Summer is many people's favourite season. The kids are off school, the weather is clear, people are on vacation, and oh boy, is it ever hot. Very hot. When you're outside, the heat can be great on many days. You can wear a t-shirt and shorts, the beach is ready for you, and you can even lie down in the sun and relax all day just because you feel like it.
However, the heat can be a downer when you're inside. You're just trying to read a book, watch a movie or play a game with your kids, and strangely it feels hotter and muggier inside than it does outside. Somehow, sitting on a couch watching football, it feels like you're sweating almost as much as you would be if you were out on the field playing the game yourself. Initially, you figure the heat isn't much of a problem, as you crank up the air-conditioning, and within fifteen minutes, everyone at home suddenly feels much better. After doing this for a whole month, you wonder what the big deal was about the heat in the first place, and then you see your hydro bill, and you get so scared of how much you owe that Halloween this year won't be able to compare. How do you reduce your hydro bill while also keeping cool this year?
After the scare that your energy bill just gave you, it may be tempting to reduce your hydro bill in the most brute force way possible by using as little electricity as you can. While that is one way to deal with the heat like that, it's not advisable. It is uncomfortable and puts you at risk for health problems, especially if you have any pre-existing condition. However, you don't have to choose between having an affordable electricity bill and being comfortable in your home. If you're smart about it, you can get the best of both worlds, as it is possible to reduce your hydro bill in the summer while staying comfortable.
Maybe the sitcom dads had it right when they always said that they want the thermostat set to an established temperature that everyone in the family tries to change. After all, it can also be an effective strategy for lowering your energy bill. Each degree you raise the thermostat in the summer is estimated to reduce the average household hydro bill by 3-5%. In addition, if you have a smart thermostat, when everyone is going to be out of the house for a prolonged period, you can increase the thermostat's temperature for a while. Set it up to decrease to comfortable temperatures before you get home.
This article won't give some magical temperature that you can set it to. Everyone and their family will answer differently about what's comfortable for them and how much they want to save on their utility bill.
Should you open or close your heating vents in the summer? At first glance, the answer seems simple enough: yes. After all, they're called 'heating' vents. Closing them would reduce your hydro bill during summer, right?
Sadly, it isn't as simple as that. Closing your vents to reduce your hydro bill will not work. The job of a vent in your home is to increase airflow. Closing your vents will restrict airflow, which will have the opposite effect since air is usually cooled by circulating. While it might be wise to close one or two vents to control where the air goes in your house, any more than that will likely push your cooling devices even harder, meaning that this little trick will backfire.
It is also recommended that if you do close your vents to reduce your hydro bill, you rotate which vents are open and which are closed. This is because keeping your vents closed for more than a few days at once can damage the vents and cause leaks. Fixing these would cost you much more than just leaving the vents open.
While using just your air conditioning to keep your house set to comfortable temperatures is possible, keep in mind that air conditioners are not energy efficient. Energy inefficiencies will drive up your cooling costs. You can, however, keep your energy costs down while also maintaining the same temperature by supplementing air conditioning with ceiling fans.
These fans are lighter in energy consumption than air conditioning. However, ensure that during the summer, they are set to spin counterclockwise, as this pushes air down and makes a cooler indoor wind. Clockwise is helpful in the winter months, however, and can reduce your hydro bill.
Not all kilowatt hours are created equal on your energy bill. The cost of electricity is lower during off-peak hours since there is a lower demand for electricity during this time. If you need to use heavy appliances, using them during off-peak hours is recommended since electric rates are cheaper due to lower demand. As you would expect following this logic, on-peak hours are the most expensive due to the higher demand for electricity during those times. Even if changing entirely to off-peak isn't possible, switching from on-peak to mid-peak (medium level of demand) can help reduce your hydro bill to a lesser extent. The Ontario Energy Board States that there are three levels of energy usage:
Off-peak: Statutory Holidays, Weekends, and Nights from 7 pm - 7 am
Mid-peak: Weekdays from 7 am - 11 am and 5 pm - 7 pm
On-peak: Weekdays from 11 am - 5 pm
Using more efficient appliances and limiting your use of heavy appliances to off-peak and mid-peak hours as much as possible is excellent. An even better way to reduce your hydro bill is not using an appliance at all if there is a point where you can get away with it. Although this trick isn't possible with preparing a well-cooked dinner, it is possible when doing laundry.
We all know that two of the heaviest appliances in your home are the washer and dryer. You can take advantage of this and save by using nature's dryer: the wind. Wind costs a total of $0, and on a nice, sunny day, it can dry your clothes if you're willing to let them sit outside on the clothesline for a few hours. However, it is recommended that you check the weather forecast beforehand because, sadly, while rain might seem like nature's washing machine, it is not.
With all the importance placed on electricity and your hydro bill, it's easy to forget that water use also impacts your hydro bill. One of the things you can do is not leave water constantly running. For example, if you're washing the dishes and only need the tap running occasionally, consider taking the extra effort to turn it on and off when required. Taking shorter showers with cooler water is another way to reduce your hydro bill, as it lowers the amount of water, especially hot water, that gets used.
The great summertime debate, do we keep the windows open or closed? There's not some super-simple answer to this question, as it depends on the situation, although there are guidelines that will help. Generally speaking, if it's hotter outside than inside, you'll want to keep your windows closed to ensure that all the hot air from outside doesn't come into your home. If it's cooler outside, you'll want to keep your windows open, as that would let the hot air out, cooling your house down. This leads to the general rule of having your windows closed during the day and open at night. If you want more precise readings, though, having a thermometer or other device that can measure temperature would be ideal to time your openings and closings correctly—furthermore, closing things like your blinds when it's particularly hot and/or sunny would be an excellent way to keep costs even lower, as it keeps sunlight from coming in and heating your house.
You might think you're doing all you can by ensuring your electronic devices are turned off when not in use. Wrong! Many devices use a small amount of power, often called phantom power, or standby power, simply by being plugged into their electrical outlets. This is because many of these devices go into a standby mode, which acts almost like a half-on-half-off status, even when set to the off mode. Many of these devices spend very little time actually 'on' and can include things like a coffee maker, a DVD player and gaming consoles, which can be unplugged for most of the day. Bothering to unplug these will reduce the amount of useless phantom power you suck up, saving you a sizable bill. Unplugging your cell phone charger when the phone is fully charged could save you a buck or two on your hydro bill. Estimates show that getting rid of phantom power reduces your hydro bill by 10%. Simply unplugging stuff that uses power can eliminate this phantom menace.
Similar to using ceiling fans to stop yourself from running the air conditioner too much, you can also reduce your hydro bill by using smaller appliances. The intent is to prevent you from becoming too dependent on the stove or oven, as these are two of your most significant electricity users. A toaster oven or a microwave is much less expensive than a stove or oven. Sure, large jobs can use larger appliances, but if all you need to do is heat leftover corn and chicken, a microwave will do just fine.
Another reason not to run the stove or oven if possible is the fact that running them increases the amount of heat in your home. This means that when you run your AC, in addition to fighting the natural heat of summer, it also needs to fight against these heavy appliances.
A final tip to help reduce your hydro bill is to seal any cracks that occur on your doors and windows. Cracks can allow heat through, leading to the same problem of leaving your doors and windows open. Some smaller, simpler, more common cracks can be sealed by someone without expertise in handiwork, while other, larger, less common ones may require someone with proper training.
It is entirely up to you whether you want to close the crack or call a professional to help you. If you feel confident enough in your ability to seal a crack yourself, it is important that you determine whether or not you are capable of doing so and have all the right materials before getting hands-on with the problem.
This content is written by our Morison Insurance team. All information posted is merely for educational and informational purposes. It is not intended as a substitute for professional advice. Should you decide to act upon any information in this article, you do so at your own risk. While the information on this website has been verified to the best of our abilities, we cannot guarantee that there are no mistakes or errors.