Money Matters

Keep your energy bills cool when it’s hot

By Heidi Wagg

Summer is here and so are climbing temperatures and household electricity bills.

Before switching on an energy-guzzling air conditioner, consider ways to reduce the need for mechanical cooling in the first place. Doing so lowers unnecessary electricity consumption and pricey energy bills all the while improving indoor comfort.

Use this checklist to help you determine which energy-saving opportunities may work for you.

Does your home have adequate insulation levels?
Insulation acts as a barrier between your house and the great outdoors. In the summer months, insulation prevents comfortable indoor air from escaping the attic, basement and walls and being replaced with hot outside air.

In Canada, the recommended insulation levels for best energy performance is: R40 for attics (R50 in extremely cold regions), R12 for basements, and R12 for exterior walls. R-value refers to a material’s resistance to heat flow. The greater the R-value, the better the insulation).

Cellulose and fiberglass are the most common types of insulation, which have an R-Value of about 3.5 and are installed as batts or blown into a location.

To reach an R-value of 40 in a non-insulated attic, add 11.4 inches of fiberglass or cellulose insulation. To obtain an R-Value of 12 in a non-insulated basement or empty exterior walls, put in 3.4 inches of fiberglass or cellulose insulation.

ceilingfan_keepcool_storyDo you close curtains and blinds of west facing windows when it’s sunny?
Closing protective window coverings on sunny days is a small chore that offers substantial benefits. You block out unwanted sunrays from penetrating into your living space, while keeping occupants comfortable and the air conditioner idle.

If you are in the market for new windows, will you be acquiring energy-efficient units?
Sooner or later, we all need new windows for our home. Choosing energy-efficient units over standard ones is worth the extra upfront costs. You will reap the benefits of long-term energy savings, improved indoor comfort and added value to your home.

High-performing windows are made with special coatings and features that hinder unwanted heat gain.

Does your home have ceiling fans in high traffic areas?
Operating a ceiling-fan uses significantly less electricity than an air-conditioner. Ceiling fans provide uniform temperatures across a room, can be easily turned on and off when needed, and are often enough to keep occupants sufficiently comfortable.

Do you open windows early evening to allow for natural ventilation?
Early evening—when fresh outdoor air is cooler and breezier—is the perfect time to open windows and replenish stale, indoor air.

An open window also makes sleeping conditions bearable during hot summer months.

Is your home adequately air sealed?
Sealing air leaks around windows, doors and other weaknesses in the building envelope prevents comfortable air from easily exiting the home.

Purchase air sealants like caulking, weather stripping and spray-foam insulation at your local hardware store. Be cautious to choose the right material for the job. Several air sealants are available for different purposes, and with varying qualities, so know your requirements ahead of time and consult an experienced sales representative for advice.

You can test for air leaks on a cool, windy day with an incense stick or thin piece of plastic.

Are you able to plant deciduous trees on the sunny sides of your home?
By providing temporary shading, deciduous trees are a natural way to protect your home from the harsh rays of summer. Another bonus: the leaves of deciduous trees drop to allow for well-needed sunlight in the winter.

Incorporating energy saving measures into your lifestyle and home is a sure way to comfortably—and affordably—beat the heat on hot summer days.

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