Each year, as you prepare for winter weather to arrive, you take care of all the usual chores; close up the pool, put away the patio furniture, and tune up the snow blower. As you brace for that first seasonal forecast predicting below zero temperatures and heavy snowfall, you should also look into how you can lower your electric bill.
There are several things Ontario residents can do to keep your electric bill as low as possible.
1) Adjust your living habits
Back in 2010, provincial regulations required Hydro One to install Smart Meters in every home and business. Combined with Time-of-Use (TOU) prices, you should now be able to manage your electricity costs by limiting some use to lower-priced, non-peak hours.
Meter readings are done automatically through a wireless system that identifies how much electricity you’ve used each month and when exactly you used it. You may not realize it, but the savings can add up quickly.
Hydro One’s winter hours are in effect from November 1st through April 30th, so you’re paying 18 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) on-peak from 7 am to 11 am and 5 pm to 7 pm vs. 8.7 cents per kWh off-peak from 7 pm to 7 am. That’s a significant savings for waiting just a few hours to do your chores.
If your laundry and dishwasher machines have a timer feature, you can save money by washing your dishes while you sleep. Don’t have time to manage your energy use during the week? No problem, weekends and holidays are calculated as off-peak all day.
2) Watch your appliance settings
How you use your appliances also has an effect on your expenses. To save money and prolong your home appliances’ lifespan, avoid:
- Running appliances on full capacity—constantly using the heavy-duty settings on washing machines and dishwashers with an oversized load will make the equipment run longer, draw more power and wear components out faster.
- Washing clothes in hot water—if you have an electric water heater, using the hot water setting on your washing machine will use more electricity to heat the water. Most high-efficiency machines work just as well using cold water and don’t require any additional power.
- Overloading and overheating your dryer—when you try to dry too many clothes at once, your dryer has to work harder and longer. You might think turning the heat setting to “high” will help clothes dry faster. Unfortunately, this will use more electricity, shrink your clothes and cause wear and tear on your machine. Try to do several smaller loads on a lower heat setting to conserve energy and dry your clothes more efficiently.
3) Repair drafty windows and doors
You may not notice just how much air leaks through your windows and doors when it’s warm and sunny. Now that winter is just around the corner, it’s time to seriously evaluate the structural integrity of these fixtures.
If upon closer inspection you find water, air, or noise infiltration, cracks or gaps, or functional issues, it’s probably time to replace your windows and doors. Natural Resources Canada recommends selecting energy efficient windows and doors with an ENERGY STAR certification to achieve the maximum energy savings.
Adding extra features such as LoE glass coatings, triple glazing or gas injection will help conserve even more and reduce your electric bill further. Once your windows are professionally installed, make sure any storm windows are lowered to create an air-tight seal.
Even better, new windows and doors will enhance the overall appearance and improve your home’s curb appeal, provide more security from intruders, reduce safety hazards in case of a fire, and add value when it’s time to sell.
4) Remember to unplug
By unplugging electronics such as televisions, computers, coffee makers, surround sound systems and other home appliances, your savings add up by the end of the year! Use the power saver setting on your computer to shut it down when not in use. Smart surge strips also help reduce vampire electricity usage if it’s just too inconvenient to unplug everything completely.
5) Light it up right
LED bulbs are the way to go. If you’ve been hesitant to replace your old bulbs, now is the time to do so. They save you money in many ways—less electricity due to lower wattage, reduced cooling costs as these bulbs give off very little heat, and replacement costs as each bulb is designed to last years.
Don’t forget about those holiday decorative lights. While you may be sentimental about hanging the same string of lights year after year, it’s time to invest in new LED holiday lights. They use 75% less energy and last 25% longer than old styles. Unplug these before heading to bed to keep your electric bill in check.
Now that you can confidently lower your electric bill this winter, you can look forward to the fun things the season brings—family gatherings, outdoor snow sports, delicious comfort foods, and a few extra dollars in your pocket. And remember, if you’re buying a new home, ask the builder about your energy efficient options!