Five Electrical Projects to Help Cut Down Your Utility Bills


As electricity costs continue to rise homeowners across Canada look for ways to effectively lower utility bills. Certain electrical projects improve efficiency, while others limit waste or tap into alternative forms of energy. Consider which of these home improvements would work for your family and take action to cut down those bills and save money.

Install a Power Monitor

Monitoring your power usage is often the first (and best) step in the path to reducing your utility bill. By understanding the data and statistics, your family can make better decisions with regards to conservation.

Quality power monitors hook up to the meter and provide the following information via an indoor display:

  • Amount of power being used - often displayed in kwh (or kilowatts per hour).
  • Average daily/weekly/monthly usage over time - useful when checking your bills and only available with prolonged power meter usage.
  • Costs - once programmed with the applicable rate, the monitor offers a daily, weekly or monthly cost.

Use this information to find out what appliances, devices or equipment in your home may be driving up the electricity usage. Pay special attention to the time, as some provinces have adapted a “time-of-use” rate policy, charging customers more for electricity during certain times of the day. Analyze the data provided by your power monitor and find out whether or not shifting the timing of electricity use will result in savings.

Find out if your electricity provider offers usage information online. Hydro One of Ontario provides this for time-of-use customers, although the information may be slightly dated, making it difficult to make informed decisions about specific changes. Check with your provider.

Change Your Light Bulbs

Incandescent bulbs provide a comfortable, warm light, but they also use much more energy than CFL (compact fluorescents) and LED (light emitting diodes) bulbs. According to programs put together by Canadian utility companies like BC Hydro, CFL bulbs use up to 75 percent less power than standard incandescent styles. LEDs tend to be even more efficient.

Homeowners can replace or upgrade bulbs without hassle. Simply purchase new bulbs and replace as needed, or consider upgrading the fixture as well.

Look for rebates available through your local power provider or government agency, and be sure to invest in a quality product from a reputable retailer. Beware of companies knocking on doors with offers to upgrade your lighting—they may claim to represent your utility company and pressure you to sign a contract for upgrades and locked in prices.

Install Digital Timers

Digital timers allow you to set up a schedule for lighting and power that takes advantage of time-of-use savings and practical situations. Does your bathroom exhaust fan run all day long after you've left for work? Install a timer in the switch and set the fan to turn off after a few hours of operation. Do your outdoor lights stay on all night long? Set up a timer to provide security and safety without driving up your electricity bills.

Digital timers can be used for seasonal lighting, electrical heaters and appliances. Look for quality models at your local hardware or building supply store, and talk to a local electrician about installation. In most cases, digital timer installation does not require an electrical permit, but research the rules within your province to find out for sure. Each provincial utility or local distribution company should offer a list of electrical projects that require a permit—for example, Nova Scotia Power outlines these issues in their FAQs page.

Reconfigure Electrical Heating Set Up

Electricity remains one of the most expensive methods of home heating. It's also the most accessible for apartment buildings, mobile homes and many older houses, and can be set up quickly. But electrical heating equipment uses a significant amount of power, driving up your utility bills and inefficiently heating your living space. Consider better heating design to save money on electricity bills and maintain a warm home.

Many heating units use electricity for fans and other components. Think about your home heating and water heaters, as well as pool heaters, hot tubs and patio heaters. All of these appliances can add up to massive electricity bills, especially in winter.

Alternative methods of heating include:

  • Natural gas furnaces - forced air is the most common and highly efficient, but can be expensive to retrofit into an existing home.
  • Fireplaces - natural gas or wood-burning fireplaces add ambiance and a decent source of heat, provided the unit is fitted with a fan and located strategically.
  • Woodstoves and Natural gas stoves - similar to fireplaces, stoves can provide excellent heat with the help of a fan and can also be used for cooking.
  • Pellet stoves - environmentally friendly and easy to operate, pellet stoves run on various types of natural fuel, including corn or wood byproducts.
  • Propane heaters - although propane may not cost less than electricity, equipment fueled by propane tends to be efficient and does not fluctuate with time of day

Install Programmable Thermostat

A programmable thermostat allows homeowners to set up a schedule with different interior temperatures. Set it for cooler temperatures overnight or while you're away at work, and use the settings to save money on unnecessary heating and cooling at various times throughout the year.

Experts agree that programmable thermostats save money every year, often surpassing the initial investment within the first twelve-month cycle. Check out the seven day programmable models from brand names like Honeywell and Robertshaw, or consider models that offer weekday and weekend settings (often called a 5-1-1 model). Recent models also allow for offsite monitoring and changes, via a smartphone or desktop application. For additional help on selecting a thermostate go to Home Depot.

Do expensive electricity bills overwhelm you? Incorporate these five electrical projects into your home improvement plans and cut those utility bills down to a more manageable level. From new light bulbs to timers, power monitors and programmable thermostats, these options help to keep electricity costs under control without sacrificing your comfort and security.

Posted by: TrustedPros
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