In the cold and dark of winter, many Ontarians will stay indoors more. Furnaces get turned up, lights are left on longer, and appliances like ovens are used more often, especially during the holiday cooking and baking season.
But even on the coldest winter days and during the rush of the holiday season, we can use less energy. Small changes can keep utility bills down and help reduce climate-changing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
When do we use energy the most during winter?
The highest electricity demands in winter happen twice on weekdays. There are two peaks: one in the mid-morning around 10:30 a.m., and a second, higher spike in the early evening around 6:00 p.m. Meeting this higher demand means running more fossil-fuelled electricity generators, making electricity prices higher at these times. So reducing unnecessary electricity use during these peak times is a win-win for your pocketbook and the environment.
The highest increases in both electricity and natural gas use also occur with extreme weather – cold winter weekday evenings. For example, natural gas use was 11% higher in 2014 than in 2013, probably because we had an unusually cold winter.
Improving energy efficiency in Ontario homes
Most increases in our energy use during winter come from turning on the heat in our homes. As Ontario’s heating sources are primarily natural-gas based, GHG emissions also increase when we turn up the heat.
Energy-saving actions during the winter should focus on keeping heat in homes where it belongs. And our report, Conservation: Let’s Get Serious, outlines other ways to reduce energy use – see the tips below.
Tips to use less energy to keep your home warm in the winter:
- seal warm air in and block cold drafts out with caulking and weather stripping
- insulate your water heater and turn its thermostat down
- try a programmable thermostat, and thick or insulated curtains
If you’re thinking about renovating or replacing appliances:
- consider a tankless water heater
- invest in a more efficient furnace
- improve home insulation – better than building code options can save even more
Conservation programs can help with home energy retrofits, efficiency upgrades, and winterproofing for single-family homes and low-rise multi-family homes. Ontario’s natural gas providers, Enbridge, and Union Gas, offer incentives for energy-saving measures, such as insulation and air sealing, including free assistance for income-eligible customers. Your local electric utility can help with programs for high-efficiency furnaces and energy-efficient lighting, noted on the Independent Electricity System Operator’s Save on Energy website.
Tips to lower electricity use during the holidays include:
- decorate with LED holiday lighting, fiber optic alternatives or non-electric decorations,
- use timers and power bars with lights and electronics, and
- turn off anything that’s not needed!
Wishing you a greener winter holiday season
The colder it is, the more energy we use. But even in the winter and during the holidays, Ontarians can change the way they use energy at home and work. Simple changes can conserve energy, and reduce energy bills and GHG emissions. During the winter holidays, we can heat our spaces and use electricity more efficiently for lighting, appliances and electronics.