The Ontario Energy Board has approved Enbridge Gas Distribution's application to increase the price of the rates it charges for natural gas by 40%. This increase is set to come into effect on April 1, 2014. Enbridge cited the recent ice storm, and the duration of this winter, as the reasons for this raise. As CBC News Toronto reports, “Enbridge said the higher costs are the result of colder than normal weather over the past winter and higher natural gas prices forecast for the next year.”* Enbridge is not alone in its increase as “Union Gas and NRG, Ontario's two other natural gas distributors have also applied to increase their rates.”*
Homes with gas-fueled heating systems are not the only ones affected by this weather-driven price increase. “Propane customers in eastern Ontario and western Quebec saw their home heating bills nearly double in January and February compared with what they were paying in November.”**
The Toronto Star is also reporting that Toronto Hydro has increased its rates, and that “residents can expect their hydro bills to jump by about a $1 a month in May.”*** While that figure is much less than Enbridge’s proposal, there are more raises to come, as “the company wants to charge increases more than double that amount in each year from 2015 to 2019.”*** Although their proposal for annual price increases has not yet been approved by the Ontario Energy Board, the mere fact that it is on the table further shows that there is a change coming in the price of household services.
Although homeowners can’t fight these increases on a larger scale, they can change their behavior at home to limit the new costs they may incur. Consider the energy-saving tips below as you see your heating and hydro bills increasing.
Control Your Heating & Cooling Systems - Turn down your furnace (and air conditioner, if summer ever arrives) when you go to bed and when you leave your home.
While we’re not suggesting that you sleep in your winter coat, most people don’t require the same temperature to sleep comfortably as they do when they’re awake and out of bed. Take advantage of your blanket and turn the heat down when you get under the covers. We don’t encourage homeowners to lower their furnaces to below 15 degrees Celsius or 60 degrees Fahrenheit as this creates the threat of frozen pipes and flooding. That said, do turn your heating system down to a responsible level when you’re going to bed or leaving house for an extended period of time.
Don't Forget Your Filter - Check and change your furnace and air conditioner filters on a monthly basis.
Furnace filters help to protect the system and the air it heats from dust, dander, spores, and pollen. Keeping these particles out means they collect on the filter. When not dealt with regularly, this build-up makes the filter less effective, making it work harder and not achieve the same results – clean air!
Most furnace filters are located in the fresh air return, which can be placed on either side of the furnace. You’ll first need to determine whether or not you should purchase a cleanable or disposable filter. Furnace filters can range from $5 to $30 depending on the type of filter you select.
Helpful Tip: Write down the size of your existing furnace filter before going to purchase a new one.
Time Matters - If you have a "smart meter", only use your major appliances (dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, etc.) during off-peak times.
If your house has a “smart meter”, your utility has the option of charging different rates throughout the day, depending on whether they are popular or unpopular times for usage. As such, it’s important to be aware of peak and off-peak times to use your appliances. Mondays after work might be the most convenient time for you to do your laundry, but it’s also one of the most expensive.
Check out our infographic above to note peak and off-peak times to use your appliances. Visit the Ontario Energy Board website to learn more about “smart meters” and how peak times are determined.
Pull the Plug - Unplug your appliances at night and when not in use for an extended period of time to avoid phantom energy consumption.
You might not know this, but many of your appliances will continue to draw a small amount of power when they aren’t turned on or in use. This is called “phantom power”. To limit the amount of ghosts in your home, unplug your appliances, like your TV, computer, or toaster (not your stove or fridge). It may be a bit of a hassle to plug in your TV every time you want to watch it, but this is a good method of conserving energy and saving money.
Stop Losing Heat & Air - Improve the weatherstripping around your doors and windows, and, where possible, seal the cracks around your home.
Homes aren’t airtight – we need air to breathe! They are, however, usually a little draftier than we (and your wallet) would need. Check the exterior of your home and seal any unnecessary openings with weather-resistant sealant. Make sure doors and windows are flush against their frames and sill, and use weatherstripping to fill any gaps. This will help to keep your home the desired temperature without having your heating and cooling systems working harder than they have to.
We hope the items above help to keep your home running more efficiently and your wallet to stay a bit fuller. If there are home maintenance issues we’ve yet to discuss, comment below or connect with us on Twitter and Facebook and we’ll do our best to help out.