Owning a home can be a wonderful thing. You no longer have to worry about adding personal touches to a rental property or waiting for the landlord to make repairs. You’ve got the freedom to do what you want, when you want.
Of course, that freedom comes at a price. As colder temperatures arrive and you plan for the winter weather that will soon take hold, you’ll probably wonder what you can do to reduce some of those expenses.
Your home heating bill will take the biggest bite out of your monthly budget, so you’ll want to consider these top ways to reduce it:
1) Control Heat Loss
Air leaks and drafts will make your home uncomfortable and add to your heating bill. There are several things you can do to reduce these problems without spending a lot of time or money. First, take a walk around your home (inside and out) to find the biggest offenders for heat loss. Look at these common areas:
- Windows and doors—there are pros and cons of all window materials but most exterior gaps can be filled with caulking. Inside you can fill gaps around the window frame with insulation or seal the entire window with clear polyethylene film. Exterior door air leakage can be corrected with weatherstripping and a bottom door sweep.
- Electrical outlets—remove the covers and install foam insulation kits to the back of the plate. You can also fill any open areas around the box with standard fibreglass insulation.
- Baseboards—to stop leaks through the basement header area, fill gaps with insulation from below.
- Other openings—you’d be surprised at how much air leakage occurs around pipes, dryer vents, fans, wiring and cables. Caulk or seal even small openings to save.
- Wood fireplace/stove flue—when not in use, keep your damper closed to keep heat from escaping.
2) Take Advantage of Utility Company Programs
Many hydro companies offer incentive programs to help homeowners improve equipment efficiency and reduce energy usage. Both Manitoba Hydro and Hydro One offer rebates and low-cost improvement loans for insulation and equipment upgrades.
- Insulation—Manitoba Hydro’s Home Insulation Program offers rebates for upgrading attic, cathedral ceiling, interior wall cavity, exterior walls, basement walls and crawlspace walls. The R-value of insulation measures how well it resists heat transfer. The higher the R-value, the most efficient. Choose from loose fill, batt, rigid or semi-rigid, or spray foam. Each type is available through building supply centres or can be professionally installed. Check with your utility company for restrictions for rebate qualification.
- Smart Thermostat—Wi-Fi connected models can adjust temperatures according to your preferences even when you’re not home. They have built-in features that notify you of maintenance requirements and increase comfort. Both Manitoba Hydro and Hydro One offer rebates for the installation of a new adaptive thermostat.
- Furnace—Save hundreds of dollars in rebates when replacing your current furnace with a new high-efficiency model. Older furnaces were only about 60-percent efficient. Manitoba Hydro estimates that you can reduce your home’s annual heating bill by up to 35-percent by upgrading to a 92-percent efficient furnace.
- Home Energy Evaluation—Schedule a Home Comfort and Energy Evaluation with your utility company to identify areas where you can improve efficiency, save energy and money. Answer a questionnaire or arrange a home visit to provide the best options for improving your energy usage.
- Heat Pump—If you’re heating your home with electricity, you can save up to $4,000 through Hydro One by installing an air-source heat pump (ASHP). You can save up to 50-percent on heating costs over natural gas and you can even add a central air conditioning unit. Consider adding the central air conditioning unit at the same time. When the furnace and A/C units share the same blower motor, you can save up to $325 per year in energy costs.
3) Replace Windows and Doors
In addition to improving the look of your home, replacing your windows and doors can help you save on your home heating bills this winter. If you’ve got old, deteriorating or damaged windows, it may be time to consider replacing them. Consulting a window buying guide can help you determine the style, material and features that will be suit your needs.
Choose energy-efficient window features such as: Double- and triple-pane window that insulate well, reduce condensation and improve comfort; LoE glass coating that block heat loss and harmful UV rays; Argon and Krypton gas between panes to reduce heat loss, heat conductivity and condensation; or Glass spacers that are used to reduce cold transfer between glass layers.
New Energy Star certified exterior doors can provide energy-saving features. There are many styles and materials available but fibreglass, steel and wood offer the best options. Choose a door that has a high insulating R-value to obtain the best energy savings.
4) Use Renewable Energy
Solar energy is another option for drastically reducing your heating bill this winter. The Solar Energy Program offered through Manitoba Hydro has been designed to help customers offset their current electric needs with the cost of installing a solar photovoltaic cells (PV) that converts sunlight to electricity, a solar thermal system that produces heat from sunlight, and a concentrated solar thermal system (CSP) that converts solar radiation to electricity.
By using renewable energy sources, you can reduce your environmental footprint and heating costs and ultimately generate enough electrical power to send back to the grid.
There’s no better time to act than now. The sooner you address these issues, the more you’ll save on your heating bills this winter. To recap, control heat loss by filling gaps with caulking or insulation, take advantage of utility company incentives to save on purchase and installation costs, replace windows and doors with more energy-efficient models, and consider using a renewable energy source such as solar energy to convert sunlight to electricity.
By being proactive and implementing some of these cost-saving strategies now, you’ll be back in control of your monthly heating budget and maybe have a little extra money to enjoy winter activities too.