In BC, the weather can vary dramatically day to day, but also from region to region. Although much of BC has a temperate zone compared to most of the rest of Canada, it can get cold. From frozen rain, ice storms, snowstorms, high winds the biting humid cold. With the cold comes increased expense in keeping our humble abodes toasty warm. Reducing energy costs depends not only on where you live, but the type of structure you live in and the type of heat source. Let’s break it down and identify solid ways to reduce your energy bill, putting more money in your pocket to use for fun ways to keep warm this winter! Learn practical tips to reduce energy costs while heating your home.
You can also take part in a Team Power Smart Challenge to reduce your electricity use by 10% over 12 months. If you’re successful, you’ll earn $50.
A home energy audit can be organized with BC Hydro. This can be the first step to improving the overall efficiency of your home. An audit will help you identify ways to improve your home’s overall comfort and efficiency, which will save you money on your utility bills. This is a great way to start on your way to saving on energy costs.
Building construction does affect energy costs
Your home’s construction can have a big impact on energy consumption.
The most effective strategy for improving household energy efficiency is to first target your home’s envelope—walls, attic, windows and doors.
If your home – single family dwelling, apartment or a condo – is of older construction there may be various ways that it is “leaking’ energy. Typically, it is from poor construction, inadequate insulation or poor window construction. By changing out single pane windows to an Energy Star rated window can result in saving, comfort and increased home value. Another often overlooked item is to ensure the walls and attic are well insulated and that the insulation is dry and in good condition/
If you are looking to rent or buy in a building and energy consumption is important to you, look for newer buildings that are built in the Passive House Style, have a LEEDS designation, solar or geothermal heating.
Common types of heating systems for your home
As a homeowner choosing, changing, or upgrading your heating system can result in significant savings and a more comfortable home. Up to 60% of the energy used to run your home is used for heating. Not only does it matter what type of heating system you use, it matters on how you run it – electricity, gas or propane.
1. Forced-air furnaces heat houses quickly and can also be modified to work as an air filter, humidifier, fresh air ventilator, and their ductwork can be used for air conditioning. The downside is they can provide uneven heat bursts, feel drafty, and may transmit noise, dust, and odours around the house.
2. Electric heat pump is a single unit that both heats and cools your home. A heat pump is the most efficient heating and cooling system available today because it generates more than one unit of heat for each unit of energy it consumes. It does come with higher upfront costs and can be more challenging to install. BC Hydro has significant rebates if changing out older heating systems for heat pumps.
3. Fireplaces and wood burning stoves – fireplaces are good for heating single rooms and is more efficient and cleaner when used with propane or gas. Wood fireplaces are also extremely inefficient and emit several harmful emissions that can harm both indoor and outdoor air quality. Although cozy, they should not be used as a primary heat source. BC Hydro has a good rebate program to encourage homeowners to switch from wood burning to more efficient and clean heating sources.
4. Electric baseboard heaters are extremely common form of heating system in Canada. making them ideal for extra heating in condos and similar smaller properties. They are also nearly 100% energy efficient, as all of the energy used by the heater is converted into heat.
5. Radiant Heating – this type of heating is increasing in popularity even though it can be expensive to install and can have limitations for flooring options. It provides a cost effective and very even heat distribution and provides a comfort that is unmatched with other heating systems. There are generally two kinds of radiant heating: hot water radiant heating (installed in floors), and electrical radiant heating.
Many heating systems can be powered by gas or electricity. Studies show the price differential is minimal over a year. However, according to a review by the Pembina Institute, “heating a home with electricity instead of natural gas reduces carbon and other air pollution. Gas is far more polluting (around 17 times more) than our electricity, which comes mostly from hydro. Using electricity instead of gas is one of the cheapest ways to reduce pollution. It’s also a more sustainable option for the future, because governments at all levels in Canada have committed to reducing the amount of fossil fuels used in buildings by 2030.” The takeaway is that an electric heat pump is a better choice than a gas hot air furnace.
Free energy savings tips
BC Hydro has calculated energy saving tips for small changes we can make around the house that is free but can result in substantial savings. These small tips help save up to $348 a year. That is some good cash to leave in the bank!
- Manage your thermostat: If you have electric heat, lower your thermostat by two degrees to save 5% on your heating bill. Lowering it five degrees could save 10% or up to $120 a year. It is easier than ever to set up an automated system. Turn the heat or AC down when away and during the evening, and only use it during your peak hours at home.
- Wash laundry in cold: By switching from hot to cold water for an average of three loads per week, you could save up to $22 per year on your energy bill. If you have children, you are probably doing more than 3 loads a week. And many detergent companies now have formulations specifically for cold water washing.
- Hang dry your laundry: Dryers and hairdryers are energy monsters. If you do eight loads of laundry a week and use your clothesline for 50% of those clothes, you could save $65 a year.
- Do you remember your parents saying “turn off the lights”, well they did for good reason? turning off lights when not needed can save on energy consumption. Save up to $15.
- Take shorter showers – Hot water is expensive. If two people in your home cut their shower time by a minute each, you could save $30 over a year. If you have teenagers, teaching them to shorten the 20-minute shower can have significant savings.
- Unplug unused electronics – did you know that electronics standby power can account for 10% of an average household’s annual electricity use. Unplug unused electronics and save $50 a year.
- Skip the heat-dry setting for the dishwasher: That heat-dry setting is expensive. De-select it and based on one load of dishes a day, save up to $27 for the year. Air drying has its benefits!
- Turn the water off when shaving, washing hands, brushing teeth: Only in North America are we spoiled enough to “waste” water on our everyday hygiene. Reduce your hot water usage by 5% to save about $19.
Repairs and maintenance to reduce energy costs
Sometimes you have to spend money to save money and this is one of those times. But investing in your household systems, you will save money in the short and long term.
- Do regular maintenance on appliances such as dryers, furnaces, and water tanks, fridge and freezers. Clean filters and regular maintenance means less energy use and less chance of a huge repair or replacement bill.
- Upgrade your light bulbs: Replacing older bulbs with longer-lasting, energy-efficient LEDs. Some power companies even offer discounts for switching your bulbs.
- Upgrade your window coverings. Using black out blinds or materials can help keep the summer heat and the colder winds from changing the internal temperature.
- Install a low flow shower head – this trick is a double saving technique as it will save on electricity and hot water.
- Mind the gap. When you notice small holes around ducts, pipes, exhaust fans, vents, sink and bathtub drains, fireplaces or exterior wall outlets and light switches, get out the DYI manual to fill in the spots with some caulking or weather-stripping.Homeowners are often looking for ways to save money and the reduce their carbon footprint. Changing or updating home systems and habits, can save on utility bill increase your home’s efficiency, and protect the environment without compromising comfort.
Resources for practical tips to reduce energey cost while heating a home.
Be prepared and avoid costly home insurance claims in winter
BC Hydro Energy Savings
Study on Gas vs electricity by Pembina
Advantages and Disadvantages of heat pumps