Cutting down your hydro or electrical bill

When I received our hydro bill last month, I nearly had a heart attack.  $160+ for two freaking months!?  In all my apartment and condo-dwelling days, my bill has rarely exceeded $40 for two months.  I called the hydro company to check in case there was a mistake but no… it was indeed $160 and change.  Sigh.


Photograph by jonlk, used under Creative Commons (http://www.flickr.com/photos/jonk/14002934/)

There’s a bunch of reasons why the bill is higher and all of them suck:

  • the building doesn’t turn on heat in the common areas
  • poor insulation on the ground floor
  • old school windows and patio doors
  • poor installation of air conditions
  • ill fitting doors


None of which matter because in the end, the property management group could care less and I still have to pay the bill.  So after a bit of brainstorming and searching online, Brian and I decided to try out some ideas for bringing down your electrical bill:


First off, be proactive about using heat.  This is the simplest thing you can do.  I only turn on the heat for 1 hour in the morning while I’m getting up and having breakfast and then it stays off until dinner time.  If the stove creates enough warmth while dinner is cooking, I can often leave the heat off or very low (~18C) until late evening, where I usually leave it around 20C or less until 10:30pm.  Ugly sweaters are my friends!  Then I turn it off completely and let the heat dissipate as we get ready for bed around 11:30pm.


Next, we decided to use a space heater.  I borrowed one from my parents, but you can usually buy a simple space heater for less than $40.  I’ve seen them on sale for as low as $15.  Using a space heater allows you to heat only the area you are using rather than wasting heat while warming up a large space.  This is great for us because our baseboard heaters are intelligently located directly underneath our drafty windows such that we have the pleasure of heating up the outside air.  (grrrr….)  So instead of losing a bunch of heat to the windows, I just warm up the area by the desks and kitchen table where Brian and I spend most of our time.  This reduces both the amount of time and also the temperature at which I need to set the baseboard heat.


Then come the modifications.  You’ll need to spend some of your own money here as it is unlikely that your property manager will want to do this for you.


To start, we sealed up all the cracks and gaps in the windows and patio doors.  You can do this using caulking for $2-3 from a hardware store.  No need to do a smashing job – it’s not your property anyways!  Plus it’s good practice for when you do own a home.  We found that caulking significantly reduced the drafts in the apartment.  Although we haven’t done so yet, we are also considering getting a energy-saving film for the windows.  These films are simply placed on the glass and do not require any damage-deposit sucking adhesives.  They help to keep in heat and keep out the cold.


We also rescued some curtains from my parents’ garage.  Don’t have your own?  You can use almost any kind of thick, heavy fabric.  You can even hack together you own using foam and reflective material, but no guarantees about what the neighbours will think!  Then we bought a simple curtain rod from IKEA for $2 and attached it to the wall.  We’re still searching for hooks, but after we find some, the curtains will go over our bedroom window.  Like the film, curtains and blinds can help to keep the cold away from the rest of the room.  In the summer, they also help to keep the sun and heat out of the room.  To get the full benefit of using curtains or blinds, you need to keep them closed whenever you can in order to block out as much cold (or sun/heat) as possible.  We have blinds already but unfortunately, they do not fit the window properly so they don’t do a very good job of keeping out the cold. Hopefully the curtains will do a better job once we get them put up!


Finally, we need to stop the cold air from the outside hallways from seeping into the apartment.  As a temporary (but fairly effective measure!) I simply pushed up our outside rug flush against the door so that the gap between the bottom of the door and the floor is not exposed.  This helps, but of course it’s not a long term solution.  Ideally, I’d like to get a door sweep.  Door sweeps go underneath your door and help to form a better boundary between the door and the floor.  Again, it’s not too expensive and easy to install.


So it’ll be another month or so before I can report back to see if my changes have worked.  Fingers crossed!

Posted in: Home, Life Hacks, Minimalism and Frugality

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