11 Ways To Lower Your Power & Utility Bills

11 ways to lower your power and utility billsUtility costs are a fact of life.

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.

Related: Laundry Done Better: Save Money, Energy, Time And Hassle

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...

1. Weatherstripping

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.

Related: Your Free Money - 14 Ways To Claim It Now

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.

Your Turn

How do you save on your utility costs?

Share your tips below.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The content here reflects the author's opinion alone, and is not endorsed or sponsored by a bank, credit card issuer, rewards program or other entity.

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Mike in Ottawa
Mike in Ottawa's picture

The 2 things I use to reduce my footprint are a smart thermostat and good lighting.

I've been using a Nest thermostat for five years to control natural gas costs. One key thing is the mental shift required to intentionally keeping up your house cooler than comfortable. A few degees makes a difference in your bill. What you need to do is set a cool 'away' temerature so that the thermostat drops consumption when no one is home. This can be scheduled and is also set automatically when the thermostat doesn't detect any motion around it. (If you install Nest fire alarms they will also sense movement or no movement and they work I conjunction with the thermostat). The thermostat will turn up based on them scheduke you set, or you can do it manually, or you can use the app. The app is great because you can leave the house cool all day and BEFORE you head home you use the smartphonen app to turn theta thermostat up so the house is warmed before you arrive. This takes a little consideration but works really well. Another key element is that you need to change the schedule a couple of times a year to reflect tech seasonal changes. This is quite easy with the app too.

To reduce hydro, I use good lighting. I can't stand the illumination from cheap, ceiling mounted crap light fixtures because they simply do not provide good light. Most of the the time, they simply don't deliver task lighting to where you need it. Ever try to read using that one light? Take some kind time to consider your living set up, where you need light, and the quality of threat light, then research lighting online and buy some decent lamps. Then you can reduce the overhead light you use substantially, especially if you add timer light switches to the ones that get left on the most. I really only have 2 lights total in my home that are on from dusk until bed and then I sporadically use the overhead and other room lights. And I use timers to automate the job main lights. A few years ago I might have said that this wouldn't save much, but with the rising cost of hydro, everything counts.

It's working for me.
According to Htdro Ottawa and Enbridge my house is one of the lowest consumers in my hood.
(But I live alone and in middle townhouse so that kind of makes sense)


January 31, 2017 @ 10:30 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

How much of a difference did you find the programmable thermostat makes Mike? Did you do a before/after cost comparison?

I used to use programmable thermostats when I didn't work from home but now that I work from home and have central heating with one thermostat I just adjust it manually.

January 31, 2017 @ 11:08 am
Tom's picture

I changed every single bulb to LED. It was a no brainer when a few months ago, in Ontario, they could be bought for about $1 a bulb. Bought a couple lifetime supplies.

January 31, 2017 @ 10:42 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Ya, exactly what I did. I also found the 60W equivalent bulbs seemed as bright as actual 100W bulbs so I actually dowgraded many of  my light fixtures from 100W to 60W. I even had several 200W bulbs in the basement, I couldn't believe it. Those ones went from 200W electricity usage down to around 6W. That's a 97% electricity savings. Crazy.

January 31, 2017 @ 11:10 am
Jerome Persaud
Jerome Persaud's picture

Odd quirk about light bulbs, though. From what I've read, the power savings in the winter can be negligible in the winter due to the amount of heat given off from the bulb, and sometimes more cost efficient with incandescents. Of course, there are ifs!

Mostly, if your home is heated with a cheaper source of energy than electricity, like gas, this doesn't matter. LEDs all year then. But if you have electric heat, then use of incandescents makes sense because you get heat and light from one source. The heat generated from the bulbs will lower your use of standard electric heating.

The other "if" is if the bulbs are in a place where the heat is useful. There's no point in adding heat to a place like a basement pantry or something like that. Just use the LEDs.

There are folks who switch back and forth from LEDs in the summer to incandescents in the winter.

January 31, 2017 @ 1:09 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

I almost added this to my comment above because I was also aware of this. Biggest savings will come in the summer when the lights aren't working against my cooling system.

That said, it's still a net savings (just not as much) when you have a heat pump because those are up 300%+ efficient. A light bulb can only be maximum 100% efficient.

January 31, 2017 @ 2:02 pm
Larry's picture

Great tips, thanks. Like yourself, we now adjust our programmable thermo manually, no question it is not as convenient, but much more cost efficient.
In greater Vancouver, although we have a rain barrel, many do not as very few in this area have metered water, few will implement this easy water conservation method when there is no cost incentive.
An interesting twist is we have gone back to heating the whole house with NG at an equivalent of <$0.04kWh rather than pay for space we need to heat using hydro at >$0.12kWh. Can't imagine paying the ontario rates for hydro.

January 31, 2017 @ 11:29 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Natural gas is definitely cheaper but we avoid houses that had it because it isn't as popular around here and for safety reasons. I just don't like the idea of being hooked up to an unlimited supply of gas.

With a heat pump, you are getting enough efficiency to basically almost break even on that price difference. Of course for other applications like cooking, laundry, water heating, etc the price is still going to be much higher for electricity.

January 31, 2017 @ 12:02 pm
John Buer
John Buer's picture

We bought a house with 30 year old windows that were triple glaze but fit poorly, we could feel drafts when the wind blew. We replaced the windows with top of the line triple glazed windows for about $7000. Comparing our heating bills for the two winters with a friend's I found the new windows saved us about $100 per year. Not a great return but if nothing else we have windows that open and close properly.

January 31, 2017 @ 11:52 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Those savings are a bit disappointing for sure. With an older house you're probably losing heat from a variety of areas and the windows were just one of them. Nice new windows tend to add to the look of the house and are more functional as you say - so at least you are slowly getting a return on your investment.

Some day when green energy comes fully online - electricity will definitely be the place to be though.

January 31, 2017 @ 12:00 pm
George Rickard
George Rickard's picture

I just switched my old Lennox Pulse furnace to a new Rheem 96.+ % efficiency one. The 25 yr old one was 90% efficient but costing me about $1.00 a day to run the blower motor 24 hrs a day which I did daily about 10 months of the year. The new furnaces now-days beside being efficient also are two stage and have variable speed DCM blower motors. I expect a 80%-90% savings there. I have always used a Honeywell set-back thermostat for winter and summer settings and when on vacation. The new EcoNet thermostat I installed is more intelligent and wi-fi capable.

I also replaced a 11 yr old gas fired power vent HW tank as it had deteriorated from inside and was providing cloudy water. Apparently the new tanks are insulated better now using foam insulation rather than fiberglass. I got it on sale as well and had a local contractor install it. The old black PVC piping is not allowed anymore so new white PVC vent piping was replaced during the install too.

Waiting to see the savings on the Consumers Gas and Hydro One bills. Expect minor deductions in the gas bill and some significant reductions in Hydro kwh's. I average 20-28 kwh's per month in southern Ontario depending on the time of year.

January 31, 2017 @ 12:57 pm
George Rickard
George Rickard's picture

Correction to my post -

20-28 kwh's is average per day. My monthy usage - 800 to 1100 kwh's per month

January 31, 2017 @ 1:01 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Those did seem like ridiculously low usage numbers :)

January 31, 2017 @ 2:04 pm
Jan Jakubek
Jan Jakubek's picture

1. Dry your laundry on a outdoor line or an indoor folding rack (winter in particular when heating is on and humidity is low).
In Poland where most of the people live in apartments (and most of apartments have balconies) almost everybody has a laundry drying rack mounted on a ceiling (can be lowered for hanging) and/or additional one extending out attached to guardrail.
2. Buy an induction kitchen stove (if replacing your old one) or a counter-top induction plate. Apparently energy savings are up to 60%.
3. We do our laundry and some cooking for the next day/s in off-peek hours (7pm-7am, Ontario 8.7 cents/kWH).

January 31, 2017 @ 1:17 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

No off-peak hours here yet, but will probably happen eventually.

January 31, 2017 @ 2:04 pm
Peter from Halifax
Peter from Halifax's picture

We added a 25000 BTU mini split heat pump in August 2015 in our split entry electrically heated home. For 2016 our power bill went from $3,605 to $2,418, a savings of $1,187. With a 5 year lease to own plan, we applied the $1,187 towards the lease, to pay it off sooner. Haven't had to touch an electric thermostat (now backup along with a generator) since the install.

January 31, 2017 @ 6:11 pm
Lee's picture

Great article, I did most of the suggestions in the article, except my gas bill went up 20$ last month because the "Delivery Charge" now includes the carbon tax (a.k.a. cap and trade), can't win/Wynn.

February 01, 2017 @ 4:45 pm
Susan's picture

I had the energy audit done and followed up on most of the suggestions -- new windows, insulation in attic. I use LED bulbs, low flow toilets (dual flush) and showerheads, and make sure that I weatherstrip my doors. Everything adds up to savings, but with the government adding new taxes all the time, it is hard to get ahead!

February 01, 2017 @ 10:30 pm
Marrilynn Boersma
Marrilynn Boersma's picture

Well, I don't have many options as I live in an old house in the basement apartment. However, I did remove the door sweep for a new one which removed the cold draft from under the door. Also, I have changed all my lighting to LED. Some of the windows are new but for the old windows, I may need to have plexi-glass panels cut to fit tightly in front of them as they it is quit cool near them. I can't see that there are many other options as my landlord does not see the necessity to change the older windows.

I have electric baseboard heating which is very costly to use. In my previous apartment the heating was the same, so I shut it off and purchased efficient, quiet, thermostatically controlled heating units with fans in them. They come off and on to a lesser degree than do the baseboard heaters. I am comfortable and the hydro bill has lessened. I have been using them in the apartment as well. I don't like it too warm so I usually wear a sweater.

There is a gas wall heater in the dining area but it doesn't have a fan in it. I have put a quiet oscillating tower fan in front of it so that the heat is disbursed more thoroughly throughout the room. It has made a big difference.

I also have been using a convection toaster style oven which is much more efficient than the large oven in my stove.

I am not happy with the Wynn government's hydro rating system as the highest usage pricing is from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. I cannot wait until after 7:00 p.m. to cook my evening meal as I am diabetic. This is also unfair for young families who must be using their appliances more regularly throughout the day.

February 06, 2017 @ 1:44 pm
Lee's picture

Clearly, usage pricing is based on maximizing revenue rather than energy conservation. You have to love those pamphlets that they send you, BE SMART, do your laundry and dishes after midnight! Even if we all do that, they will outsmart us by changing the prices anyway.

February 07, 2017 @ 11:48 am
M. Bay
M. Bay's picture

The key is to cook your meals in advance. Every evening when it hits 7 PM I cook my meals for the next day or two, then save everything in the fridge.

May 20, 2017 @ 10:47 am
Jenny Hetherington
Jenny Hetherington's picture

I am not sure turning down the thermostat helps to save money. I like to sleep in a cold bedroom with a window open summer and winter. The house goes down to 14°C during the winter, and it takes hours to bring the temperature up to 20°C. I keep the door to my bedroom closed to keep as much as the cold air out of the rest of the house. The heat goes off at 11 pm at night and comes back on at 7:30 am. Is this really saving me money?

February 07, 2017 @ 7:54 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Yes, because heat escapes more slowly out of an environment that more closely matches the temperature of its surrounding environment. The difference may not always be huge though.

February 07, 2017 @ 10:10 pm
Jay Lange
Jay Lange's picture

I've noticed our Hydro bill change after replacing all the bulbs in the house with Led bulbs. My favorite bulb is the 5 watt Led sold at Costco. It's as bright as a 40 to 60 watt.

March 21, 2017 @ 7:24 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Basically did my whole house in the 60W dimmable ones from Costco. It was such an amazing deal late last year with the prices they had plus the energy rebate that was going on in my province.

May 20, 2017 @ 3:05 pm
M. Bay
M. Bay's picture

Here's a few things I do:

- I replaced all my bulbs for LED like people said (in March and October there are usually coupons at the stores for highly efficient bulbs. Last March I got LED bulbs from Canadian Tire for $0.33 each). It didn't make a high difference on my hydro bill, though, just cut about $10/month.

- I got a caulking gun and some silicone and went around the house sealing all cracks around the windows, doors and baseboards. That cut my heating bill by 30%.

- I also keep my home at 19C/66F in winter. It's comfortable enough and has also saved me about 50% off the heating bill (the previous residents of my home kept it at 72F, paying $190/month. I cut it down to $90 with this change and the caulking mentioned above).

- Since I work from home, I don't think I'd make much use of an "intelligent" thermostat, but one thing I've done is close the vents and doors of the rooms I'm not using. I've noticed that the furnace doesn't work as hard when I do that. I haven't noticed a significant change on the heating bill, though.

- I also have a programmable dishwasher and clothes washer. I fill them up during the day and then schedule them to run after 7 PM.

Despite all this, like other people have said, the cost of everything else keeps going up, and my income is still the same. So I'm still looking for more ways to save.

May 20, 2017 @ 11:01 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Great to hear you are getting those kinds of results. I'm going to have to go through my whole house before this winter and see what I can do because my electrical bill is out of control. Unfortunately my house has a ton of windows, which is part of it, but there must be either poor insulation or holes where heat is escaping.

May 20, 2017 @ 3:07 pm

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