“Coupons” and “saving money” are words that get my attention. I actually look for these Toronto Hydro coupons around this time of year and glory be, they were waiting for me in my mailbox when our family got home from March Break! This year I noticed that the coupons are good through December 31, 2011. This is a smarter way of doing things than in the past; last year we bought some ceiling fans in October and all of Toronto Hydro’s coupons had expired (finding ceiling fans in October wasn’t exactly easy either). If you didn’t get your booklet in the mail have no fear! They’ve posted the coupons online as well. (Note, coupons are available twice per year, in April and again in the fall, this link may not be valid when you click on it, if it is not during the two months of the year when these coupons are being offered).
In any event, this little coupon booklet has a lot of deals on electricity saving devices, but maybe you’re not sure which ones you want to use. To be honest it really depends on what your needs are, how handy you are, and where you will get the biggest bang for your buck.
The average Ontario family of four consumes just under 900 kilowatt hours of electricity each month (950 kwh for a family of five), according to a Stats Can 2007 study. Most of our (Ontario’s) electricity use is for plug load — only 30% of space heating in Ontario is electric. That means that for most of us to lower our electricity bill we need to look at what and how we’re using our electricity, from appliances to lighting to electronics.
My family’s electricity bill. According to our Hydro bill, our family of five consumes 26 kwh per day of electricity outside the air conditioning season for a total of about 786 kwh per month. While it’s less than the 950 kwh used by the average Ontario family of five, it could be better. So, I am going to strive to lower our family’s usage by 10% or 2.6 kwh/day over the next two months with a little help from my Toronto Hydro Coupons. Here are a few of the things I can do:
Lighting: Lighting is the “low hanging fruit” and there are $1 -$5 off coupons for CFL light bulbs. I can tell you right now, the 50W halogen pot lights are energy hogs. I’m not a huge CFL fan, I don’t like the length of time they take to warm up, they never last as long as they say they will because their lifetime hours are based on continuous use and in a residence you tend to use them for shorter amounts of time, not to mention their mercury content, but yes, we have several CFLs throughout the house and I know they consume a lot less energy than incandescent bulbs. I’ll use the coupons to buy some more, but really, what I have to do is bite the bullet and invest in some LEDs for the kitchen. I’ve written about new LED lights available (read here and here) — unfortunately there are no coupons for LED lights yet — I think the technology and price still needs to improve first. (pictured left: 23w spiral mini CFL bulbs from Home Hardware).
Clothes dryer: We do at least one load of laundry per day with all the different sports activities we play, and, therefore, the dryer is also going once per day. While I line dry some things, our house isn’t set up to line dry many clothes inside. However, summer is different and I have the perfect outdoor spot for a clothesline. Fortunately there is a coupon for $5 off umbrella and clothesline kits. (pictured: umbrella clothes dryer from Home Hardware.)
My other electricity hogs: My favourite energy measurement device is my Kill A Watt. Since I’ve used it, I put my computer and wireless station on a powerbar with built-in timer. This has helped me not only save energy during the night, but also, because the wireless system shuts down, I know my boys aren’t using their iTouches well into the night too. This year I plan to buy a programmable time for the basement TV/game system which gets a lot of use, especially during the winter. Our 8 year old TV is now ridiculously outdated and is definitely an energy hog but I feel guilty thinking about replacing it because it’s only eight years old and in good working order. If I put the TV and the PS3 on a powerbar timer, I’d save more electricity and would “break the beam” if the boys get into a late night gaming session. Save $4 on power bars with integrated timers or auto shut-off.
Ceiling fans: Ceiling fans can help you save electricity during air conditioning season, big time. A typical ceiling fan uses about 60 watts of electricity versus a central air conditioner which uses about 3500 watts (both numbers depend on the size of the appliance). A ceiling fan can bring the perceived room temperature down by 2-5 degrees Celsius. Save $10 on Energy Star certified ceiling fans. Last year we put ceiling fans into our sons’ room after I built “The Wall”, but we have one more to buy for our daughter’s room which has southern exposure and can get really hot in the summer. (draw curtains in south-facing rooms to help stave off solar heat and protect your furniture from fading).
Timers and Dimmer Switches. The value of these two devices cannot be overstated in terms of helping you control when lights are on. However, keep in mind that dimmer switches aren’t always compatible with CFL and LED lightbulbs, so consider which will work best for a given room or area –or buy dimming-compatible CFLs or LED light bulbs. In our laundry “closet” there is a ceiling fan that you turn on whenever the washer/dryer are on to help prevent moisture build up. The problem is that you have to remember to turn it off, and sometimes it might run for the entire day if you leave when the washer is running. This is the perfect spot for a timer switch.
There’s a $4 coupon for insulation blankets for electric hot water heaters — our hot water heater is gas, but we put an insulation blanket on it and it definitely made an immediate difference in our gas bill.
For your garden landscaping there is a $4 off coupon on heavy-duty outdoor timers — perfect for lighting your gardens when people are awake and want to see it, and for shutting it off when everyone’s asleep. We have gone a step farther and use the Noma solar lights. I’d say they’re kind of, sort of okay, but they need a lot of sun to work well into the night, and they don’t get a lot of sun in our north facing backyard. If I were to redo our lighting, I’d use outdoor LEDs on a timer.
Other coupons: our house is weatherstripped and insulated to the hilt, although it could use better windows (already warped and only four years old!) and some more caulking, but here are some other coupons you might find useful.
Programmable baseboard thermostats: If you use electric baseboards for space heating, but you only need to heat a space for a few hours a day, you’ll want the $10 to $30 coupons for programmable thermostats for electric baseboard heaters. Great idea for rooms that are used intermittently, or so that you don’t need to adjust the baseboard thermostats manually any more.
There are also coupons for weatherstripping and hot water pipe insulation. Insulating your hot water pipes can help save the water temperature 2-4 degrees by the time it gets to its destination, meaning you’ll use less and can keep it set on a lower temperature.
Other electricity saving ideas. Use a critical eye regarding all plugged-in devices in each room. In addition to replacing light bulbs and adding ceiling fans, don’t forget to unplug appliances that you don’t really use all the time. For instance, is there a digital clock in a guest bedroom that is only used a few times a year? Unplug it. What about the coffee maker with the digital clock. If you don’t use the clock or timer, unplug the coffeemaker when it’s not in use. When was the last time you used the VCR? Don’t forget to unplug cellphones after they’ve been charged. And of course, use the “Refrigerator Round Up” to schedule an appointment to have your old basement fridge picked up. One other point of note: in our last house we needed the fridge out before the Round-Up people were available to come so we called a scrap metal place instead. They charged us $20 to haul the freezer from the basement, and at the same time took other broken metal things we couldn’t figure out what to do with (a broken ironing board, an old metal pole from a previous landscaping job, a rusted clothes drying rack…).
For a list of participating retailers, visit the saveONenergy website.