5 smart ways to reduce your home's energy usage

Wintertime is a period of big-energy use at home: for cooking, cleaning and heating, no other time of year gobbles up as much money from the budget as the cold winter months. Fortunately, there are many cost-effective ways to dramatically reduce your bills. Here are the five best to pursue.

5 smart ways to reduce your home's energy usage

1. Stop premature burnout

Premature bulb burnout is a symptom of a bigger problem. What does this mean? A typical 60-watt incandescent bulb should last about 1,000 hours. At 10 hours a day, that's 100 days or a little more than three months.

  • If you notice bulbs burning out before the estimated life expectancy printed on the carton, you may have a problem with premature burnout.

Here are possible causes and solutions for the issue.

Poor ventilation
If attic insulation covers a recessed fixture, it can overheat the fixture, burning out the bulb.

  • The fix entails clearing away the insulation to allow the fixture to properly ventilate.

Excess wattage
If you're using a high-wattage bulb in a small, enclosed fixture, such as a lamp globe, the excess heat could snuff the filament.

  • To remedy the situation, remove the bulb and replace it with a lower-wattage one or a compact fluorescent.

The shakes
Vibration, like heat, can make a filament fail sooner than it should.

  • If your lamp or fixture is in a high-traffic area – such as near a slamming door or on a ceiling beneath a floor that gets constantly trampled by excited kids – simply replace the incandescent bulb with a compact fluorescent. Fluorescent bulbs don't have a filament.

2. Cut your electric bill

Here are two surefire ways to cut back on your electric usage and slash monthly bills.

  • About 20 per cent of the average electric bill goes towards lighting. Want to save an easy $60 a year in electric costs? Simply replace your five most frequently used incandescent light fixtures with energy efficient bulbs.
  • Unplug those rechargeable batteries. Few people realize what a drain battery chargers for cell phones, laptops, toys, kitchen appliances and power tools can be. If you have finished charging the item, unplug it. Otherwise, it's just sitting there costing you money.

3. Reduce heating and cooling costs

Half of your utility bill goes to heat or cool the home. The easiest and cheapest thing you can do to reduce bills is to clean or change furnace and air conditioning filters frequently.

  • A clean filter allows your home heating unit to "breathe" easier, which will reduce your overall energy consumption. You'll find that the monthly savings eventually add up.

Does your home have a crawl space?

  • Be sure to close your foundation vents in winter to save the cost of heating those unoccupied, unusable crawl spaces.

4. Skip the fireplace

No matter how much your real estate agent may tout the romance of a fireplace in your home, don't ignore this fact: the typical household fireplace chugs pollution into your living areas and sucks heat out. In fact, most fireplaces draw away more heat than they provide.

  • If you can't do without a fireplace, explore the new high-tech enclosures that are designed to radiate heat and keep fumes out of the house.
  • Even if you don't use your fireplace in winter, seal the hearth and ensure it's airtight to prevent warm air from escaping up the flue. Just check that it's safe to use by having it cleaned and inspected each year, if ever you decide to have a fire in it.

5. Analyze fridge energy-use claims skeptically

Appliance companies and salespeople love to tout the energy-saving advantages of newer, more efficient refrigerators. For instance, they'll claim that although the fridge is the biggest energy hog among household appliances, their energy efficiency has improved dramatically over the past three decades. Generally, this is all true.

  • A modern refrigerator with automatic defrost and a top-mounted freezer uses less than 500 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, whereas a typical model sold in 1973 used more than 1,800 kWh.

While this is good to know, how many people actually need to replace a circa 1973 fridge?

  • Many homeowners with much newer fridge models tend to step onto the showroom floor, urged on by fashion, prestige, boredom — and what they've heard about energy savings.

Since efficiency standards first took effect in 1995 in Canada, requiring new refrigerators and freezers to be more efficient than ever before, it makes sense to upgrade a pre-1993 model. However, deciding to replace anything newer than that is usually a function of looks, size and whether you're remodelling or not – unless your fridge is completely kaput.

  • Most new fridges have to meet energy efficiency requirements by law, so whatever you buy is sure to require less electricity to run than the old fridge you're replacing.

With a few simple steps, it's easy to keep your wintertime utilities bills under control. Over the short term, you may not notice huge savings. However, over time little savings can add up to a significant amount.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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