The GTA region is in for a long, hot summer, according to early climatologist forecasts – and given our fair city just endured an unusually cold and lingering winter (an ice storm in April, what gives?) news of rising temps is music to Torontonian ears.
While we’re all eager to bask in those glorious summer rays, warmer temperatures are less enjoyable when trying to get shut-eye, especially from the stifling upper floor of an older home, or high-rise unit. The urge to crank the AC all summer long can be tempting – but beware the dramatic impact it can have on your utility bills. In fact, according to Toronto Hydro, air conditioning can account for 50% of energy consumption costs in the summer.
Cool off for less cash
While there are a few easy hacks to cut back on your AC use – running it at off-peak times and ensuring your unit has a good Energy Efficiency Ratio of 14 or higher can save upwards of $25 per month – installing a “learning” or programmable thermostat is one of the most effective ways to reduce cooling costs while remaining comfortable in your home.
The latest crop of smart thermostats don’t just monitor your home’s temperature; wi-fi and algorithm enabled, they’re able to track the comings and goings in your household, adapting to its specific usage needs. For example, a smart thermostat can learn to keep the temperature a few degrees cooler overnight, and have things warmed back up by the time you step out of your morning shower.
Other benefits include the ability to monitor and control your home’s temperature remotely via smartphone, a very handy feature for those with pets, taking a vacation, or just prone to accidentally leaving the AC blasting all day, as well as notifications should the furnace, AC or filters malfunction. Most models can also be seamlessly paired with other smart home tech, for example the Ecobee 4, which comes with built-in Amazon Alexa Voice Service.
Smart thermostats are also proving to be popular with landlords renting out private units, as it allows them to monitor and adjust the temperature within the unit themselves.
Take advantage of smart thermostat rebates
Depending on the model and your energy usage, installing a smart thermostat can save the average homeowner between $15 – $22 per month. Even better, in Ontario, homeowners who install one can receive a $100 rebate, available either as a cheque via the GreenON program, or as an energy bill credit via Enbridge.
To be eligible for the rebate, homeowners must install one of the qualifying smart thermostat models, ensuring it’s properly connected to their home’s systems and wi-fi. The models applicable for the rebate include:
- Nest Learning Thermostat, and Nest Thermostat E: Energy Star Certified, Nest monitors residents’ wi-fi connection and peak hours to create a personalized heating and cooling schedule. It provides savings of 10 – 12% on heating costs, and up to 15% off cooling bills.
- The Ecobee, versions 4, 3, 3 lite: This model uses room sensors to pick up on hot and cold spots, and provides estimated savings in the range of 20%.
Before you get smart
Before purchasing and installing a smart thermostat, however, it’s important to ensure your home’s furnace is compatible. This can be a challenge for some condo owners, as multi-residential HVAC systems can vary greatly from houses, and may be unable to be reconfigured.
In single-family homes, some furnaces don’t generate enough power for the smart thermostat’s internal batteries to recharge, or have outdated outlets simply not designed to be paired with a smart home device. Homeowners are wise to check with the thermostat provider first – both Nest and Ecobee provide complimentary compatibility testing – before chilling out the smart way.
Penelope Graham is the Managing Editor of Zoocasa.com, a leading real estate resource that combines online search tools and a full-service brokerage to empower Canadians to buy or sell their homes faster, easier and more successfully. Home buyers can browse Toronto real estate listings including condos, townhomes and houses for sale in Toronto.