10 easy tips to cut your energy costs this winter

In partnership with Promutuel Insurance

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You might think that to spend less you just need to consume less, but it gets trickier when it comes to electricity. Heating, laundry, lighting, even the airtightness of your home—they all impact your electricity bill. To help you save money, here are 10 easy things you can do every day to reduce your electricity bill this winter.

1. Switch to electronic thermostats

Electronic thermostats are more precise and also have the advantage of being programmable (most models). They allow you to set a different temperature for each room, and even adjust it throughout the day.

For example, you could lower the thermostat in your bedroom and turn up the heat in your office during the day, then switch things around in the evening. And remember that at night, when you’re cozied up under your duvet, you don’t need as much heat as you do during the day!

If replacing your thermostats is a big investment, start with the rooms you heat the most as well as any open-living areas (which often experience heat loss). Always have a licensed electrician do the replacement.

2. Beware of phantom power

“Phantom” load, aka standby mode, is a term used to describe invisible and unnecessary energy use. For example, DVD players, coffee makers, and electric shavers all consume energy when plugged in, even if they’re turned off. According to Natural Resources Canada, phantom load can account for up to 10% of your annual electricity bill!

When you’re not using these devices, unplug them. Consider using a power bar to turn all of the devices on and off at once. Shut down your computer when you’re not using it instead of putting it into sleep or energy saving mode (a good excuse for not reading your emails on weekends!) Lastly, never leave a charger plugged into the wall socket. It may be convenient, but it’s also a waste of energy.

3. Do less laundry!

Make your life easier by doing your laundry less often. Full loads are more energy-efficient, so go ahead and do fewer but bigger loads of laundry. Washing your clothes in cold water will not only help you save on your electricity bill, but also keep your clothes looking their best for longer.

4. Monitor your hot water consumption

Did you know that hot water accounts for about 20% of power consumption in Quebec households? That’s a lot of energy! To help you save on hot water, follow these tips:

  • Replace your shower head with a low-flow model. Some municipalities like Montréal even offer free exchanges during annual campaigns promoting eco-friendly habits.
  • Choose showers over baths, which use a lot of hot water.
  • Don’t rinse your cutlery before putting it in the dishwasher. Dishwashers are powerful enough to remove dirt.
  • Only run your dishwasher when it’s full. Choose the shortest cycle and the air dry option (instead of the regular heat-dry setting).

5. Turn off the lights

This sounds pretty obvious, but think about it for a moment: how many times a week, or even a day, do you leave the lights on without a second thought? And do you really need your accent lighting in the living room, or even at the front door, at night? Always turn off the lights when you leave the room and use timers. If you haven’t already done so, switch to LED lights, which use less energy and are more durable.

6. Say yes to curtains

Curtains are a great way to enhance your home decor, and they’re energy smart too! Drawing the curtains at night (instead of blinds) helps keep heat in while acting as a barrier against the outdoor cold. When the morning comes, draw them back and enjoy the sunshine!

7. Bust that dust

Yes, dust can affect heating! An obstructed baseboard heater uses more electricity. It’s a good idea to clean your heating system components regularly and empty your dryer filter often.

8. Seal air leaks

Good insulation is key to reducing heat loss in winter, but you might not have the budget for a major insulation upgrade. In that case, focus on sealing air leaks.

Look for areas in your home where the floor and walls are cooler, check exterior doors and windows, and don’t forget the dryer and range hood exhaust ducts. For as little as a few dozen dollars, you can seal leaky windows you won’t be opening in winter with plastic film.

9. Focus on insulation

By properly insulating your home, you’ll bring your electricity bill down quickly. Of course, that requires some investment on your part. If you are carrying out heating or insulation work, municipal or government programs such as Rénoclimat could help cover some of the costs.

10. Lower the temperature by one degree

Comfort is important, but take a look at the thermostat in each room of your home and ask yourself if you could turn it down by just one degree. Let?s face it, your laundry room doesn’t require the same level of comfort as your living room! While it’s hard to quantify the impact on your bill (it depends on the size of each room, insulation, and other factors), any energy savings will help reduce your winter electricity costs.

Turn the heat down by a few degrees in unused rooms and close the door to avoid cooling the other rooms.

Something to keep in mind

It can be tempting to turn the heat all the way down in hopes of big-time savings. But your pipes could freeze, causing major damage to your home—and your wallet! Keep the temperature at a comfortable level (about 20 degrees) and focus on the changes listed above instead—they’re less risky and pay off more in the long term.

Also, if you plan on using your fireplace or wood stove for heat, be sure to use them safely. Remember that your heater must be certified by a recognized Canadian testing laboratory (ULC, CSA, WH) and must meet all installation standards and requirements according to the laws in force. Lastly, don’t forget to clean your chimney regularly.

Be winter smart

The more you take these tips to heart, the more they will become part of your routine. When it’s time to get your home ready for winter, make time for maintenance. You’ve got this! And lastly, remember that home insurance is important at any time of year.