Million Dollar Journey

Questrade Democratic Pricing - 1 cent per share, $4.95 min / $9.95 max

Building Wealth through Saving and Investing

Welcome to Million Dollar Journey! If you're new here, you can learn about me, read our user guide, and even follow my net worth updates. A great place to start reading is with the popular articles located in the right side bar. If you would like to join thousands of others and keep up with the free daily updates, you can subscribe to the RSS feed via reader or E-mail.

On your way out, make sure to check out the exclusive Million Dollar Journey Freebies and Deals.

Saving Energy Around the House





As our new house is nearing completion, a lot of my brain space is spent on various ways to save money around the house.  One way that really stands out in my books is energy conservation.  Since Newfoundland has a fairly long cold season, it would make sense to maximize energy efficiency around the house.  Not only does optimizing energy efficiency save money, it also helps my  quest to become more green.  I wonder if my neighbor would mind if I installed a windmill in my backyard… sorry, stray thought, back to the topic at hand.

From a pamphlet that my energy company mailed me, it showed that heat (electric) accounts for almost 60% of your entire heat bill. This is how energy usage broke down (in a colder area like NL):

  • Home Heating ~ 60%
  • Light ~ 5%
  • Hot Water heater ~10%
  • Washer/Dryer ~ 5%
  • Other Appliances ~15%

Some ways to reduce hot water cost:

  • Turn down your water heater temperature to 120F (but no lower).  
  • Install low flow shower heads.
  • Use cold water to wash your clothes.
  • Install an insulation blanket around water heater and insulate the hot water pipe.
  • Instead of using a giant water heater that needs to remain heated all the time, consider installing a "on-demand" water heater.  I don't have any experience with these, so I can't comment too much about them, but I like the theory behind them.

Some ways to reduce heating costs:

  • Install gaskets around your electrical sockets.
  • Caulk around the external dryer vent.
  • Double check the weatherstripping and caulking around windows and doors.
  • Install a programmable thermostat (~10% savings off heating bill).
  • Install a ceiling fan and run it in reverse to help circulate the air (hot air tends to hang around the ceiling).
  • Insulate the undeveloped basement – Uninsulated basements can result in 20-35% heat loss.  Thus, it makes sense to spend a few dollars to insulate the basement properly where the payback will come back in no time.

Finally, it's apparent that appliances account for a fair chunk of energy usage.  If you're going to buy new appliances, make sure to check out the Energuide ratings.

So you home owners out there, what have you done to help reduce your energy costs?





38 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. 1. RichardM

    When I built my house in 2005 I looked into installing a on-demand water heater. At that time they were very expensive and I figured the pay back period wasn’t worth it.

  2. 2. Patrick

    Great tips. For most of these, the payoff comes fairly quickly. I love the concept of green houses and green energy and all the little things people can do to save money around the house. Many of them are becoming cheaper to do and easier to use. I think it is an important thing for people to be aware of.

  3. 3. Pauls

    FT:
    My HVAC guy told me he has had to uninstall “almost all” of the on-demand water heaters he installed within 2 years. He gets calls from “non-clients” all the time to take them out.

    I’m surprised that adequate insulation in the attic was not mentioned.

    There are companies that conduct energy audits for homes. One of the useful tests they do is a whole-house draft check. They apply a vacuum to the house and then go around finding all the places air is entering the house. Usually, caulking can be used to solve many of these (expensive) leaks.

  4. My basement is undeveloped and most of my monthly heatings costs are lost here.
    Being on my “to do list” for this winter, I thought I’d mention that Newfoundland Power provides a rebate for most upgrades to insulation, programmable thermostats and anything else that reduces your energy consumption. They actually have DOUBLE the rebate til the end of October. Typical bag of insulation $50 (approx) with a rebate of $15 per bag. I like the sound of that!

    Steve

  5. Pauls, did your HVAC guy mention why he’s been uninstalling them? Have they been breaking down?

  6. I used electronic thermostat and it makes a big difference. I rarely heat on the second floor and I keep the basement warm enough. As heat goes up, it is important to not leave your basement at 15 degrees even if you are not using it.

    I also use a timer on my pool. It stops the water pump over night. Hydro Qc says it saves about $85 a year.

  7. 7. Traciatim

    I have a ‘tankless water heater’ and a hot water tank. My home used to be heated by hot water that was heated by an oil furnace. So the water entrance would come in to the house, and split to the furnace for house heat and the hot water tank for the home water use. Now it just splits in to the tankless heater and the regular water tank.

    One of the major problems I find with the tankless (if it were our main source) is the time that they take to heat up. Lets say for instance with a water tank and you turn on your tap and it takes 12 seconds for the water to feel hot. Well if it takes the tankless heater to realize the flow is on (say 0.5 seconds) and then 5 seconds to heat up and get warm water moving then it will now take 17.5 seconds for the tap water to feel hot.

    The best bet would be to have a large whole house tankless heater and then smaller booster heaters at each point of use (Say 1 in each bathroom, and one for the kitchen. That way the small boosters would make the cool water feel hot faster and would boost in times when the main tankless can’t keep up to demand. In this case you could have the dishwasher and 2 showers going all at once and no one would notice.

    Another problem is that many tankless heaters are flow triggered. This means that it won’t come on up to a certain point. Say you have a 2GPM flow trigger and you run your hot water to your kitchen faucet to wash some pots. You crank it on to get it up to temperature, then turn it down to a nice easy flow to not waste water and then suddenly it goes cold. This is usually corrected with newer models that have lower GPM triggers and are processor controlled to not overheat the water if it’s flowing slow. If you are buying one, make sure to check it’s flow rate triggered, and if they will come on at low rates and just use less heat to avoid scalding.

    Also, to do it properly with the main home heater and the booster heaters you need to run electric everywhere and have plumbing set up property… that’s translates in to $$$.

  8. Traciatim, thanks for the pointers. With the various comments here, I’m leaning away from the on demand heaters.

  9. 9. nobleea

    With the newer hot water heaters, I don’t know if a tank insulation blanket can be pay off. You can easily touch the outside of the hot water heater and it doesn’t feel hot. I would estimate mine has a surface temp of 25-27C. The insulation blankets are typically quite low R-value (like 7), and if you calculate the heat savings (given a temperature difference of less than 10C), you’ll see it will take a long time for payback.

  10. 10. Telly

    A few years ago we had an energy audit done on our ~80 year old home. By far, most of the heat was being lost through the uninsulated walls. Getting insultation blown into all the exterior walls has made a HUGE difference. We also installed a new furnace and A/C (the old furnace was over 30 years old).

    Many people with older homes tend to think old windows should be replaced first and foremost but if your walls are not insulated you will lose a lot more heat out of the walls than the windows and insulating walls is much cheaper than replacing windows. You have to keep in mind that walls generally make up much of your outside surface area and windows are poor insulators, regardless of how new they are.

    Also, a programmable thermostat is a must, especially if (like us) everyone in the family is out of the house most of the day.

  11. Telly, how much do those energy audits cost? Worth it?

  12. 12. Telly

    FT, there are various grants and rebates that are given to home owners that have performed energy audits. The program (fromerly EnerGuide, now EcoEnergy) has changed somewhat but we are actually planning to have audits done on both of our rental houses (it used to be that you could only receive rebates on owner occupied homes but that’s no longer the case). Since we’ve already ordered new windows for the homes, the rebates will cover the cost of the audits plus put a little money into our pockets (especially since we pay the tenants utility bills!)

    The company we used for our audit was Home Performance. You have to have an audit done prior to renovations and then again after. Currently, the pre-audit is $295 + GST but 50% of that is rebated in Ontario. There are a few different companies that offer this service and the prices vary. We were very happy with Home Performance.

    http://www.homeperformance.com/en/library/grants_rebates.html

    Here’s a link for details on the program. It looks like there are no rebates available for new homes (the old plan allowed for this).

    http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca/residential/personal/retrofit-homes/retrofit-qualify-grant.cfm?attr=4

    Under the old plan, I believe we payed ~$300 total for the two audits. From what I can remember, we had our walls insulated for $1,800 and got a new furnace & A/C for ~$5-6k (?). Our rebate was ~$1,600 if I remember correctly (sorry, it’s been a few years). So yes, the audits were definitely worth it! They rated our house in the 1st audit and (no surprise), our house was VERY inefficient. There’s still some work to be done but the auditor gave us lots of little tips we found very useful.

    If anyone is planning any significant renovation, they should inquire about the audit. The rebate for roof and attic insulation is up to $600 so that would cover the cost of the audits alone.

  13. 13. Curtis

    Just a couple of points I wanted to mention:

    1) Set back your water heater to 130 degrees to save energy, however never set below this temperature. From newfoundlandpower.com

    2) Check out the full list of energy saving tips at
    http://www.newfoundlandpower.com/ManagingYourEnergy/AtHome/GettingtheMost/EnergySavingTips/NoCost.aspx

  14. 14. Cannon_fodder

    Nobleea – I agree. I recently had two different companies in to check the water heater, and HVAC systems. Both agreed that water tank wraps weren’t a good way to spend money.

    I also think that putting gaskets around the electrical outlets makes the most ‘cents’ for those on exterior, rather than interior, walls.

    For those of us who have had houses with attached garages and one or two bedrooms above the garage, this is another place where insulation would be great. I can’t tell you how cold the bedroom floor over a garage feels in the winter without adequate insulation in the garage.

    I tried to install insulation on the garage door itself, but it kept coming off (this is one of those multiple slatted doors as opposed to the one piece variety).

    Another energy savings tip – don’t have children. They grow into teenagers who open the fridge and freezer 7 times while staring at its fully stocked contents trying to figure out what they want; they take long, hot showers without regard to the other people dependent on that one water tank; they leave rooms with lights, music and TV on because they don’t want to expend their energy to turn them off and on again; they’ve been known to run the dryer for 1 pair of jeans to ensure that skin tight fit; they leave the window open in the summer/winter when the AC/heat is running; and, in spite of all that, they don’t help with the bills!

  15. LOL @ Cannon. You were a teenager @ one time Cannon. I was definitely one of those teenagers also.. especially the tight jeans part.

  16. In case you’re wondering, i’m kidding about the jeans thing.

    .. or am I..

  17. 17. JC

    We can be frugal with our waistlines…but that is another topic for another day. :^D

  18. 18. DAvid

    In Newfoundland, pay attention to windproofing! I notice our heating system works harder on windy days than on calm ones. Prevention of heat being displaced from your walls will increase your savings.

    DAvid

  19. Hard water can cause high heating bills. As your hot water heater (the regular, capacitive style) ages the hard water tends to leave deposits in the tank. After a while you end up heating up a thick layer of deposits on the bottom of the tank and not so much water.

    I’ve also found that insulating my hot water pipes has made a big difference. I don’t need to let the water run for as long until I have warm water.

  20. 20. Gates VP

    Hey FT;

    Another one I’ve discussed with my father (also an engineer) was to be able to control venting of hot/cold air at the outgoing level.

    In most places you can “close the vent” in the room, but this only stops a small chunk. What he’d like to have are controls for venting air to a specific location right at the “pipe level”.

    i.e.: we know that cold air tends to drop, so when he fires up the A/C he wants to be able to “kill” cold air flow to the basement. All of the cold air just goes directly to the top floor and we let physics do the rest. Keeps the top floor cool and helps to level out the temperature.

    As I understand it, such systems exist, they’re just a pain to install post-construction. But they’re obviously a nice efficiency measure. Anyone else know more than I do on this one?

  21. 21. Rod Payne

    A few little things I’ve noticed from doing our renovations on our 30-year-old house.

    1) Don’t use the plastic clothes dryer ducting. Go for the metal piping. when I inspected ours, I discovered it had broken and was venting into the void between the floors.

    2) Make sure all your ductwork sections are screwed and taped to ensure most efficient air flow. We’re replacing the drywall ceiling in the basement with pine strips. When I removed the drywall, the ductwork came down on my head. This does not make for good efficiency.

    3) Burn wood if you can. Our gas bill averaged $100 / month last year. but, I can buy a cord of split larch/pine mix for $180. that cord should last me for the whole winter (OK, so winter is only 4 months here).

    4) If you’ve got the option to plant evergreen trees on your property, do so. They’ll cut the winter wind chill. As well, deciduous trees outside your south-facing wall will cut the heat coming in during the summer while allowing more light through in the winter.

  22. 22. Pauls

    FT:
    Re: on demand heater issues from my HVAC guy…

    1) Too long to get hot water…must have a good flow to get any. Water temperature variable.

    2) Some problems with components failing. Costs are significantly higher even when you figure in your modest energy savings.

    Concept is good, especially for industrial applications. Doesn’t scale down very well to houses.

  23. Very good tips, but I was wondering whether you might considered using a smart meter in order to monitor your habits and which electrical appliances are really delivering the optimum performance. In the US and UK, I have come across a number of such meters (http://wattwatt.com/pulses/123/energy-saving-meter/ and http://technology.guardian.co.uk/weekly/story/0,,2101822,00.html)that can feed perfomance data to your PC. Any thoughts? And by the way, please do submit any electrical energy efficiency initiatives at local or national levels to wattwatt.com – it’s important for the world to share what’s going on…

  24. 24. Cannon_fodder

    DAvid – you reminded me of another item. If it is possible, put your A/C unit in a shaded area outside the house. The hot sun shining on it makes it work harder.

    the Wealthy Canadian – how far along the pipe did you run the insulation? Was it that black rubbery/spongy stuff?

    Gates VP – don’t know if this is the same thing, but we blocked off our floor vents and a furnace guy came in to show us in our unfinished basement that the builder had placed shut off ‘valves’ in the duct work just before it went to the floor. These were simple wing nuts attached to circular dampers – we tend to close off both the floor vent and the damper (kind of like wearing a belt with suspenders).

    Rod Payne – does your gas bill include heating your hot water tank and/or gas dryer or stove/oven?

    Jonathan Buck – I believe that we will start seeing provincial hydro companies incent and then mandate the use of smart meters in order to charge more for electricity use during peak times. This would be attached at the ‘mainline’ into the house.

    Some people are buying individual units to see what any particular device uses up in terms of electricity. I think it would be interesting to see what all of the electronic devices that sit there in ‘suspend’ mode draw – all of the TVs, cable boxes, clock radios, stereos, computer monitors, etc., etc., etc. would probably consume an alarming amount of electricity for doing nothing. In Ontario, when I factor in the cost of electricity, including transportation and debt retirement (don’t ask) I believe it comes out to about 11 cents/kWh for the first tier and it goes up to about 14 cents/kWh once your consumption goes beyond that. This is all off the top of my head so the numbers may be off and I forget where Tier 1 and Tier 2 start/end.

  25. Pauls:

    On tankless water heaters, I could see parts being an issue if sub-part components were installed. They’re not as simple as tanks, and I could see parts going bad.

    I’ve installed/used them, and am a particular fan of the Bosch 125HX*, although this was a while back. It did have some issues when running at minimal GPM, but it was rarely an issue.

    As for it not scaling down, actually, that’s what these were made for, in a lot of ways. They’ve been deployed for a very long time in Europe, and other places where the energy inefficiency of a tank is just not worth the convenience.

    They’re actually even better suited for small spaces like apartments where they save the space usually needed for a tank that gets heated 24/7. I’ve had them in about half of the apartments I’ve lived in, and they’ve always been nice – especially when there are visitors. No cold showers for the last in line!

    * I like the impeller ignition mechanism – water in, gas in, hot water out. No electrical lines needed!

  26. 26. canabiz

    Something that I have not seen anyone mention is not to use dryers to dry your clothes.

    Instead, you can go to your local Canadian Tire/IKEA to pick up a pair of drying rack and dry your clothing that way. It has 2 big advantages: your clothes will last longer and the best reason is your hydro bills will decrease significantly.

    Electric dryer and stove are two of the biggest hydro hogs out there. You can also do your part to help the environment as well.

    I realize this is not for everyone (i.e. family with 3 or 4 kids) but if you only have a couple of people in your house, give this some consideration. I could not believe my eyes when I see the hydro bills after I start using the drying racks. It just blows my mind away.

  27. 30. Rod Payne

    Cannon Fodder – our natural gas bill is only for home heat and 40 US gallon water tank.

    Hydro bill for everything else (no A/C) worked out to roughly $350 per year.

    As well, in all of the renos that we’ve done, I’ve made every effort to increase efficiency when it made monetary sense. I even lucked into a top end window (Energy star, argon filled) for the kitchen that I picked up for half price

  28. 34. Bram

    I burn wood (in Newfoundland) but have just learned my insurance company will not insure my home. Do you know of any insurance company who will cover such a house. Furncae is only 2 or 3 years old (oil and wood furnace).

  29. Bram, I thought that if you burned wood within the house that the rates would be higher, but accepted in general. I would phone around to see what the consensus is.

  30. 36. ford

    as for on-demand heaters, consumer reports does not seem to recommend them, at least if you want payback and money savings eventually. they reported some problems mentioned above. they are still too expensive. perhaps they work in europe better where 1) homes are smaller on average; 2) people use less water and hot water and 3) water temp entering homes is likely warmer, except for the southern usa, so it is easier for any type of heater. also, the higher the cost of natural gas for these, the more they can save you.

    as for walls and windows, walls are cheaper to improve; but pay attention to what is the weakness in your home, whether insulation or sealing. i replaced my old leaky aluminum slider windows for triple, well sealed ones. i am sure i’ll get back 300-400$ a year for doing all of them, but i went from an leaky r2 window to a tight r5 or so, but it cost over $30,000 for a 1750 sq ft bungalow, so not cheap and no payback. at least it is more comfortable and they work well and cut down more noise.

  31. 37. M

    Lots of good tips in the article and comments.

    We have a tankless water heater and I love it. After growing up in a house of eight with one washroom, it is so nice to be able to get into the shower when family is visitng and not have to shiver through a five second rinse off. Also, when my husband and I are away from home for a few days we’re not paying to heat a water we won’t use. Our home was built in 2010 and we haven’t had any problems with ours.

  32. 38. M

    Further to my previous comment is the convenience of not having to time showers around running the laundry (assuming you wash whites in at least warm water) and the dishwasher. Convenience points, but worth the consideration if you’re hard pressed for time before or after work.

    Trackbacks

Reply to “Saving Energy Around the House”

Subscribe without commenting



Get the Latest

      

Money Tips Newsletter

Premium Sponsors



Recent Comments

  • Ryan: There is a work-around for the cash redemption. I had two hotel stays one month, which I had the hotel put...
  • smayer97: Good point about the travel related insurance. But also the 10,000 points annual bonus is subject to the...
  • Elbyron: Hmm, I hadn’t heard about the new points conversion option on the MBNA card. So it’s essentially...
  • My Own Advisor: Always an honour to be mentioned by the blog that inspired me, thanks FT. Enjoy your weekend! Mark
  • Alan W.: FInancial Zelotry is as bad as all other zelotry Michael James. Thanks for the inclusion this week,...
  • smayer97: BTW, a card that I think might actually be better than Captial One Aspire card is the MBNA Reward Elite...
  • smayer97: Alternative to the Chase Amazon.ca card is also Chase Sears Mastercard. Since both are offered by Chase,...
  • Elbyron: I got a fairly small credit limit on it, a bit less than half of that of my Aspire card. But that’s...
  • Roger3592: You might look at the marriot card if your booking flights and renting cars …the free night whips...
  • Considering C1 Card: @Ryan: Thanks! @Elbyron: Thanks for the tip on the Chase Amazon.ca card! That seems a good deal...
 css.php