The average homeowner or renter has no control over the market price of gas or electricity, and that can be the source of a lot of anxiety, especially when prices are on the rise.
Energy market analysts predict Canadian home energy costs will climb dramatically this winter, due to a combination of climate, domestic supply, global demand and other factors.
According to Martin Hrobsky, the vice president of public affairs at market research firm Ipsos, Canadians’ anxiety levels are rising, too.
“Canadians are very concerned about the rising cost of living. In fact, inflation is the second most important issue to Canadians right now, just slightly behind health care,” Hrobsky told CTVNews.ca in an email Friday. “About half of Canadians told us they are concerned about their ability to pay rising utility costs this winter.”
When asked by Ipsos which areas of inflation would have the greatest impact on their quality of life, 37 per cent of survey respondents listed rising electricity and natural gas prices. Hrobsky said those who already pay the most for heating, which often includes people who use electricity to heat their homes, would be impacted most.
However, he said the rising cost of natural gas due to inflation and the war in Ukraine will mean that “even those who use natural gas, which is historically more cost effective, will feel the pinch this winter.”
While the average Canadian has no influence over the factors that contribute to the market price of utilities, there are ways homeowners and tenants who pay for their own utilities can conserve energy to keep their bills a little lower.
TIPS FOR SAVING
Since home heating accounts for 63.6 per cent of the energy used in homes, according to Natural Resources Canada (NRCAN), here are some strategies you might consider to get the most out of your home heating this winter.
• Find out if it’s cheaper to heat your home with electricity or gas. Depending on where you live and the energy prices there, it may be more affordable to heat your home using one or the other. Websites like RateHub.ca and EnergyRates.ca offer tools people can use to compare these.
• Check for drafts and seal any cracks around windows and doors where cold air can get in. According to EnergyRates.ca, residents can save 10 to 20 per cent on home heating and cooling bills by sealing uncontrolled air leaks. Natural Resources Canada states air leaks via chimneys, vents, plumbing pipes and electrical boxes in the attic can also account for substantial heat loss.
• Whether your windows are drafty or not, consider using heat-shrink plastic on your windows to act as another barrier and help seal in your home’s heat.
• Make sure your home is properly insulated. This slows the rate of heat loss, resulting in improved energy use and can help save money. Residents who upgrade insulation in an attic, cathedral ceiling, flat roof, exterior wall, exposed floor, basement or crawl space could be eligible for a retrofit grant of up to $5,000 through NRCAN.
• Set your thermostat to a lower temperature. EnergyRates.ca reports setting the temperature one degree lower in the winter can yield up to five per cent in savings.
• Layer up. Instead of turning the thermostat up, put on a sweater or a blanket and some warm socks.
• Use thick rugs to make floors feel less cold and reduce the need to turn your thermostat up.
• Look for retrofit rebates. There are many grants and funding opportunities across Canada for homeowners planning energy-efficient home improvements. You can find federal grants and rebates on the NRCAN website, but some municipalities offer these as well.
Finally, some provinces have deregulated energy markets that allow consumers to choose their retailers. In those markets, it’s always worth checking the current rates to see if you can save money by switching to another retailer.