Sustainability & green living | { 12 MIN READ | 2019-06-07

As temperatures rise and we dust off our air conditioning units for summer, it’s the season of using a lot of energy and well, paying for it. While we’re not going to suggest ditching the A/C in your apartment (we get it), we are going to give you 10 tips to help lower your electricity bills this summer.

Before we dive in, here are two introductory (bonus) tips outside of our list. Because we all love opening something and finding out there’s more, right?

1. Get to know your electricity on-, mid- and off-peak hours like the back of your hand. Seriously, this can make a huge difference in your bill at the end of the month. Plus, hydro rate charts are all over the internet that can be easily downloaded to your phone or laptop.

• Did you know Toronto Hydro (and likely others) allows you to login and view your cost and usage on a graph? You can select dates and see how much energy you used during on-, mid- and off-peak hours compared to the temperature outside. Check it out:  

Toronto Hydro usage graph

2. If you spend more time outside this summer, you’ll automatically save money on your electricity bills. Added bonus – you can enjoy the sunshine, get exercise, meet new people AND save money on utilities while doing it. What a tip, eh?

Okay, now let’s get into it. Here’s our 10 tips on how to lower your electricity bill this summer.

1. Take a quick, cool rinse instead of a long, hot shower 

white bathroom with wood vanity

Image: Bathroom in suite at Minto Yorkville apartments

Even in the heat of the summer, lengthy, hot showers are tempting. But seriously, this is the season to save both water and energy by going with a cooler temperature (because you can!). So, why not give it a shot?

 EnergyStar says a 10 minute shower uses less water than a full bath (if you have a low-flow showerhead). And with a 2.5 gallon-per-minute (low-flow) showerhead, a 10 minute shower uses 25 gallons of water and apparently, a typical bath uses around 30 gallons.

o So imagine if you had a five minute, low-flow shower? You’d save on the energy to heat the water AND you’d reduce your water consumption, which is a growing concern worldwide right now (and has been for a while).

Side note – EnergyStar also says that a new showerhead will save you up to $145 each year on electricity — beating out both the bath and an old-fashioned showerhead. There you go, you’ve already made your money back on buying a new, low-flow showerhead. 

2. Learn how to use your A/C unit efficiently (because sometimes we just can't live without it) 

living room with ac unit

Image Credit: Apartment Therapy

Air conditioner units drain quite a bit of energy in the summer, therefore costing more on utility bills (if you’ve paid for your own electricity in the summer, you know this). But there are ways to make your A/C work for you without breaking the bank. Here are a few:

1. Invest in an A/C unit with a timer  so simple! Set the timer on when you go to sleep (during off-peak electricity hours) so it cools your house for the next day at a low cost.

2. Insulate and seal the unit well  make sure when you install your A/C unit that it’s sealed well, so the cool air isn’t escaping as soon as it’s coming in! 

3. Shade your air conditioner unit if you can – if the unit is shaded from the sun, the air will be cooler when it comes in and the A/C unit won’t have to work as hard to cool it, meaning the unit will run more efficiently.

4. Drop the temperature by a few degrees – the smaller the difference is between the out and inside temperatures, the less energy the unit will use and the less money you’ll spend. 

5. Use your A/C unit during off-peak hours! This is a big one. It goes back to our intro tip on knowing the on- and off- peak hours for your hydro. Keep that one in your back pocket!

6. Use your A/C unit together with a ceiling fan – ceiling fans aren’t expensive to operate (especially if you buy an energy efficient one) and will circulate the cool air that the A/C unit brings in. We have more on this in tip #5.

3. Don't forget about those windows! 

living room in Minto Yorkville with big windows

Image: Living room in suite at Minto Yorkville apartments

In the past, we may have opened (and left open) our windows all day, thinking it would add a little air flow and cool the apartment down. Well, in summer the opposite is true.

Here’s what you need to do: At nighttime (an hour or so after the sun goes down), open your windows. When you wake up, close them and keep the cool air in. It’s as simple as that.

 This increases air flow in your apartment (and cleans your air) with cool, fresh nighttime air. The sun is down, so the air is automatically cooler. Take advantage of it! 

 During the day when it heats up, you’ll want those windows closed so your apartment holds whatever cool air is inside. Plus, if you run your air conditioner for a short period at this time, the cold air will stay in. 

4. It's time to invest in those black-out blinds you've been wanting

blackout curtains at Minto Yorkville

Image: Curtains in suite at Minto Yorkville apartments

If you enjoy sleeping in, you’ve likely wished for black-out blinds or curtains to shut out the sunlight. In the summer it’s the same idea, except during the day you should close them and keep them down until dusk to block the hot sun from cooking your apartment. 

Yes, it’s nice to see the sun and have a bright apartment – but opening your curtains goes against your cool-down efforts. Of course, at nighttime you can open your blinds and wake up to the sunshine in the morning when it’s still a little cool. Just make sure to close them again before you get up and leave for the day.

5. Buy a fan (or two) - and ceiling fans are strongly encouraged 

pink macrame on the wall and small vintage fan on a table

Remember looking up at a ceiling fan as a kid and wondering what would happen if you threw something up into it? As a child, you likely didn’t think about what way the object would fly because you didn’t know (or care) that ceiling fans have directional options. The truth is, ceiling fans are cool and that hasn’t changed. Especially when you find out that there’s a different direction for warm vs. cold months.

It’s true! In the warm summer months, your fan should be spinning counterclockwise, pushing air down, regulating the temperature and creating a more comfortable environment. Energy Saver says if you use air conditioning, a ceiling fan will allow you to raise the thermostat setting about 4°F with no reduction in comfort. Just make sure you turn off ceiling fans when you leave the room as fans cool people, not rooms, by creating a wind chill effect.

Fans also use less energy than cooling systems, so in the super-hot months, it’s good to have one or two in the rooms you use most often (as long as you turn them off when you leave the room!).

6. Use lids on pots and pans when you're cooking 

orange pot with lid on gas stovetop

This one is short and simple: a lid traps heat, making the most of the energy flow and cutting down on the amount of time needed to cook. Using lids when cooking will keep your apartment cooler and use less energy by reducing cook time. Plus, you won’t have to stand over a hot stove in 30+ degree Celsius heat for as long, so there’s that. 

7. Know your phantom power stats and use a power strip 

It’s so important to avoid phantom power (phantom power = electronics that are plugged in and turned off but still use energy!). By doing this, plug in electronics that are in the same area together in a power bar. Then, you only have one plug to unplug when you leave for the day or go to sleep, rather than multiple.

Keep in mind that if you have roommates, you should communicate with each other about what you’re unplugging (and when). Discuss a system where the last person that leaves the apartment for the day unplugs the power strip – and be sure you’re not unplugging the Wi-Fi if you’re the early one to bed to avoid arguments. 

8. Light up your life with some new bulbs (or at least your five most used ones) 

bedroom with two lamps and pink bedding

Image: Bedroom inside an apartment at 1235 Marlborough in Oakville

We know we’ve said this before – but lightbulbs are so easy to change (and are not expensive)! EnergyStar says that lighting is one of the easiest places to start saving energy and that replacing your five most frequently used light fixtures with energy efficient bulbs can save more than $65 a year in energy costs!

Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) provide high-quality light output, use 75% less energy, and last 6–10 times longer than standard incandescent light bulbs. You’ll save money on energy bills and replacement costs, and LEDs have similar results. They both last longer and cost less on your hydro bill.

Lastly, it’s important to remember to turn off lights when you leave a room. In fact, on really hot days it’s nice to leave them off even when you’re in the room – especially since summer days last so much longer. Usually (unless you have blackout blinds), there’s enough light in the room in the summertime to see what’s happening, without bumping into anything. Plus, turning off just one 60-watt incandescent bulb that would otherwise burn eight hours a day can save about $15 per year!

9. Learn your usage breakdown and make changes accordingly 

kitchen with microwave oven and dishwasher

Image: Kitchen in a Niagara West apartment in Downtown Toronto

According to EnergyStar, consumer electronics play an increasingly larger role in your home's energy consumption, accounting for an average of 15% of household electricity use. This goes back to unplugging electronics and understanding phantom power and where it’s present the most (electronics with screens, clocks and timers, cellphone chargers and battery chargers). 

In addition to monthly usage graphs, most hydro companies allow you to login and view your electricity usage breakdown, which can be very helpful for lowering your bill. First, take a look and remember that though it’s not 100% accurate, it’ll give you a good idea of what to cut back on. 

toronto hydro usage breakout

In the above example, it’s shown that heating and cooling accounts for 69% of the electricity used in this household in 2019 so far. In Canada, this percentage really varies depending on what province you live in. Consumer electronics is at 11% of usage (and this is a house of an employee, who does their best to unplug electronics when they leave the house), and kitchen appliances consume 11% of their energy as well. Looking at this, you could say that there’s opportunity to lessen the usage that kitchen appliances consume. We’ll talk about that in tip #10.

10. Don't forget about your kitchen! 

wood and metal open concept kitchen

Image: Kitchen in suite at Minto Yorkville apartments

Kitchen appliances are big energy suckers, especially because we don’t typically unplug them when we’re finished or away on vacation.

First of all, you can’t unplug a fridge or everything will go bad. However, How Stuff Works says that in an apartment building, 25% of electric bills can go towards the fridge. What can we do about it? Keep it clean by vacuuming and dusting the refrigerator coils and fan to improve energy efficiency – it’ll help make sure it doesn’t break down and save money at the same time. 

• Another fridge tip? To ensure your energy bill stays low, know what’s in your fridge and freezer so that you don’t need to open it as often. Every time the fridge or freezer is opened, cool air is lost and more energy is used to cool it down again. So whether you take a picture of what’s inside or get a fridge that does that for you, do your best to open the fridge and freezer as little as possible.

Secondly, microwaves! That’s all we need to say. How often do we really use them, do they need to stay plugged in all the time? Likely not. 

 But remember, if you have a roommate, be courteous about unplugging the microwave by letting them know or waiting until the end of the evening.

Lastly – kettles, coffee machines, toasters, blenders, food processors, electronic mixers… the list goes on! And while renters don’t always have enough space to have all of the electronics on the counter and plugged in, it’s important to remember that they’re all energy suckers. So when you’re not using them, unplug them!

We hope this list helps you save some money this summer! And feel free to let us know what you’re doing to save energy in your apartment this summer, we’d love to hear from you.