adjusting the temperature now and again. You can save up to 2% of your heating bill for every 1°C you turn down your thermostat.
2. Fill up the Dishwasher and Clothes washer
Fill up and save on energy costs. Air-dry dishes in the dishwasher and use the economy wash option to conserve energy and save cost.
3. Maximize Solar Energy
The sun that shines in winter brings along precious solar heat that can warm up your house!
Open drapes and blinds during the day, especially those on south-facing windows. Remember to lower them in the evening to retain the heat.
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4. Tune-up the Furnace
Service the furnace before the winter season. Tuning up the furnace will reduce energy use and may save up to 10% on heating bills. Part of furnace maintenance includes changing the furnace filter regularly.
Upgrade your old natural gas furnace to a 95% or more efficiency furnace with a variable-speed blower motor. If you have a wood fireplace, close the damper when not in use.
5. Plug Air Leaks
Find and plug leaks bringing in the cold air. Potential leak sites include doorways, mail slots, exhaust fans, attic hatches, fireplace dampers, windows, holes in exterior walls for pipes, outdoor taps, dryer vents, and chimneys.
Replace worn weatherstripping on doors and windows; caulk where necessary. Weatherstripping around doors and windows can decrease energy use by up to 25%.
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6. Monitor Humidity Levels
As the furnace heats up your home, humidity tends to drop. Invest in a good humidifier to keep humidity at appropriate levels (35-45%) and save on heating bills.
This is because moist air feels warmer and holds heat better than dry air.
7. Upgrade Insulation
A lot of heat can be lost to the exterior due to poor insulation. If you live in an older house that has not had its insulation upgraded, consider getting it done.
Remember to check that the attic access door is also well insulated. If your basement is uninsulated, it may account for 20-25% of your heat loss.
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8. Cover Drafty Windows and Patio Doors with Insulation Film
Buy window insulation kits from the hardware store or online and install on those drafty windows and patio doors. It will increase their R-value and reduce the cold draft.
9. Save on Water Heating
Hot water accounts for about 11-18% of your energy bill. Lower the temperature of your water heater to 49°C (120°F) to save on costs. Anything higher is unnecessary.
Plan to reduce the time you spend in the shower or bath. If you have an older water heater, it may be economical to replace it or cover it in an insulating jacket.
Also, insulate the first 5-8 ft of piping that leaves the heater. Remember, hot water heaters should be cleaned out 1-2 times a year to remove sediment build-up.
10. Wash with Cold Water and Clean the Dryer’s Lint Trap
Use cold water to wash your clothes whenever possible. This can reduce your washer’s energy use by as much as 75%.
Ensure the clothes dryer lint trap is cleaned after each use. A clogged lint trap can increase energy use by up to 30% and present a safety hazard.
Also, dry loads in a row to take advantage of the already warm dryer. Dryer balls are said to reduce drying time and to soften clothes naturally.
11. Replace Incandescent Bulbs with CFL or LED
Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL) and Light Emitting Diodes (LED) bulbs will cut your energy cost. They can use as much as 80% less energy and also last much longer .
12. Install Low-Flow Shower Heads and Faucets
This will save on water usage and cut your energy costs. If you live in Manitoba, Manitoba Hydro’s “Power Smart Water and Energy Saver Program” offers free water and energy saver kits to help you save water and energy.
Each kit contains low-flow showerheads, faucet aerators for kitchen and bathroom sinks, water heater pipe wrap insulation, a plumber’s tape, and a refrigerator thermometer.
13. Use Light Timers or Motion Sensors
This is particularly important for all outdoor lighting. Timers can be programmed to come up for a couple of hours per day and sensors ensure that lighting is available when you need it.
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14. Use a Smart Power Strip
Plug your electronics – TV, computers, DVD players, TV boxes, speakers, stereos, printers, etc. into a power strip that can be easily turned off when they are not in use.
This will reduce losses through phantom loads or vampire power and may cut your energy bill by up to 10%.
15. Replace with ENERGY STAR® Appliances
If replacing or upgrading appliances in your home, consider buying Energy Star models. These energy-efficient appliances will save you money over time, for example, replacing a pre-1994 washer could save you about $110.