Psst, want to save a couple of hundred bucks this summer with the push of a button?
Take a quick look at your air-conditioning, says Kim Pressnail, an associate professor of civil engineering at the University of Toronto. He and his team recently completed a study that showed most Canadians who use air-conditioning set their thermostat at 22 degrees Celsius or lower -- and that raising the thermostat to just 24 degrees can save as much as $250 in a year.
Want to save more? Mr. Pressnail's team can shave almost $450 more from your bills, if you're willing to do some relatively inexpensive work around the house.
You can save as much as $75 by topping up your attic insulation -- and another $120 by adding to insulation in your basement, they say.
Another $245 comes from sealing air leaks around baseboards, and caulking drafty windows and air sealing along the basement headers. (The model home Mr. Pressnail used as the base case is a 1,860-square-foot, standard two-storey detached house, with windows on each level.)
How much of a difference will these savings make? Well, if you have absolutely no idea what you're paying for electricity every month, Direct Energy wants you to know that you're in good company.
The company, which provides heating and cooling services, surveyed more than 2,000 Canadians and found that 48 per cent don't know how much energy they consume (and 15 per cent of them don't care). In fact, 77 per cent don't realise that their heating and air-conditioning systems are the biggest energy wasters in their home.
Some more advice: Keep lamps, televisions, and other heat-generating appliances far from your air-conditioner's thermostat. And if you're getting a new air-conditioner, installing the unit in the shade can increase efficiency by as much as 10 per cent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Even if you don't run the air-conditioner, here are some other, less energy-intensive tips to stay cool:
- Use ceiling fans. Make sure they run counter-clockwise to pull hot air up.
- Use the barbecue, rather than the oven or stove, for cooking. That way, the heat stays outside the house. (Or try sandwiches, watermelon and ice cream.)
- Spend more time in the basement, if you can. It is inevitably cooler than the second floor.
- Close your windows and draw the curtains to keep the heat out in the day. Open them at night to cool the house. One website recommends leaving your kitchen cabinets open as well so that they don't trap heat.
- Partly fill a few large 1- or 2-litre bottles with water and freeze them. Then, put the frozen bottles in large bowl (to catch drips) in front of a fan and let the fan blow the cooler air all over you.
- Think long-term and plant some trees. We live up in the woods and run the air-conditioning perhaps twice a year because the trees have such a powerful impact on cooling the air.