Winter doesn’t officially arrive until Dec. 21, but the days are already getting shorter, the temperatures are cooler, and we’re settling in for a few months of cold.

For residents of Ottawa, where I’ve been helping clients buy and sell properties for more than 30 years, our winter season offer many attractions, including outdoor skating rinks, ski hills within a 20-minute drive and our wonderful winter festival known as Winterlude, happening this winter on weekends from Feb. 1 to 18.

It’s also the time of year many of us like to curl up for cozy times at home with a good book or movie.  With the longer hours of lighting and the higher temperatures we need to stay warm inside, we can get some of our highest home energy bills of the year for lighting and heating costs.

But there are many things you can do to help manage those costs and keep them under control. Some are very simple and are even free, while others might take a bit of investment to help save money.

Here are a few ideas Hydro Ottawa and Toronto Hydro offer on their sites to help their customers keep costs down:

Thermostats:

  • If you don’t have a smart thermostat, consider installing one. It can reduce your energy costs by as much as 15 per cent.
  • Experts suggest you set your thermostat at 20 degrees C. when you are awake; 18 degrees at night; and 16 degrees when you are away from home. Toronto Hydro says that for every degree you lower your thermostat, you save up to 3 per cent in heating costs.

Ceiling Fans can Help

  • An Energy Star-certified ceiling fan can help lower cooling costs in summer. But they can also be helpful in winter months. Set the fan to run in clockwise direction, and it will push warm air back towards you and help keep you warm.

Furnaces:

  • Change or clean your furnace filter once a month during heating season to ensure air flows smoothly.
  • Book a licensed HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) professional to inspect and service your furnace once a year to ensure it’s operating efficiently.
  • If your old furnace is reaching its last legs and needs to be replaced, upgrading to a high-efficiency furnace can reduce your heating costs by up to 25 per cent per year. If you complete the work by a participating contractor, Hydro Ottawa offers rebates for qualifying furnaces of $250. To read about the rebate program, visit hydroottawa.com/rebate
  • If you have heating ducts that travel through unheated areas of your home, insulate them to prevent heat loss in those areas.

Draft-proofing

  • Hydro Ottawa says upgrading your insulation is likely to be a cost-effective and energy-efficient measure. Experts recommend you start with areas that usually lose the most heat. These include attics, crawlspaces and basements. In an existing house, Hydro Ottawa says the attic “is generally the most cost-effective place to add insulation. A well-insulated attic can reduce year-round energy use by 20-60 per cent, saving you money.”

Hydro Ottawa adds that if you’re considering buying a new heating system, upgrade your insulation first.  Improved insulation will possibly allow you to buy a smaller heating system.

  • Hydro Ottawa says that in many properties, up to 20 per cent of heat loss is due to leaks and drafts. You can install weatherstripping to block leaks around doors and windows. Caulking can stop leaks in and around window frames, around pipes or vents and along baseboards.

Window Coverings

  • Hydro Ottawa says windows can account for as much as 25 per cent of the heat loss from your home. If your windows are old and ready to be replaced, install new energy-efficient ones. You can also do simple things, like opening curtains or blinds during the day when sun is shining into a room, and closing the curtains at night and on very cold days to help keep cool air out.

Lighting

  • With darkness coming earlier at this time of year, put your outdoor lights on timers to help save energy and to make it look as if people are home, even if you are still at work.
  • If you are installing holiday lighting inside your home, LED holiday lights use 80 per cent less energy than standard lighting, Toronto Hydro says.
  • Shorter days mean that we’re using our lighting for longer hours. For your regular interior lighting, Energy Star-certified LED bulbs can save you up to 75 per cent of your lighting costs, Toronto Hydro says on its site.

Save Energy, Add Humidity

Many of us notice that the air inside our homes can be dry in the winter. Along with a home humidifier, there are other ways you can add some moisture to the air while cutting energy costs at the same time.

  • Hang wet laundry to dry inside, on a clothes rack or line. You’ll save on the costly energy associated with electric clothes dryers, you’ll add some humidity to the air, and you’ll help fabrics last longer.
  • When using your dishwasher, skip the drying cycle, which adds to energy costs. Instead, open the door and let the dishes dry on their own. You will also add some of that steam to the room.

You can find more ideas on the Hydro Ottawa website, at https://hydroottawa.com/save-energy/residential/tips-tools. For other energy-saving ideas, including no-cost, low-cost and those requiring some investment, there are some great ideas on the Toronto Hydro site, at http://www.torontohydro.com/sites/electricsystem/electricityconservation/residentialconservation/Pages/WinterConservation.aspx

If you’re considering buying or selling property in the Ottawa area, I’d love to meet with you and chat about the services and expertise I offer, with more than three decades of experience as a Realtor in the Ottawa area. You can visit my site and see my current listings at www.nancybenson.com. Feel free to give me a call, at 613-747-4747.