Shrinking your energy bill

By Steve StocktonSteve Stockton

Shrink your energy bill

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1. Retire that old beer fridge

It’s been great for your overflow beer stash, but that ancient fridge in the boathouse is sucking more than four times the electricity of a newer, energy-efficient model, and costing you almost $130 a year (or a few two-fours). Be a greener beer drinker and retire the clunker. At the very least, unplug it between visits and definitely over winter. As for the kitchen fridge, another energy hog if it’s 10 or more years old, keep it out of the sun, away from the stove, and in an area that allows air to circulate to improve its efficiency. Also check the door seal: If it isn’t tight enough to hold a piece of paper in place when closed, repair or replace it

2. Beware the phantom load

Some electrical devices that use a remote control, like televisions, DVD players, or stereos, or use an adaptor, such as computers, continue to steal power after they’re turned off. Unplug these or hook them into a power bar with a switch so you can really turn them off when not in use.

3. Switch the cottage wattage

Even the few table lamps and overhead lights that illuminate the corners of your cottage would cost a lot less to you and the environment if you switched from incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs. They last up to 10 times longer and use about one-quarter the electricity. Turn off inside lights and other electrical equipment whenever you leave the cottage.

4. Don’t be a night polluter

Floodlights and other high-wattage outdoor bulbs are not only energy eaters, they are inappropriate at the cottage. They cause light pollution on our lakes, messing up the mating and feeding behaviour of wildlife, reducing boaters’ ability to see navigation lights, and stealing our view of the stars. Replace them with low-wattage lamps; and turn them off unless you really need them.

5. Hold the heat in hot water

Wrap your hot water tank in an insulating jacket, available at most hardware stores. When you’re away for the week, turn down the setting from “hot” to “warm” or “low.” Or get rid of the tank entirely for an on-demand system, which heats water only when required.

6. Put the kettle on

Keep a kettle full of water on the woodstove. Even if you don’t use it, water has a high heat capacity and will continue to warm (and humidify) the room after the stove has gone out.

7. Listen to Charlotte

When sealing up cracks in the cottage, keep an eye out for spider webs. Spiders like to weave them in the path of airflow (a.k.a. air leaks) to catch insects.

8. Plant a tree or two

Green giants are great insulators of the cottage. Plant deciduous trees on the south and west sides of the cottage, to provide shade in summer and let sun inside throughout the winter. Conifers on the north and northwest sides block cold winds in winter with their thick evergreen boughs.

9. Hang curtains or blinds

And keep them closed as much as is practical – they help hold cool or warm air inside (and they’re much better at preventing bird-window collisions than bird silhouettes). In the winter, curtains on south-facing windows should be opened during the day to let the sun in and closed at night to keep the heat in. Insulated curtains, such as window quilts, are an excellent way to increase your heat efficiency.

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Steve Stockton