This winter has been nuts! Yes, I know where I live, and yes, there are certain things I’ve come to expect living in the Great White North, but the Jack Frost of 2016/2017 has taken no prisoners.
Canada as a whole – not just the typical poor suckers in the deep freeze provinces – has been shaken up in a snow globe of nippy temperatures and wind chill.
Even though snow can be magical and winter can be cozy, that crap does nothing for me when I’m running late, and I’ve been scraping my windshield for ten minutes and it’s still not clear.
It’s even harder to appreciate the beauty of the season when I get my through-the-roof gas and electric bill and I figure out the reason my feet have been wet every day when I get home is because my boots have holes in them.
Okay, okay, winter doesn’t completely suck.
It has its perks. But, sometimes those perks can be hard to remember when me and my finances are feeling drained.
Since it can be hard to predict the kind of winter we’ll have and the amount of heat we’ll have to crank, it can be hard to predict how much to budget for necessities over the winter months.
One of the hardest-to-plan-for necessities we have to budget for in the winter months is the heating and electric bill.
But, even with all the variables, there are things we can do to keep from having a complete panic attack when we get the bills.
Here are five tips to help you save on your heating and electricity bill over the winter months.
1. Understand your bills and your usage
First thing’s first. Pull out the last six month’s worth of your energy bills and review your trends. Figure out the answers to these questions:
- How much gas and electricity do you typically use?
- How much does it cost you?
- Are you locked into a period? Or can you take advantage of renegotiating your rate?
- Look at the variable rate trend over the last year. Does it make sense to switch to the variable rate or stay with the fixed rate?
- Does it make sense to switch to another provider? What would that cost you?
By asking yourself these questions, you may find some easy ways to bring the bill down without having put in much effort. Or, you may realize that even a bit more effort and research on your end will have big results.
Are you affected by the carbon tax?
If you’re in Alberta reviewing your gas bill, I’m sure one of the first things you noticed is the spike in rates from the new carbon tax.
Regardless of your stance on carbon tax, the bottom line is that if your province has one it is going to impact your budget. So, the best thing you can do to reduce some of your heating and electricity costs is to figure out how much carbon tax affects you and whether or not you’re eligible for any rebates.
Here is an article that outlines what provinces are most impacted by carbon tax. Even if your province is not listed, it’s still a good idea to go to your government website (links below) and research your province’s stance on carbon tax.
If your province does have a carbon tax, your government website will be able to give you a breakdown of the tax and also who is eligible for reimbursements or rebates.
- British Columbia
- New Brunswick
- Nova Scotia
- Northwest Territories
Once you understand your heating and electric bill it will be easier to track how your behaviors impact it. Now that you know your bill, you’re ready for the next steps.
2. Keep the thermostat lower and wear more layers
This is ridiculously common sense – and something I’m sure everyone knows – but it’s still hard.
I prefer walking around the house barefoot (yes, even in winter) and instead of putting on socks or slippers I tend to crank the thermostat. But, by switching a simple behavior, like putting on socks and maybe even a sweater, I typically don’t feel the need to bump the heat up.
However, there is a limit to how much you should layer. If you’re still cold after layering up – as in the next step is a toque and mitts – it’s probably time to explore your options.
3. Get a smart thermostat
Another good idea to help keep the thermostat low is to invest in a smart thermostat. I was gifted one as a house warming present a couple of years ago, and it is the best!
It allows me to set up a heating schedule based on our habits and the app makes it so you always have access to adjust the temperature through your phone.
We can keep it cool at night and when we’re at work, and warm things up a bit right before we wake up and get home.
It’s great never having to worry about whether or not I forgot to turn down the heat when I’m out of the house. Just check your phone, adjust the temperature if needed, and be on your way!
4. Invest in a space heater
If you are always cold and have a hard time keeping the thermostat below 20 degrees, it’s probably time to get a space heater. These things are awesome!
A couple of years ago I bought a space heater at Costco, and I’m confident that it has more than paid for itself. Even on freezing cold days I can keep the temperature in my (somewhat drafty) house around 16 degrees, point the space heater at me, and still feel cozy as I watch TV.
Space heaters are great, but use caution
You do have to use caution with space heaters though as they shouldn’t be left unattended. And, some do pose a big risk for tiny fingers.
I also wouldn’t use a space heater to heat your bedroom overnight. For me, it’s too risky, even with the safeguards most space heaters have.
Plus, studies show that sleeping in a cooler room is better for your health.
But, if everyone in the house can be safe around a space heater, check one out. They’re lifesavers!
5. Be strategic about how you use your appliances
If you can get away with not turning on your oven, by using the toaster oven or cooktop instead, that can save on electricity. You can also try turning off the stove elements a few minutes before your food is done and allow the residual heat finish the job.
This site has lots of good tips on how to maximize your energy efficiency when you cook and bake.
Maximize Your Loads
When it comes to other appliances like your dishwasher or washing machine make sure you maximize your loads to save on electricity and water.
If you have a sunny enough room you can even get away with air-drying a lot of your laundry – even in the winter. Although the heat from the dryer is nice, saving a bit of cash from not having to use it is a bit nicer.
6. Only light the space you’re using
This is another one of those common sense things, but it can be hard to do, especially in the winter when it’s crazy dark, crazy early.
I find it tough to do this because it’s super depressing to go to work and come home in the dark every day. And when that happens I want to turn all the lights in the house on when I get home.
Maybe it’s to compensate for my lack of sun? Or maybe it’s because I watch too many murder shows and it creeps me out to have a dark house…
Either way, I’m learning to be more strategic about the lights I have on in the house.
In the main floor living area of my house (where I spend most of my time) I can see all but one room regardless of where I am. So if I’m sitting in the space by the fireplace I can see into two or three different rooms, and it doesn’t matter how bright the fireplace room is, it’s still kind of depressing to stare into three pitch-black rooms.
Rearrange your furniture to maximize the lighting effects
To combat staring into dark rooms, I’ve learned to move around some furniture if needed. This helps me face away from the dark rooms as much as I can so my focus is on the brightly lit space. It helps!
And, it’s pretty easy to do if you’ll be staying in one spot reading or something – and by something I do mean watching Netflix or Facebook stalking.
But, it’s a little harder if you’ll be moving around.
Close the door or use battery-operated lights to brighten things up
If you’re going to be moving around you can either go to a space where you can shut the door – like play with the kids in their room – or grab some battery-operated tea lights to strategically place around the house.
I get my battery-operated tea lights from the dollar store. They’re super cheap, last quite a while, and are a great way to brighten up the dark spaces without having to flip the switch!
Get Going and Save Money on Your Heating and Electricity Bills
Will doing these things take your gas and electric bill down to $0? Unfortunately, no. But, every step will help and the more you do, the more you’ll save.
And it helps if everyone in the house is on the same page. So start talking to your partners, roommates, and kids. Decide on a house policy of things you’ll do, like wear socks, and help each other stick to it.
Start with the six tips above and see what else you can come up with from there!