Consumers need to make lifestyle changes to save on bills, say energy consultants

News Mar 09, 2017 by Justin Skinner Beach Mirror

With hydro prices on the rise, the onus has fallen on consumers to find ways to pare down their bills.

A few simple steps can help homeowners lower their own costs — though, to really make a dent, many measures require upfront investments and a shift in lifestyle.

The easiest day-to-day option is, of course, changing consumption habits, said Greg Labbé of the Blue Green Consulting Group in Toronto.

“Shifting your habits so you’re consuming energy after 7 p.m. or before 7 a.m. where you can — doing laundry or running your dishwasher after hours — can save you a substantial amount of money,” he said.

During winter peak hours (7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.), Ontarians are paying 18 cents for each kWh for hydro, compared to 13.2 cents for each kWh during mid-peak times (11 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and 8.7 cents during off-peak hours (7 p.m. to 7 a.m.)

Energy efficient appliances — from light bulbs to washers and dryers — can be another solution, although it’s one that will cost consumers upfront even, after rebates, for going green. However, a little extra work can make a major impact.

“A big way to save is to look at your building envelope,” Labbé said.

“Toronto’s got a lot of pre-World War II houses, and air-sealing your house can help save a lot of money.”

Stuffing up the flues of out-of-commission fireplaces can prevent drafts, and caulking around wooden windows, baseboards and trim can prevent small leaks that can add to big savings.

“For a lot of Toronto homes, as much as a quarter of their energy use is lost through cooling and heating due to simple air leakage,” Labbé said.

Switching to gas appliances could also provide savings, as gas prices are abnormally low, but that comes at an environmental cost.

Sheena Sharp, of Coolearth Architecture in Toronto, noted that smart thermostats can help cut costs as well, with heating and cooling working on timers so energy is not wasted when people aren’t at home.

“The cheapest thing is just not to use energy when you’re not there,” she said. “Get an ecobee smart thermostat with all the little remotes for your nest — I made a capital investment of $500 and got a $100 rebate, and I’ve been saving ever since.”

Sharp added that solar panels and proper insulation — R-60 values in the roof, R-40 in the walls and R-20 below the ground — can also help defray costs, but will likely require capital investments up front.

Cost savings may also be served up by alternative energy-buying companies like EnPowered that purchase energy in bulk to lower prices for consumers. By negotiating prices from generators and then buying in large quantities, EnPowered is able to pass along savings to consumers.

Company founder Tomas van Stee came across the idea when his own parents were taken for a ride by an unscrupulous door-to-door energy company.

“I couldn’t get them out of the contract, but in looking into things, I saw there were ways to find better deals,” van Stee said. “There are opportunities out there to help consumers in the market.”

To date, the company primarily serves businesses that consume the majority of their energy during peak hours.

“The buying group we’ve been able to help the most are small businesses; we average about $1,000 a year in savings for them,” van Stee said.

Unfortunately, using the EnPowered model, savings for single homes are minimal at best.

“People who are at home all day, if it works out, we can help them; but it’s usually not a big savings,” he said.

He has since launched yourbill.ca — a website that breaks down energy bills — and is hoping to come up with a model to help homeowners in the near future.

Consumers need to make lifestyle changes to save on bills, say energy consultants

Old homes can see a quarter of their energy use lost due to air leakage

News Mar 09, 2017 by Justin Skinner Beach Mirror

With hydro prices on the rise, the onus has fallen on consumers to find ways to pare down their bills.

A few simple steps can help homeowners lower their own costs — though, to really make a dent, many measures require upfront investments and a shift in lifestyle.

The easiest day-to-day option is, of course, changing consumption habits, said Greg Labbé of the Blue Green Consulting Group in Toronto.

“Shifting your habits so you’re consuming energy after 7 p.m. or before 7 a.m. where you can — doing laundry or running your dishwasher after hours — can save you a substantial amount of money,” he said.

Related Content

During winter peak hours (7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.), Ontarians are paying 18 cents for each kWh for hydro, compared to 13.2 cents for each kWh during mid-peak times (11 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and 8.7 cents during off-peak hours (7 p.m. to 7 a.m.)

Energy efficient appliances — from light bulbs to washers and dryers — can be another solution, although it’s one that will cost consumers upfront even, after rebates, for going green. However, a little extra work can make a major impact.

“A big way to save is to look at your building envelope,” Labbé said.

“Toronto’s got a lot of pre-World War II houses, and air-sealing your house can help save a lot of money.”

Stuffing up the flues of out-of-commission fireplaces can prevent drafts, and caulking around wooden windows, baseboards and trim can prevent small leaks that can add to big savings.

“For a lot of Toronto homes, as much as a quarter of their energy use is lost through cooling and heating due to simple air leakage,” Labbé said.

Switching to gas appliances could also provide savings, as gas prices are abnormally low, but that comes at an environmental cost.

Sheena Sharp, of Coolearth Architecture in Toronto, noted that smart thermostats can help cut costs as well, with heating and cooling working on timers so energy is not wasted when people aren’t at home.

“The cheapest thing is just not to use energy when you’re not there,” she said. “Get an ecobee smart thermostat with all the little remotes for your nest — I made a capital investment of $500 and got a $100 rebate, and I’ve been saving ever since.”

Sharp added that solar panels and proper insulation — R-60 values in the roof, R-40 in the walls and R-20 below the ground — can also help defray costs, but will likely require capital investments up front.

Cost savings may also be served up by alternative energy-buying companies like EnPowered that purchase energy in bulk to lower prices for consumers. By negotiating prices from generators and then buying in large quantities, EnPowered is able to pass along savings to consumers.

Company founder Tomas van Stee came across the idea when his own parents were taken for a ride by an unscrupulous door-to-door energy company.

“I couldn’t get them out of the contract, but in looking into things, I saw there were ways to find better deals,” van Stee said. “There are opportunities out there to help consumers in the market.”

To date, the company primarily serves businesses that consume the majority of their energy during peak hours.

“The buying group we’ve been able to help the most are small businesses; we average about $1,000 a year in savings for them,” van Stee said.

Unfortunately, using the EnPowered model, savings for single homes are minimal at best.

“People who are at home all day, if it works out, we can help them; but it’s usually not a big savings,” he said.

He has since launched yourbill.ca — a website that breaks down energy bills — and is hoping to come up with a model to help homeowners in the near future.

Consumers need to make lifestyle changes to save on bills, say energy consultants

Old homes can see a quarter of their energy use lost due to air leakage

News Mar 09, 2017 by Justin Skinner Beach Mirror

With hydro prices on the rise, the onus has fallen on consumers to find ways to pare down their bills.

A few simple steps can help homeowners lower their own costs — though, to really make a dent, many measures require upfront investments and a shift in lifestyle.

The easiest day-to-day option is, of course, changing consumption habits, said Greg Labbé of the Blue Green Consulting Group in Toronto.

“Shifting your habits so you’re consuming energy after 7 p.m. or before 7 a.m. where you can — doing laundry or running your dishwasher after hours — can save you a substantial amount of money,” he said.

Related Content

During winter peak hours (7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.), Ontarians are paying 18 cents for each kWh for hydro, compared to 13.2 cents for each kWh during mid-peak times (11 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and 8.7 cents during off-peak hours (7 p.m. to 7 a.m.)

Energy efficient appliances — from light bulbs to washers and dryers — can be another solution, although it’s one that will cost consumers upfront even, after rebates, for going green. However, a little extra work can make a major impact.

“A big way to save is to look at your building envelope,” Labbé said.

“Toronto’s got a lot of pre-World War II houses, and air-sealing your house can help save a lot of money.”

Stuffing up the flues of out-of-commission fireplaces can prevent drafts, and caulking around wooden windows, baseboards and trim can prevent small leaks that can add to big savings.

“For a lot of Toronto homes, as much as a quarter of their energy use is lost through cooling and heating due to simple air leakage,” Labbé said.

Switching to gas appliances could also provide savings, as gas prices are abnormally low, but that comes at an environmental cost.

Sheena Sharp, of Coolearth Architecture in Toronto, noted that smart thermostats can help cut costs as well, with heating and cooling working on timers so energy is not wasted when people aren’t at home.

“The cheapest thing is just not to use energy when you’re not there,” she said. “Get an ecobee smart thermostat with all the little remotes for your nest — I made a capital investment of $500 and got a $100 rebate, and I’ve been saving ever since.”

Sharp added that solar panels and proper insulation — R-60 values in the roof, R-40 in the walls and R-20 below the ground — can also help defray costs, but will likely require capital investments up front.

Cost savings may also be served up by alternative energy-buying companies like EnPowered that purchase energy in bulk to lower prices for consumers. By negotiating prices from generators and then buying in large quantities, EnPowered is able to pass along savings to consumers.

Company founder Tomas van Stee came across the idea when his own parents were taken for a ride by an unscrupulous door-to-door energy company.

“I couldn’t get them out of the contract, but in looking into things, I saw there were ways to find better deals,” van Stee said. “There are opportunities out there to help consumers in the market.”

To date, the company primarily serves businesses that consume the majority of their energy during peak hours.

“The buying group we’ve been able to help the most are small businesses; we average about $1,000 a year in savings for them,” van Stee said.

Unfortunately, using the EnPowered model, savings for single homes are minimal at best.

“People who are at home all day, if it works out, we can help them; but it’s usually not a big savings,” he said.

He has since launched yourbill.ca — a website that breaks down energy bills — and is hoping to come up with a model to help homeowners in the near future.