Small Changes Around The House Could Save Ontarians At Least $770 On Energy Bills!

Piggy Bank and canadian dollarsToday we launched our annual Light Up campaign.  It’s the time of the year that temperatures drop and the majority of us turn on our furnaces for the first time.  I’ll be on a few TV and radio stations this week talking about some simple tips that homeowners can do around the house to reduce their energy bills.  Take a look at the news release we sent out for more information.

Direct Energy offers seven steps to help homeowners concerned about rising energy prices

Small changes really can make a big difference according to data released by Direct Energy today. The company calculated that if homeowners performed seven tasks around the house, ranging from sealing leaks to replacing an old furnace this fall, it could save them as much as $770 on their energy bills annually. With consumer energy prices steadily on the rise, Direct Energy encourages Ontarians to cut down their energy waste and use the savings in other ways to stay warm and enjoy winter.

 “Now is the time for homeowners to take action on home energy efficiency and make those small changes around the house. Costs are increasing and winter is just around the corner,” said Dave Walton, Director of Home Ideas for Direct Energy. “We visit thousands of homes each year in Ontario and we see so many simple fixes homeowners could do to reduce their energy bills.”

Using data from several sources including a 2011 joint study conducted by Direct Energy and the University of Toronto and HOT2000 software (Natural Resource Canada’s recognized standard tool for use by trained and certified energy auditors), Direct Energy calculated the savings associated with seven energy efficiency tips. Savings are based on a typical Ontario home defined by the Canadian Real Estate Association, Statistics Canada and Natural Resources Canada as 1,860 square feet, 40 years old and two stories.

Ontarians are urged to take these seven simple steps to savings this winter and put their money to better use.

Direct Energy’s efficiency tips What you could save* Use the savings for these activities instead:
Replace your furnace filter every 3 months to keep your furnace running efficiently $53.00 Enjoy the winter and hit the slopes! With up to $53 in savings, you can buy a lift pass.
Seal leaks  around doors, windows and exterior wall electrical outlets to keep the warm air in $56.20 Canadians love their coffee! With the extra savings from sealing leaks, Canadians can enjoy 33 more cups this year.
Insulate your basement to improve the overall comfort of the basement and prevent  warm air escaping along the joist cavities $99.30 Leave the cold temperatures to the athletes in Russia. Insulating your basement could save you enough to buy two Canadian Olympic sweatshirts.
Insulate your attic to cut down on heating costs. You should have a minimum of 12 inches of insulation $61.40 Whether you’re inside or outside, keep your family warm this winter. By insulating your attic you could save enough to buy six pairs of mittens.
Lower the temperature setting on your thermostat by two degrees $150.00 By lowering your thermostat just two degrees, you could save enough to buy yourself the cashmere scarf you’ve always wanted.
If your furnace is older or experiencing frequent breakdowns, upgrade to a high efficiency furnace $299.70 Join the snowbirds in Florida and escape the winter cold altogether! $299.70 in yearly savings from upgrading your furnace can be used towards a plane ticket to the sunny south.
Clean your ducts to remove dust and debris and help your furnace work more efficiently $53.00 After you clean your ducts, you could save enough to buy a handful of new books to cozy up on the couch with.

*based on typical Ontario home as described above and current energy prices ($8.07 per MCF for natural gas and $6.90 per million BTUs for electricity)

While not every homeowner can undertake all seven steps this fall, even just implementing three easy changes – sealing leaks, changing the furnace filter regularly and lowering the thermostat by two degrees – could add up to $259.20. In Ontario, with more than 2.7 million single-detached homes**, these changes could amount to nearly $700 million in energy savings across the province.

“We hope to show Ontarians that they really can make a difference this year to their own pocket and to the environment,” says Walton. “Start small with air filters and adjusting the temperature to see these savings and to keep your equipment running properly.”

Additional tips from Direct Energy:

  • Add a humidifier: Adding a humidifier to your heating system lets you turn the thermostat down and be comfortable at lower temperatures.
  • Let the sun in: Open curtains on your south-facing windows during the day to allow sunlight to naturally heat your home, and close them at night to reduce the chill you may feel from colder temperatures. Consider installing insulating window treatments to further reduce heat loss.
  • Change the direction of air flow on your ceiling fan. For cold winter months the blades should operate in a clockwise direction helping to push the warm air from the ceiling down into the room.
  • Have your furnace maintained in the fall to ensure it works efficiently and safely throughout the winter, especially if it’s 6 years or older.



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48 Responses to “Small Changes Around The House Could Save Ontarians At Least $770 On Energy Bills!”

  1. Cindy says:

    Great ideas however:

    1. My air filter costs $59.00 x 4 (every 3 months) is $236.00 just so I can save $53 a year. Not a real deal. it will actually cost me $183.

    2. Cleaning ducts costs about $400.00 just so I can save $53 a year. Not a real deal. it will actually cost me $347.00

    3. replacing a furnace costs thousands of dollars so I can save UP TO $300 a year. it would take me 10 years to recoup the cost of the furnace, at which point, it too will be an “older model” in need of replacement.

    • Dave says:

      Thanks for the comments Cindy. Every homeowner will see different savings, and as you point out, some people use expensive filters and others may use $10 filters, so the savings would be different. Regardless of the cost of the filters, you should always replace them regularly. Your system needs a certain amount of air flow through the return ducts to function efficiently. If your system isn’t getting the right amount of air because of dirty filters, it will be working a lot harder than it should, and you need to consider the long term cost of a poorly maintained furnace. Duct cleaning isn’t just about energy savings. There may be health benefits for homeowners as well – you couldn’t imagine what we’ve blown out of duct work! As for your furnace comment, that’s correct, in ten years your savings would cover the cost of the furnace. Your other option would be to continue to use your older, inefficient furnace and pay for the extra gas usage. Keep in mind your furnace is an integral part of your AC system in the summer. It really comes down to personal choice, do you want a more efficient system that will pay for itself in x number of years or do you want to rely on an old inefficient model? Thanks Cindy, Dave

      • Perry says:

        Cindy is correct, Dave. You even agree, so useless article for people on a strict budget trying to save money. You want people to spend potentially thousands to save minimal amounts! Your duct cleaning is so over priced it isn’t even funny, I suggest that you readers watch for the coupons you usually get in the mail and use those duct cleaning services, which are hundreds of dollars less that direct energy charges. Do your due diligence people, shop around, direct energy is a business and wants to take your money. I can’t wait until my contract expires!

        • Dave says:

          Wow, a sense a little bit of anger in your post Perry! I’m going to post some simple and low or no-cost tips for homeowners in a couple of weeks since I’ve had a few people ask for them. As for your comment on our duct cleaning service, you’re free to go anywhere you like for your home services needs, good luck with the discount duct cleaning you’re after, I personally wouldn’t choose that option. Thanks for your comments, it’s good to see different views on my posts.

      • scott says:

        Can you explain how cleaning a little dirt from the bottom of a duct is going to save that much. Unless your house is disgustingly dirt how could duxt dust block more than 0.25% of the airflow? That one seems bogus.

        • Dave says:

          Hi Scott,
          You wouldn’t believe some of the stuff we’ve pulled out of ducts. We’ve been in homes where construction debris, per hair, kids toys and much more have clogged almost the entire floor register, pretty much reducing the air flow to that register to nothing. A common problem we also see is insulation or paper being stuffed into ducts during renovations and construction to avoid debris falling in but never being removed afterwards or being pushed too far in to be removed by hand. Some homes have a small amount of debris and some have a significant amount, so the energy savings will be different for each home.

    • Evan says:

      Cindy you sound a little cynical. Try to take helpful advise appose to tearing it apart…….man lighten up!!

    • Kurt says:

      @Cindy: Why the hell would you use such an expensive filter? Canadian Tire has $10-$15 filters that are just fine for the average home. Anything more is just a waste of money. There are tons of reports verifying this.

      And yes, change them every 3 months to keep up efficiency.

    • Andre says:

      I was thinking along those lines also.

  2. Biju Plassery says:

    Great info!! Thanks.

    • T Tramontin says:

      This is all fine and dandy
      while we conserve energy we don’t really save any money because you start
      charging more

      • Dave says:

        Hi T Tramontin,

        I believe you have us confused with your utility company when you speak of charging more for energy.

        Thanks for your comment.

        • Dave Horton says:

          Hi Dave,
          I was wondering, if I have two airconditioners and two furnaces in my home, will I likely pay double all year long what I’m currently paying? Why can’t they just put in one air conditioner rather than two? If I have two, can I just turn on one to heat/cool the rooms I want to, or is that a bad idea? Thanks

          • Dave says:

            The reason you have two furnaces and two air conditioners is likely due first, to the size of your home and second, your HVAC system was likely designed and built to operate with 2 “zones”.

            A third reason, and possibly the reason why it was zoned in the first place, is because there wasn’t a furnace large enough to handle to heat load of your home.

            So, having assumed the above, if there were a furnace (and air conditioner) large enough to heat (and cool) your home, you would likely incur similar costs (and possibly higher) than you would with two pieces of equipment. Because it would take longer for the one furnace to warm the home, it would likely run longer and, in the long term, most likely be more prone to breakdown and in fact premature replacement.

            By having two furnaces and two air conditioners, you minimize the strain on both systems, effectively moderate the homes temperature more quickly and evenly and the equipment is likely running in a more efficient manner, saving you energy in the process.

            If your existing equipment is older (greater than 25 years), you would also benefit from upgrading to two new systems because the efficiency of the new equipment is as much as 30% improved to the old technology. In addition, if you upgrade the motor on a new unit to DC, and you happen to run the fans 24/7, you would experience a dramatic reduction in the electricity costs to operate the DC motors (compared to an older AC type motor). New equipment would further increase the overall comfort level in your home too. Adding a new digital programmable thermostat to each system would also enable you to better control the temperatures in the home, especially when no one is home.

            Finally, with a two zone system, and without knowing the exact layout of your home, or how you live in it, it is possible to set the thermostat on the one system lower and keep the part of the home that you may use less, a little cooler.

            Hope this helps answer your question, and thank-you for thinking of Direct Energy!

  3. Stanley D. Jubas says:

    I had a door call from a company that wants to install a Wi-Fi Thermostat and they claim it will save me over a $1000.00 a year on gas and electricity. The company is called just eco savings. Will I save money by having them install it and since Direct Energy who I know and deal with, sell the same type of thermostat. If so, I would rather deal with a company I know and trust than a stranger. Are you able to advise someone to contact me?

    Stan Jubas

    • Dave says:

      Hi Stan,
      Do a quick internet search of door-to-door sales in Ontario and then tell me if you would buy something from someone who shows up at your front door. We sell and install many makes and models of thermostats, including Wi-Fi enabled models. On October 22nd I was on CTV News channel talking about energy efficiency and I touch on some of the thermostat models during the interview. Give us a call at 800-266-3939 and we can help you out.

  4. Sri Reddy says:

    Good Tips…Appreciate it!!!

  5. Larry Hirlehey says:

    I could save a lot of money all year long if you and others do away with delivery charges. Just another money cash grab. I have done 5 of these major things and my hasn’t lowered as everything you do rates go up, so quit the bs people in Brampton are tired of this crap.

  6. Kelly says:

    Changing your filter 4 times a year will save you $53 but will cost you over $100 in filters.

    • Dave says:

      Hi Kelly,

      Depending on the cost of the filter you need, you are correct. However, for your furnace to run properly you need to change the filter regularly. If your system isn’t working efficently you will be wasting money on energy and possibly shortening the life of your equipment.

      Thanks for your comment.

  7. Ricardo says:

    Thanks Dave… But realistically, let’s look at it this way…

    Replace your furnace filter every 3 months – Save $53/year: But, you need to buy 4 air filters that cost about $25/each with tax… So, you’re down $47.

    Seal leaks around doors, windows and exterior wall electrical outlets to keep the warm air in – Save $56.20/year: Enough wrap to do all your doors and outlets will cost about $8 roll, and you’ll need 2 rolls per door/window x 20 doors & windows = $160… Down $103.80.

    Insulate your basement to improve the overall comfort of the basement and prevent warm air escaping along the joist cavities $99.30: Yikes, you’re looking at a $1000 easy here… Down $900.70

    Insulate your attic to cut down on heating costs. You should have a minimum of 12 inches of insulation $61.40: You’re about $1600 for this… Down: $1538.60

    Lower the temperature setting on your thermostat by two degrees $150.00.. Okay, that doesn’t cost anything except a sweater or Five… $500. Down $350.00

    If your furnace is older or experiencing frequent breakdowns, upgrade to a high efficiency furnace $299.70… New furnace can run about $6500. Down: $6200.30

    Clean your ducts to remove dust and debris and help your furnace work more efficiently $53.00. Duct cleaning on Groupon is about $80. So that one isn’t that bad. Down $27.

    So if you do all of Dave’s tips, your looking at a grand total cost of… $9,167.40… So you could enjoy a toasty home by boosting your temp by 2 degrees for 61 years.

    • Dave says:

      Thanks Ricardo, but as I’ve said, I’m simply providing some tips and associated savings amounts so homeowners have the information they need to make informed choices. If someone reads one or two of these tips and realizes that they aren’t going to save as much as they thought then that’s great, I’m glad I was able to provide them with the information to help them make the decision. If someone is considering purchasing a new furnace and wants to get an idea of the annual energy savings so they can work that into their “payback” calculations, then I’m happy that they found the info here. In the end it’s up to the homeowner to decide what’s right for them.

  8. bettypasco says:

    thank you for advise , appreciate it very much

  9. bettypasco says:


  10. Virginia Parkes says:

    I agree with Cindy.
    I got a new furnace 7 years ago. In order to save $300 per year I will have to fork out another $7000 or so, if you do the Math, I won`t be saving, mind you I will be contributing to creating jobs, but not to bring in any more money for me.
    My pensions don`t go far enough to get a new furnace every 7 years, get my furnace checked over every year and get my ducts cleaned every year, and so on.
    I don`t drink or smoke and seldom go out spending money on entertainment and heck as you say the $299.70 (to be exact) I could save to help with air fare to Florida would be nice, but wouldn`t really be enough of a saving even though I have relatives living in Florida and don`t have to pay accommodation.
    Don`t go to the slopes (too old I guess)
    Don`t drink coffee anyway and seldom eat out.
    I do have my house sealed against leaks, at least as much as I can afford.
    I keep my house cool enough 20c at most and usually less daytime and cooler at night, COLD as my daughter will say as she keeps her coat on when she visits, unless I know she is coming and turn the furnace up while she is here.
    A Cashmere scarf you say, at $150, I could get nearly a whole outfit for that money, 2 or 3 if I shop at good will which I do sometimes.
    I could sell my house and move into a retirement home, but then the money from the house would be gone in about 10 years, I wouldn`t mind living a bit longer than that.
    Your suggestions would be good for people who waste money and energy (and I don`t mean body energy, I use that to keep me warm in the winter).
    If you can come up with any good suggestions for people like me Dave, I would be happy to read them over and follow them if I can afford to and incidently I count myself luckier than some other people out there who try hard to bring up a family and live sort of comfortably, although others get the same money and spend it unwisely and unhealthily

    • Dave says:

      Hi Virginia,
      Thanks for your point of view, I’m always interested in hearing what people have to say. I’m not telling you that you need to do all of this, I’m simply providing some facts and tips to help you make an informed decision. In my opinion, the more information you have the better and what you choose to do with it is up to you. There are many low or no cost tips to help you save energy and reduce your bills. I’ll put a blog post together in the next few weeks on this topic, thanks for the idea.

  11. Brian says:

    What type of window treatments should people look for? Unfortunately it seems to only be an adjective when describing curtains & blinds so you have no idea if or how much you might save with them.

    • Dave says:

      There are certainly many window covering offerings to consider. Specific to keeping the heat in, you can purchase heavy, “lined” window coverings however you are giving up the ever important fashionable look that so many homeowners desire. And while I like to think of myself as being pretty knowledgeable around the home, it is my wife who picks the window coverings – and heavy lined curtains are not part of our decor. Regarding savings, it is difficult to put a number on it however, heavily lined curtains certainly add to the comfort of the home (or at least the room you are in) and help to minimize that urge to turn up the thermostat. There has to be some savings there! :)

  12. Josie says:

    Hello Dave, your 7 tips are valid and they really work. I’m a long time home owner and I was aware of the 7 was to save money during the winter, but I really appreciate you taking the time to remind me. I always enjoy reading tips from Direct Energy / Dave’s Corner and I have actually learned a thing or two! Thank you.

  13. Joanne Zinck says:

    I would love to insulate my attic. I am a pensioner and wanted to know it there is a provincial and federal grant for tackling this job. Thank you in advance for your help

    • Dave says:

      Hi Joanne,
      At the current time there are a limited number of programs available to homeowners to assist them with energy efficiency upgrades. Your best bet is to check with your local Municipality and Utility companies to see if there are any programs offered in your area.

  14. Ash says:

    For all those people calculating the net annual costs associated with implementing these suggestions, aren’t you expected to see savings over long term? Insulating basement and attic, sealing windows etc are one time costs that will save you year after year…

  15. Howard Stein says:

    I have a mid-efficiency furnace that is 20 years old and maintained well with an inspection by your guys every year (and cleaning) At what point do I reasonably change to a new one with a new fan ….?

    • Dave says:

      Hi Howard,
      The age of your equipment is a key indicator when deciding whether to replace your system, but it’s not the only factor.
      Ongoing safe operation of your equipment (annual inspection being done as mentioned), frequency of breakdowns (if any), the quality of the original installation and the possibility of your current equipment being improperly sized can all contribute to the decision to replace.

      Energy savings on a 20 year old furnace (assuming your existing equipment is a mid-efficiency furnace operating at 80% efficiency), could result in as much as 15% savings a year on fuel costs, by converting to a new high efficiency model.
      If your existing furnace happens to be a “conventional” model, your annual fuel savings could be upwards of 30% by converting to a new high efficiency model.
      If your existing motor is an AC motor and you upgrade to a DC motor with new equipment, you would use about 1/10th of the hydro that you use with an older standard AC motor.

      Hope this helps,

    • t says:

      my place 1was built in 1974, last year I changed to a new one but even tho not very efficient like half energy escaping it was STILL working so my suggestion is to keep what u have while u save for one unless u have plenty of money and ask around, nmot only businesses who want your money but regular people

    • t says:

      true, how efficiently it was installed is a factor

  16. Danny says:

    Title of article says “small changes …could save at least $770”
    then article says replacing an old furnace…how is that a small change
    then article goes on to say you can save up to $770…very different from at least.
    who wrote this article? With Dave’s attention to detail he must be smoking Rob Ford’s crack pipe! or was it just a drunken stoopor?
    who picked the title? does this stuff not get edited?

    • Dave says:

      Ha! No Danny, I haven’t been spending any time partaking in illegal substances with politicians. Replacing your furnace is a very simple thing to do, you just pick up the phone and call Direct Energy and speak to one of our friendly employees who will book an appointment with one of our Energy Management Consultants (EMC). It’s that simple. The EMC will spend the time to listen to you and give you the best advice for your home heating needs. Expert installation, great service, and peace of mind during the winter. It’s as simple as that!

  17. Danny says:

    Dave you forgot to address the issue of the title saying save at least 770 and the article saying you can save up to 770… the title is misleading.
    Also buying a new furnace may be easy but costs quite a bit, I recall a quote of 8k from direct energy when I replaced one of my furnaces 3 years back. The point is the article title implies that you can save 770 or more very easy…I don’t think most readers would agree that it is easy to spend 8k to save up to 770. I hope you have left city hall by now.

    • Dave says:

      Sorry Danny, I’ll fix that. Using our calculations the minimum amount we determined is about $770, but homeowners could save more, i like to keep it on the conservative side when making these calculations. I’ll change that post.

  18. Rod says:

    When we bought our built-in-1954-home we had no idea what was in the HVAC ducts so we had the ducts cleaned. Occasionally since that time I have had to remove the return air grills and that’s when I realize how much pet hair (!!), dust, and other contaminants make their way into the furnace’s ductwork. I clean out as far as I can reach by using a shop vacuum but you really need a professional cleaning every few years especially if you have large, longhaired dogs (or kids).

    Our furnace was old and altho we had new airconditioning installed around 1990 by 2000 this was already 10 yr ‘old’ and the refridgerant changeover was happening so we had a new furnace & AC installed. Then we had attic insulation installed, and the following winter immediately noticed how much more-comfortable the house was, much more even temperatures. Our natural gas consumption dropped in part because of the insulation but also because the efficiency of the new furnace & AC is much improved over the old technology. Our hydro bills are lower as we upgraded the furnace motor on the new unit to DC, and run the fans 24/7 so that cold spots don’t develop nor hot spots in the heat of summer. The overall comfort level in our home is much better.

    People buy a home and think that just paying the mortgage is onerous enough, but like a car, if you only fix the breakdowns, it will deteriorate year by year. You need to budget a certain amount of $$$ every year for replacement & even upgrading of things in the home. I plan on spending about $3,000 a year on maintenance & repair; that doesn’t mean new sofas & TVs, it means replacing windows, doors, water heater, etc etc

    At some point your home insurance will insist upon a house inspection and the inspector will look at your electrical service and all of the critical systems; at some point the insurance company says ‘we won’t insure you until you address these issuers”. Back in 2002 I had to upgrade from 60Amp to 100Amp electrical service; the insurance companies are becoming much more diligent about assessing risk, and compelling you to address deficiencies. You don’t want to have to do EVERYTHING in one year. My latest letter required me to bring stairwell railings up to Code, as well as the stairs associated to my decks & porches.

  19. Rod says:

    I thought abt my comments of yesterday and I have a question for anyone reading this thread…pls comment here if your home insurance company requested a house inspection. In the past 4 yrs I’ve been thru this twice; once for our cottage, and once for the house. Previous to that we didn’t have a cottage, but 10 yr ago we did receive a letter from our home insurance company that did not require a home inpection but asked questions about several critical systems and we were told to get the electrical service upgraded (from 60Amps to 100Amps) and replace the natural gas furnace. I have friends who were “advised” to get rid of their oil tank (a liability) so they went to natural gas furnace & water heater (prev. electric).

    I’d just like to know that I’m “not the only one” that my insurance company “picked on”.

  20. Danny says:

    I owned my previous house for 8 years and my new (60 year old bungalow)house for 3 and never had an insurance inspector come by.
    Although when I bought the new house they said they would but never came.
    hope this helps

    • Rod says:

      One good thing came out of my home inspection paid for by my insurance company. They realized that they were over-charging me. I had filled out a questionnaire detailing the house in order to get insurance with the new firm, and altho I answered all of the questions truthfully, their analysis of those answers resulted in them overcharging…so, I had a fee break for a year.

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