As we enter the summer months and enjoy patio dining, barbecues and weekends at the cottage or beach, we also enter the months when our hydro bills can soar because of our efforts to cool our homes.

But there are some simple things that we can all do to manage our energy use, reduce the need for air conditioning and help keep those bills under control.

Here are a few ideas from the Hydro Ottawa website and from Save on Energy, which works to help Ontario residents manage their electricity use:

To reduce your need for air conditioning in the first place, there are things you can do to help keep your home naturally cooler.

  1. During the day, keep your blinds or curtains closed to block sunlight from heating your rooms, and keep your windows closed. At night, open your windows to let the cooler night air in, so you will wake up to a cool home.
  2. If you have large windows that are exposed to direct sunlight for several hours a day, such as west-facing windows that can get sunbaked during the hours when the sun is lowering, consider installing retractable canvas awnings to shade your windows and keep that hot sun out. Awnings in a colour that matches your exterior trim paint colour can also be an attractive addition to your home’s exterior.
  3. Consider installing ceiling fans in bedrooms or other rooms. Ceiling fans use less electricity than air conditioners. Many residents of tropical climates use them, particularly at night, as an alternative to air conditioning on all but the hottest heat-wave days. If you’ve never tried one, you might be surprised by the pleasant breeze that a fan can create as you sleep, even without an air conditioner.

If it’s very hot and you still need an air conditioner, a ceiling fan that draws warm air upward can help you to set the air conditioner at higher temperatures and still remain cool. In the winter, you can reverse the fan to push warm air back down. This can save on heating bills too.

  1. When you are using central air conditioning, a programmable thermostat can help you control temperatures and keep costs down. Experts say installing a programmable thermostat can reduce heating and cooling costs by up to 10 per cent if you adjust temperatures for the hours you are away and the hours you are at home.

Hydro Ottawa suggests setting your thermostat to 25 degrees Celsius when you’re home, and 28 degrees when you’re out.

  1. Using an electric clothes dryer can account for up to six per cent of a home’s total energy use, experts say. Why not take advantage of warm weather to dry your clothes outside, as many of our parents and grandparents did.

(In the winter, you can use a simple indoor drying rack to reduce your use of an electric dryer).

  1. Keep lamps, televisions and other heat-producing appliances away from the thermostat, to prevent it from overworking.
  2. If you use a window air conditioner, clean your filter regularly to help it work efficiently. If you have central air, have your system inspected annually to ensure it’s clean of debris and operating efficiently.
  3. To reduce heating your kitchen on hot days, make more use of your microwave. Aside from keeping the room cool, microwave ovens also use up to 50 per cent less electricity than electric stoves, so they’re particularly useful if you are re-heating leftovers.

If you’re considering selling or buying property in the Ottawa area in coming months, I’d love to meet with you, chat about the market, and tell you about the expertise I offer, with more than 30 years as a realtor in the Ottawa area.

You can reach me through my website, at www.nancybenson.com, where you can also view my current listings, or you can give me a call at 613-747-4747.

For additional tips on energy efficiency through the year, you can visit the Hydro Ottawa website and click on the “Save Energy” Tab, at hydroottawa.com.

You can find other tips and even some money-saving coupons for energy-efficient devices, including LED bulbs and energy-star-rated ceiling fans,  at saveonenergy.ca.

Enjoy the summer!