Regular running costs of a house can add up over time and if you’re not paying attention, they can start to take a significant bite out of your monthly income. If you’re reviewing your monthly utility bills, check to see if they have increased over the last few years. If they have, check to see if the increase is due to higher rates or higher consumption, or sometimes it’s due to both. Even if you maintain your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment, appliances and other mechanical equipment regularly, your systems become less efficient as they age. Here are 10 tips for saving money at home.
1. Hire an energy auditor
According to Stats Canada, 63% of our energy consumption is used for space heating. If you find you’re uncomfortable in your house in the middle of winter, it’s time you beefed up your home’s insulation, sealed any cracks and caulked between the walls and the window trim. Before you take any measures, hire an energy auditor. An energy auditor’s job is to analyze your home’s energy use, and identifying air infiltration areas in your home’s building envelope. The energy audit will also let you know how efficient your furnace, air conditioning unit and major appliances are and whether it’s time to invest in some new ones. Many provinces offer rebates for having your home audited.
2. Replace your 15 year old or older major appliances
Current Energy Star certified appliances are 20-30% more efficient than standard appliances. The running costs of a new Energy Star certified refrigerator will cost 50% less than the running costs of a 15 year old one annually. To see how much you can save by replacing your old fridge, visit Energy Star’s website.
3. Unplug minor appliances not in use
In 1990, Stats Canada reported that Canadians had an average of 15 appliances in their home. By 2009 that number had grown to 21 appliances (major and minor). Those extra minor appliances soak up additional electricity more than offsetting the gains made from new energy efficient major appliances. When was the last time you used your VCR or even DVD player for that matter? What about the beer fridge in your basement? Many utility companies across the country will even pay you for getting it out of your home.
4. Programmable Power bar for your TV and Gaming station
Why pay for electricity you’re not using? TV set top boxes, gaming stations and desktop computers all use electricity to keep them on standby power when you’re not home. A programmable power bar allows you to turn all the equipment off when not in use and turn it on when you are. Suddenly you’re not paying for the 16-20 hours you’re not using your TV per day.
5. Upgrade your programmable thermostat
Even programmable thermostats have advanced since the original ones entered the market. Now you can adjust the heat or cooling in your home from your smart phone on many models, Nest can even learn your family’s behavior and make the adjustments for you.
6. Improve your hot water energy efficiency
You can start saving money at home by addressing hot water tank’s efficiency. Next to space heating, hot water is the second biggest consumer of energy in your house. Insulate your hot water heater to improve the heater’s efficiency. Water tank blankets for either a gas or electric unit can be found at most hardware stores. The blanket can increase your tank’s efficiency by 10%. If you want to take it a step further, if you have a big family and you take a lot of showers in the morning, invest in a drain water heat recovery pipe. It can save another 5-10% on your water heating bill (the more showers you take, the more you save versus not having one). Further, some utility companies offer rebates for installing one.
7. Water consumption
Only 58% of Canadian homes have water meters, but where they exist, you can save money by taking some steps such as tracking down and plugging leaks. Everything from a leaky faucet or toilet to an underground leak in your irrigation system will cost you money for the water that’s leaking out of the system. A leaky faucet that leaks at a rate of 1 drip per second wastes up to 11,000 liters/year. Fix leaks to save money at home. If you have a leaky hot water faucet, fix it and you’ll save on your utility bill as well.
8. Install water efficient fixtures
From low flow toilets to water saving shower heads, technology on the low flow front has advanced significantly in the last few years. You won’t notice the difference between a low flow shower and a regular shower head any more, while low flow toilets only need one flush. Further, low-flow toilets now vary between 3-4.8 liters per flush, even lower than the now almost standard 6 liter toilets.
9. Install a rain barrel or cistern
Rain falling on your roof can be captured via eavestroughs and downspouts and directed into a rain barrel to use in your garden and for watering your lawn. Using rain water instead of municipal water for your garden helps save money on your water bill. Some municipalities give rebates or subsidize the purchase of rain barrels.
10. Save money on waste disposal
In cities where you pay for garbage disposal by the bin or bag, cut your waste by shopping in bulk, disposing of broken electronics through e-waste programs, recycling according to your municipality’s codes and give away clothes and housewares to reuse programs such as the Salvation Army and Goodwill. Want to get rid of stuff that’s still usable but you no longer want? Try selling online through Kijiji or Craigslist, or give away through Freecycle.org.
With a little effort, you can save money at home by keeping your appliances in good working condition and replacing older ones with newer, more efficient ones, so you have a little more left over to do what you want with, like topping up your mortgage payments or putting it towards a vacation.