Water and heat (like food) are non-negotiables…
But it doesn’t mean we can’t find ways to shrink this monthly expense now, does it?
There are plenty of ways to save money on utility costs. And anyone can do some of these simple changes.
Whether you live in an older, less efficient home or a new build - there are lots of tips and tricks you can use to save and lower your bills.
Let’s get started.
Minor Household Changes
Here are 4 minor changes you can make to your home to save on your utility bills:
- Less water - consider installing a low flow toilet and efficient showerheads. By installing appliances that conserve water you’ll use less and save money every month.
- Leaky taps - check all taps in your home to make sure they aren’t leaking. Taps that leak water can cost you unnecessary money every month by wasting water.
- Exterior rain barrel - for areas that receive substantial amounts of rain like Vancouver, consider using a rain barrel on the exterior of your home to capture and store water. The water stored in the rain barrel can then be used to water your lawn or wash your vehicle.
- Energy efficient blinds - homes that have lots of windows may also have a significant amount of energy lost. In this case you might want to consider using energy efficient blinds. These blinds designed to trap warm air in your home in the winter and keep cold air out. You can also consider getting thermal curtains to make sure no heat is escaping from your home. The nice thing about thermal curtains is that they also help block out the sun in the summer and keep your house cooler.
Major Household Changes
Here are 4 major changes to consider:
- Window upgrade - consider upgrading your windows. The goal should be to form a seal around the base of the window to keep warm air inside your home. If your windows are older and are not as efficient you may want to consider replacing them. Energy efficient windows will be double or triple glaze, insulated frames and edges and can be installed to create a tight seal.
New windows can cost thousands of dollars so you’ll want to make sure they are right for your home before buying.
If your windows are already energy efficient but require some minor changes, you can easily add weatherstripping or caulking to the exterior to keep cold air out (more on this later).
- Plant trees for shade. If your home has large windows that face either the west or south and has a lot of sun with little shade, you may want to consider planting trees to add shade. In urban areas Swedish Aspen trees are popular because they grow to be tall and can thrive in smaller spaces, while providing the shade that some homes need.
- Add insulation - depending on the age of your home you may want to consider adding insulation to your exterior walls or attic. Insulation can be purchased at any large home renovation store and some also rent an insulation blower, which allows you to blow fresh insulation into your attic.
You’ll want to make sure your home can handle more insulation before purchasing. Extra insulation would allow your home to keep warm air inside during the winter and hot air outside in the summer.
- Energy assessment. Have your home evaluated for energy. If you’re not sure what needs to be done to make your home more energy efficient, you can always have an energy assessment done on your home. More information can be found by clicking here.
Related: 10 Ways to Save on Home Insurance
3 Ideas to Cut Energy Costs
Looking for more ideas to shrink your energy cost?
Here’s 3 more...
One of the easiest and cheapest ways to conserve energy in your home is to look at weatherstripping. Weatherstripping means sealing gaps in your home where warm air can escape (and cold air can get in).
Keeping warm air in your home means your furnace works less, which uses less energy. Effectively weatherstripping your home can save you 10-15% on your utility bills.
Weatherstripping can be purchased at any home renovation store and can easily be done by any homeowner. When weatherstripping your home you’ll want to consider where air can possibly escape and try to close off those areas.
For example, in our home the door that leads to the garage has weatherstripping along the edge to ensure the warm air is kept in. Doors and windows are common areas where heat can escape and weatherstripping can easily be added.
2. Solar For Your Home
Some people have taken energy savings a step further and added solar panels to their home.
When considering adding solar panels to save money you’ll want to make sure the monthly savings on your utility bills are enough to justify the (usually) high initial cost. There are many factors that influence whether solar makes sense for your home including your specific location, direction of your rooflines and available roof space.
Solar panels use solar rays from the sun to generate electricity, which allows the homeowner to purchase less electricity from the grid. As you can expect, much more power is generated during the sunny summer months than in the dark winter months. A bi-directional electricity meter is installed so that any excess power that gets generated from the solar panels is sold back to the grid at current market prices, resulting in a credit (savings).
Personally I recently got a quote to add solar panels to our home and it was $17,000. For us, adding solar panels would have resulted in a return of about 2% annually with a payback period of over 20 years. This just doesn’t make sense for us so we didn’t go through with it, but for some it might.
In the future if the government decides to subsidize the purchase of clean energy products like solar panels, the rates of return will be significantly higher. But until then, you’ll need to do some basic research to make sure the savings from adding solar panels is worthy of the initial cost.
3. Automate Your Home
Another way you can reduce your utility bill is to automate your home.
Over the past few years there have been lots of smart home products available – from smart thermostats to light switches, designed to work around your schedule and when you are home.
Smart thermostats are thermostats that connect to your wifi and can be controlled using an app on your phone. They allow you to see (and control) the temperature in your home from your phone.
In the winter they can save you money by reducing the temperature when you’re not home and only increasing it when you are home. In the summer if you have central air conditioning, a smart thermostat can help you reduce costs by allowing you to set a higher temperature when you are away.
Smart thermostats can also come in handy if you go on vacation for an extended period and newer models can even sense when you are away from home and adjust the temperature accordingly. In general smart thermostats start at around $90 and can be found at any large home renovation/electronic store.
Similar to smart thermostats, smart light switches are switches that connect to your wifi and can also be controlled using an app on your phone. They have the same idea as a smart thermostat – lower your energy costs and save you money by giving you more control over when they are on/off. I have 3 smart switches in my home and have found them to be fairly basic - they work like a regular light switch when I’m home. It’s handy to see which lights are on/off on my phone. In case I left a light in before leaving the house, I can easily turn it off using the app.
The cool part of the switches is when I go on vacation. I can set the lights to turn on/off at certain times – I set my lights to turn on in the evenings to make it appear as if someone is in the house. This doesn’t replace a full alarm system for your home but it could be an affordable alternative for some.
How do you save on your utility costs?
Share your tips below.