Wiser water heating
Sunny side up
These use sunshine to preheat domestic water. The flat panels contain a loop of thermal-conductive pipes that heat water and ferry it into the cottage. For year-round cold-climate use, the pipes usually contain antifreeze instead of water, with the captured heat transferred to the hot-water system via a heat exchanger. You’ll shell out $4,000 or more for a system, but the payback time can be as little as six years if you use electric heating, 12 years for natural gas.
Hot water, now!
On-demand tankless water heaters heat only the water you need, as you need it. Water is warmed as it flows through the device for an unlimited stream (got teenage kids?). A wood-burning water heater is slower, but can be hooked up to existing plumbing, and indoors, the stove can double as a space heater.
Other cheap and easy energy-saving options include lowering the water-heater temperature to 50°C, using the vacation setting when you won’t be there for a few days, dressing up your tank with an insulating jacket or cover, and insulating the pipes that carry the hot water to your shower.