thermostat with knit hat hanging on wall

10 tips for saving energy and lowering your hydro bill this winter

LIVE greener | 7 MIN READ | 2022-10-03

As a homeowner or apartment dweller, the colder months typically mean higher energy bills—especially if you live where the cold air hurts your face. 

These days, most of us are spending extra time at home, so if you’re noticing your bills are higher than usual and your bank account is taking a hit—don’t sweat it!

We’ve put together a list of 10 simple ways to reduce your energy consumption this winter so you can save money without sacrificing comfort.

1. Turn down the thermostat

Dog wrapped up in yellow blanket

One thing we know for sure is that Canadian winters can be long, hard, and cold. Most of us are guilty of cranking up the heat much higher than it needs to be between November and March (or sometimes even longer than that—don’t remind us!).

But what if we turned it down for a change? 

This brings us to our number one tip for lowering your energy bill in the winter—turn your thermostat down, even just slightly! Not only will you save energy, but just a two degree difference can save roughly $180 per year on your bill. 

So, get out your fleece sweatpants, fuzzy socks, and consider investing in one of those comfy hooded blankets everyone is raving about, and turn it down a notch or two. Your wallet will thank you

2. Seal windows, doors and other leaky spots

 According to EnergyStar, air that leaks through drafty spots in your home (think outer walls, windows, doors, frames, and baseboards), can waste energy and increase your utility costs. Making sure those cracks and openings are well-sealed can make a big difference.

Using caulking or weather-stripping can be an effective solution, but may not be possible if you live in a rental. For door sealing, you could try making a door snake—a great, DIY option on Simplemost’s list of how to draft-proof your home.

How to make a door snake: Simply roll up a towel, or get crafty and make a weighted fabric tube that blocks the draft from under doors and windows. This is a pretty simple way to save money, in our opinion!

3. Unplug electronics

Believe it or not, leaving appliances plugged in uses a considerable amount of energy—especially those with screens, like TVs and computers. According to this article from The New York Times, “roughly 50 devices and appliances in the typical American household are always drawing power, even when they appear to be off.”

The author of this article used a Kill-a-Watt power metre to test different appliances in their home, and the results were surprising. For example, a cable box turned on and recording a show drew 28 watts. A cable box that was turned off drew 26 watts–only a two watt difference!

Our sustainability team suggests plugging appliances into power bars or “green plug” outlets so that when you leave the house, you can simply switch them all off with one click. It’s a pretty simple way to save! Unplug your TV, cable box, microwave, and chargers when you’re not using them, and watch your energy bill go down.

4. Adjust the way you do laundry

This article by Energy Saver outlines 16 different ways you can save money on your energy bill simply by changing the way you do your laundry. Here’s a few of our favourites:

Wash with cold water. Using cold water can cut a load’s energy use by more than half. If you go this route, just make sure to invest in some cold water detergent.

Wash full loads. Your washer will use around the same amount of energy regardless of load size, so might as well fill it up!

Use dryer balls. Wool or rubber dryer balls will cut drying time considerably. Bonus: They help with static cling and are a natural, chemical-free solution to traditional dryer sheets.

Sign up for time-of-day programs. Get in touch with your utility company to find out what programs they offer to lower energy costs at certain times of the day. Then, stick to doing laundry during those hours only.

Use ENERGY STAR® appliances. New ENERGY STAR® washers and dryers use about 20-25% less energy than conventional models.

5. Invest in low-flow showerheads

Little girl laying in a bathtub with sunglasses on her face

Having shorter, cooler showers to save energy is a big ask when you’re trying to stay warm during the winter! Water-efficient showerheads, however, can help conserve water without making sacrifices to your routines.

Fun fact: Our sustainability team has installed low-flow showerheads in many of our apartment buildings to save energy, and it works! The Ontario Building Code allows builders to install a maximum of 7.6 litres per minute showerheads, but our sustainability team typically installs showerheads in our buildings between 5.7 and 6.6 litres per minute (1.5 to 1.75 gallons).

We love this Water Savings Calculator on Waterpik’s website that calculates how much money and water you can save with a low-flow showerhead. If you shower for 15-minutes once a day with a water-efficient showerhead rather than a standard one, you can save 10,362.6 litres (2,737.5 gallons) of water and $37.53 per year! What’s better is that you can get one for as little as $15 on Amazon. Try it out – you’ll save some money and tons (literally) of water.

Don't have a low-flow showerhead? No problem. A shower timer will do the trick. To cut your shower time down in the winter, set a timer on your phone for 5, 10 or 15 minutes and hop out when it goes off. Easy peasy!

6. Keep your furnace filter clean

One of the more simple, yet effective, solutions to saving on energy costs is to keep your furnace filter clean. According to Bob Vila, you should replace or clean your filter at least every 90 days. If you have pets or allergies, you may want to consider changing it every 30 or 60 days.

7. Play with your curtains to heat your home naturally

Did you know that simply closing your curtains at night and opening them during the day can increase a room’s temperature by an average of two degrees during the day thanks to the sun? According to The Nest, closing curtains could save up to 10 percent in heat loss.

Additionally, you could invest in energy efficient curtains which retain heat during the winter and reject heat in the summer, resulting in lower cooling and heating bills. 

8. If you have a chimney, make sure to block it

If you have a wood-burning fireplace in your home, count yourself lucky—just make sure to be mindful of blocking the chimney when it’s not in use. Failing to do so could cost you a pretty penny!
According to Energy Rates, chimneys are a huge source of heat loss in the winter, but there are ways to help stop the hot air from escaping your fireplace. Some of the most common at varying  price points are:
Top sealing dampers
Chimney caps
Chimney balloons
So go ahead and enjoy that beautiful fireplace. Just make sure to block it when you’re done!

9. Use smart lighting

Smart Lighting app

Here’s a little tip that will help you save money all year round, not just in the winter—switching to smarter lighting choices!
The light-emitting diode (LED), for example, is today’s most energy-efficient lighting technology. LED bulbs use 75% less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs. So if you’re not using them, it may be time for a switch! 
Bonus tip: Remember when you were young and your mom constantly told you to turn off the lights when you left a room? She had a good point! One of the easiest ways to save a bit of cash is to be mindful of how many lights are on in your home at any given time.

10. Place area rugs on hard floors

Area rug

Rugs can do more than just tie a room together! They can be a great way to warm up a room and separate your feet from chilly hard floors. If you really want to go all out with rugs, you could even use them as wall hangings to add more insulation to a room. 
Bonus tip: For ideas on how to decorate with area rugs, check out our Rug Styling 101 article.
Happy saving!