Summer’s here and for a lot of Ontarians, that means time for a well-deserved break. Although your vacation plans may not include travel this year, you can still make the most out of a summer break at home, without driving up your energy bill.
Even if you can’t get away to a beach or cottage, your home’s outdoor space can be a staycation oasis.
Whether you’ve got a balcony or a backyard, lighting can do wonders for creating the right vacation vibe outside. Choosing energy-efficient LED lighting with a “warm white” colour temperature of below 3,000K will help you create a warm campfire glow for evenings.
When shopping, look for decorative string lighting that’s ENERGY STAR certified. On average, they’ll use 75 per cent less energy and last 10 times longer than conventional incandescent string lighting. Using timers is also a good way to avoid wasting energy, in case you forget to turn off your lights before heading to bed.
Solar-powered decorative lights are also a great energy-saving option for balcony or patio spaces, especially if you don’t have a convenient outdoor electrical outlet. After charging up during the day in the sunlight, solar lights can last from eight to 10 hours without impacting your electricity bill.
If you have a swimming pool, now is a good time to consider whether yours is as energy efficient as possible. If your in-ground pool pump is more than seven years old, makes a lot of noise, heats up or seems less powerful than it should be, it may be time for an upgrade. ENERGY STAR certified pool pumps use up to 65 per cent less energy than non-certified models. On average, that could save a household close to $250 a year, according to Natural Resources Canada.
If you’re spending a lot more time outdoors, adjust your air conditioning while your house is empty. When indoors, most people find a range of 22 to 26 degrees Celsius to be most comfortable. Setting the thermostat a few degrees higher when you’re not inside can help you save energy and money. You may also want to consider doing this during peak hours to save on cooling costs. Keep in mind that your AC also helps to control humidity in your home, so you should avoid turning it off completely.
Better yet, consider using a smart thermostat to regulate your home’s temperature based on your occupancy and comfort level. Many models have an “away” mode – and you can even control your smart thermostat remotely, through an app on your phone or tablet, or by using a voice-controlled home assistant to manage what’s happening inside your house when you’re not there.
Whether rainy days keep you inside or you simply want to relax indoors, you can still curb your energy use. If you plan to take a break from your screens to read a book, have an at-home spa day or spend your days on another no-tech activity, remember that electronics like gaming equipment can still use power even when they’re turned off but in standby mode. So unplug electronics that may be drawing phantom power when they’re not in use.
Whatever your hobby of choice, take advantage of ceiling fans throughout your home. They can help you stay cool when you’re just spending time in one room so you don’t need to run the AC to cool your entire house (or you can set your AC to run at a slightly higher temperature so that it’s not on as much). Drawing the blinds or curtains during the day can also help keep your home cooler and prevent your AC from running more than it needs to.
Who doesn’t love a little bit of indulging on vacation? The good news is that making delicious meals and treats can still keep your energy use lean.
Consider going oven- and stovetop-free during your staycation (at least some of the time) and get creative with your culinary skills. Using a barbecue for cooking dinners can help reduce your indoor electricity use. By cooking meats and veggies, and even making pizza on a grill, you won’t need to turn on your kitchen appliances. And you won’t need as much AC to beat the heat inside, since your oven and stove won’t generate heat that can make your home’s temperature climb. For dessert – and maybe even breakfast, since you’re on vacation – try out some no-bake recipes.
If your budget allows for it, skip turning on appliances altogether and order in from a local restaurant instead. When it’s time to eat, use your backyard or visit a local park for an outdoor picnic so you can give your AC a break.
Family life can get busy and staycations are the perfect opportunity to spend more time together while breaking up your daily routine. If you’ve got the outdoor space and some camping gear, put them to good to use with a family campout. Not only can you give your AC, lights and electronics a bit of a break for the night, but you’ll be able to recreate that vacation feeling without leaving home.
For some of us, time off means more time for DIY. If you’re less of a relaxer and more of a doer during your staycations, spend some time on simple home-improvement projects that can help you beautify your space and save energy.
Summer is a good time to get your hands dirty. If your budget allows for some landscaping, planting outdoor trees and shrubbery to create shade can help you stay cool outdoors without using energy. Depending on their placement, you may even be able to shade your home’s windows to reduce cooling costs indoors too.
Look for plant species that will thrive in your regional climate and work well for your gardening style (for example, if you’re not a big gardener, lower maintenance shrubbery is best). Consider installing rainwater barrels to save on watering costs as well. These can be handy for collecting rain from downspouts too. Finally, whether you have existing or new plants, remember to keep any foliage near your outdoor AC unit trimmed.
While you’re at it, take the time to install some basic upgrades in your home that can help you save energy for the rest of the summer and year-round. Installing weather stripping, ceiling fans or a smart thermostat, for example, are all easy projects that can help you keep your energy costs in check and stay comfortable all year round.
However you choose to spend your staycation, know that you can stay at home without driving up your energy use. Get more tips for saving energy at home, and see if you qualify for energy-saving products through the Energy Affordability Program.