How to avoid unexpectedly high winter energy bills
Start with draftproofing and managing your thermostat
It's not surprising that our homes use more energy in the winter. Energy bills can double or triple as heat is turned up and lights and electronics are on longer.
Space heating alone can account for 40 to 50 per cent of our electricity bills, so although it can be tempting to reach for the thermostat, it can be costly. Before you fight the winter blues by cranking up the heat, make sure your home is ready to make the most of that heat.
See below for details on these three key ways to winterize your home:
- Draftproof to avoid losing heat through gaps and cracks
- Replace insulation can make existing homes more efficient
- Use programmable thermostats
One of the easiest ways to avoid extra heating costs is to keep heat in your home by preventing it from slipping around doors and windows.
Draftproofing your home can reduce your heat loss by 10 per cent. And since it's relatively easy and inexpensive to do, it can make sense to start there.
- Holes or cracks around doors and windows can let heat out, let cold air in, and keep your furnace working overtime.
- Strips of light around your weatherstripping or caulking can indicate costly cracks or holes.
- Caulking or other expandable material can be used to seal the spaces between interior joints, around non-opening windows, and in spaces around water pipes and vents.
- Materials like weatherstripping or caulking are available at hardware stores and are simple to install. But you can also hire a professional to do the work.
Even if your home doesn't have visible cracks or leaks, you can still be losing heat if you have inefficient insulation, particularly if you have an older home.
If your home is at least 10 years old, your insulation may have sagged or settled over time, leaving gaps and seams. Consider upgrading your insulation to newer options that save energy.
- Start in areas that lose the most heat, such as attics, basements, and crawlspaces. A well-insulated attic can reduce year-round energy use by 20-60%.
- Choose newer spray foam insulation in spaces where you don't want to take down interior walls.
- Install insulation on the underside of the floor in an unheated or vented crawlspace. Fiberglass batts or blankets are usually easiest.
- Upgrade your insulation when you're undergoing other renovations, such as replacing a roof or upgrading a basement. You'll save time and it's a low cost way to add energy efficiency to your project.
If it isn't an option to upgrade your insulation or you've made all the changes that you can, sometimes it just comes down to how you manage your thermostat.
Programmable thermostats give you the flexibility to be effective with your heat. Here are a few tips:
- Turn the heat down by just two degrees: it can reduce your home heating costs by 5%.
- Program your thermostat to set back the temperature by five degrees for eight hours every night and save approximately 10% on your heating bill.
- Set the thermostat to 16°C at night or when you're away. When you're home, most people are comfortable at around 20 to 21°C.
- Get cozy: wearing sweaters, slippers and using a blanket may make it easier to adjust to lower temperatures instead of turning up the heat.
How to avoid, or investigate, a high winter bill
No matter how careful you are, there's a good chance that you'll use more electricity during the winter months, especially if you have electric heat.
Homes with gas heating also use more during the winter — shorter days mean our lights are on longer, we use electronics and appliances longer and more often.
During the winter months, our customer team usually receives twice as many calls about high bills than during the rest of the year. It's best to be prepared for the possibility that you might see higher than usual bills.
Three easy steps can help you understand a higher bill and avoid high bills down the road:
- Compare your usage — view your consumption, not just the cost, to see if it has increased
- Find opportunities to save — if your consumption is higher, look for ways to reduce it
- Track your progress — use your online account to track your savings and electricity usage
It's important to remember that higher bills can be due to a number of different reasons — and our customer team investigates each possibility.