As we welcome a new year, saving money and making more conscious choices might be on your list of resolutions. So how does your utility bill play into these? It can have quite an impact on your budget, especially during the chilly winter months in Alberta.
You're already putting in the effort to keep your home cozy, but what if that warmth is escaping through sneaky cracks and gaps? We've got some savvy strategies to seal in the warmth and cut down on your monthly energy bills.
Assessing your energy efficiency
Before you can make an improvement plan, start with an evaluation of your home's current energy situation.
Step 1: Analyze your energy bill. Do you notice any trends month-to-month? Is your usage different from last year? Consider if you're on the best plan for my home’s energy needs. ATCOenergy can help you choose a plan that’s flexible to suit your home and budget (and switching to ATCOenergy only takes 10 minutes).
Step 2: Conduct an energy audit. This involves a comprehensive assessment of your home, similar to what the experts do during Rümi's home inspector service. The audit identifies any areas of your home that are reducing its energy efficiency. To help you get started, here's a to-do list:
Assess the success of your current insulation: Determining what is beneath your drywall is key to understanding areas for improvement.
1) Check for damage
Look for gaps, compression, or wear in insulation that could compromise its effectiveness. You may have an area in your home with exposed insulation, like a garage, crawl space, or attic, where you can see the state of your insulation.
If all your home's insulation is hidden behind drywall, some signs of damage could include cold walls, floors, ceilings, pesky drafts, and frequently fluctuating temperatures. All these chilly areas can create excessively high energy bills during cold snaps or even frozen pipes, creating a whole other homeowner issue you don't want to deal with!
Pro tip: Don’t forget to check for drafts and damage around electrical outlets, floor drains, and foundation cracks. These areas can let out precious warm air or indicate a lack of proper insulation.
2) Inspect R-values
When it comes to checking your home's insulation, it's important to understand R-values. These values represent how well insulation resists the transfer of heat. The higher the R-value, the better the insulation. In Alberta, it's recommended to aim for R-values between R49 and R60. This translates to about 14 to 25 inches of insulation depth, depending on the type.
To make sure your insulation meets or exceeds these values, consider hiring a home inspector. They have the expertise to evaluate your insulation and ensure it maintains optimal efficiency, reducing heat loss or gain, and cutting down on heating and cooling expenses.
Check the quality of your windows and doors
Don't underestimate the power of your windows and doors! They're not just there for looks — they play a crucial role in keeping your home energy-efficient. Inefficient windows and doors can cause up to 25% of your home's heat loss.
1) Check for gaps and cracks — every little gap contributes to heat loss
Check your windows and doors for gaps and cracks. Make sure your windows and doors are properly installed, and the weather stripping and seals are in good condition. Keep an eye out for signs like cracked or damaged seals, crooked windows, condensation, foggy glass, drafts, or cracked window panes. If you notice any of these signs, they most likely affecting your home's efficiency.
Pro-tip: Want a DIY way to check for a draft? Simply light a match or candle and pass it near the edges of your windows and doors. Look for any changes in how the smoke rises or travels!
2) Have your home inspector evaluate your windows
Expert home inspectors have thermal imaging technology, which indicates if your windows and doors are impacting the temperature in your home.
An inspector can also tell you if your home is equipped with double-glazed or Low-E glass, which can transform your home's ability to keep the heat in. Low-E glass lets radiant heat pass through but doesn't let it come back out, trapping the warmth inside. Perfect for sunny Alberta winters!
Our neighbours at Rümi have expert home inspectors who will assess whether your windows and doors meet the Alberta Building Code's energy standards. They can also tell you your windows and doors are causing you to pay higher energy bills.
Check HVAC systems
Monitoring the energy efficiency of your HVAC system isn't just about staying cozy. It's also important in reducing your utility bills.
1) Consistency is key
Check that your HVAC system consistently delivers comfortable temperatures and airflow throughout your home. If you notice any inconsistencies, it could be a sign of blockages or issues with the system. Keep an ear and nose out for any strange noises or smells. A healthy HVAC system should keep you comfortable all year round, without excessive noise, odour or harm to your energy bill.
2) Adhere to maintenance
Maintaining your HVAC system is essential for optimal performance and energy efficiency. Keeping your system up-to-date and well-maintained can make a real difference to your energy bill. Remember to schedule your annual furnace, duct, and A/C tune-ups, and keep vents clear and filters clean to ensure smooth airflow.
You can also check the ratings of your units to see how energy-efficient they are. Look for the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER), Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER), and Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) values. Higher values mean better energy efficiency. Find this information in your user manual or chat with a home inspector to see how your unit holds up against Alberta's Building Code and energy efficiency regulations.
Seal in the heat: Implementing effective strategies
Now that you know what could be causing that cozy heat to sneak out, it's time to make a plan to seal it in. Let’s take a further look…
Begin by sealing air leaks around places like windows, doors or areas where plumbing, ducting, or wiring comes through. A bit of caulking or fresh weatherstripping can go a long way to protect your home from the outside elements, but if a problem seems beyond DIY, call in a professional for advice.
Upgrade your insulation
Over time, insulation loses its effectiveness, decreasing its insulation R-value. Upgrading to modern insulation materials enhances overall efficiency, which means your furnace runs less and you save on your energy bills. Planning an exterior renovation in 2024? Consider adding an extra layer of wall insulation, a step that not only improves thermal comfort but also slashes energy costs. Don't overlook the attic when mulling over insulation upgrades. It's a prime area for heat loss due to rising warm air in your home.
Improving the insulation in your walls, attics, floors, and other areas can help you achieve proper sealing in your home and enhance its heating efficiency. Replacing old insulation helps to manage heat, air, moisture, and sound. Modern insulation not only helps regulate the temperature but can also significantly reduce your energy bills.
Install energy-efficient windows & doors
Are your windows and doors serving as unintentional vents, allowing your cozy warm air to escape outdoors? A poorly installed or maintained window, door, or skylight can lead to condensation, cold drafts or even let water leak into your home. Investing in energy-efficient options (with proper installation) can be a game-changer. These choices not only conserve energy but also enhance the comfort of your living spaces by helping to create comfortable and consistent temperatures. If you noticed in your energy audit that your windows and doors need replacing, look for ENERGY STAR® certified windows, doors and skylights, which are an average of 15-35% more efficient than non-certified options.
Install smarter home heating systems
Taking care of your HVAC systems isn't just an expense — it's an investment. Regular maintenance and upgrades save you money in the long run. If your system is over 15 years old and causing a significant impact on your energy bills, it might be time for a replacement.
Also, installing smart controls, such as a thermostat or home control panel, adds that extra edge by tailoring heating patterns and overall energy use to your lifestyle.
Your trusted partner in energy efficiency
At ATCOenergy, we're committed to being more than just an energy provider. We're your reliable source of guidance and solutions for all your home's energy needs. Whether it's answering your energy questions or helping you find the best plan for your budget and needs, we're here for you. Connect with our energy experts to evaluate your plan or make the switch to ATCOenergy.
Remember, a little effort toward energy efficiency today can create substantial savings tomorrow. Conduct an energy audit, find areas that could be costing you money, and make the necessary adjustments. When you’re ready to make energy-efficient upgrades, reach out to our ATCO family at Rümi and let them handle it all — from an energy audit to replacing windows and doors, HVAC upgrades and even thermostat installation!
With the right strategies and support from ATCOenergy, you can enjoy a comfortable and energy-efficient home all year round. Start this year on a warm note — both in comfort and savings.