In this world of more coupled with the stress of paying bills and the desire to reduce greenhouse gas output I want to propose 3 easy steps that can reduce our day to day living expenses while at the same time making a small dent in global warming.  

Most people do not consider that they have to work to pay for their stuff.  In theory if you cut back on your day to day costs you can save more or work less or both.  Either way less waste = less stress.

Steps 1 and 2 Drive more conservatively most of the time and think long term when purchasing your vehicle (If you even need one?).  Driving is one of our most expensive life costs.  Buy a vehicle that meets your needs.  Why drive around in a V8 pickup truck if you only need one 4 times a year.  Go rent one or borrow a buddies and give him $50 and a BBQ dinner.  Between payments, gas, insurance, maintenance (especially tires) and the fact that everyone wants to borrow you and it, you need to seriously ask yourself: Do I really need this?  Old versus new vehicles.  Different schools of thought here but way it all out.  You can still finance used cars and in most cases they do not require full insurance coverage which depending on your age and driving record can be a substantial annual cost.  Anybody who has ever had an accident in a brand new car or even a rock chip can relate versus those of us who buy used and do not sweat the addition of another scratch.  Think about the operating cost when buying: fuel economy, cost of snow tires, replacement tires, service and parts.  There are significant cost differences based on what the logo is on the vehicle.  Take this into consideration.  When driving remember that the more conservatively you drive the less gas you burn, the longer your tires, breaks, power train, suspension, etc will last.  As well speeding tickets and accidents really have a way of  ruining your day and really impact your insurance.

Step 3: Find ways to reduce your electric bill.  The cost of electricity continues to increase.  Try some or all of these suggestions:

Turn off your lights when not in use.

LED (Light Emitting Diodes) light bulbs are coming down in price.  A small investment up front will lead to a dramatic saving down the road.  If you have incandescent bulbs replace them right away.  A 60 W incandescent bulb can be replaced with a 9-11W LED and make a big difference (83% reduction).  Existing CFL (Compact Fluorescent Bulbs) should be allowed to wear out and disposed of safely.  They consume the same amount of electricity so other than possible safety issues there are no energy savings to be gained by replacing prematurely.  Most utilities have a rebate program in place for LED bulb replacement.  Look into it.

Insulate where ever you can.  Most utilities are encouraging energy reduction so look into rebates for  more attic insulation and  insulating your basement.  An un-insulated basement can waste up to 20% of your heating bills.  Easy savings that pay off short and long term.

Making up about 50% of your energy bill, heating is the single largest use of energy in most homes. Controlling the thermostat is one of the easiest and most economical ways to control your energy costs. The lower the temperature you set for heating, the more money you will save. Setting the thermostat back from 21° C to 16° C at night can result in energy savings of up to ten per cent. In addition to turning down the thermostat at night or when you are away from home, below are some suggested thermostat settings that will provide comfort and avoid overheating. If you can adjust to cooler temperatures (perhaps with a blanket or sweater), lower the thermostat even further.

Sitting reading or watching TV 21° C (70° F)

Working around the house 20° C (68° F)

Sleeping 16° C (61° F)

No one is home 16° C (61° F)

Alternately, you could consider installing a programmable thermostat, which remembers to adjust the temperature for you.

Mini-split heat pumps are amazing especially in places that do not get super cold in the winter.  I have 3 installed in my house and they have reduced my electrical bill by 40% while at the same time increasing the temperature in my house by 2 degrees.  In the summer they also provide A/C for pennies.

Often asked question:  Doesn’t it cost more to heat the home up from a colder temperature? Will I really save any energy?

Actually, it’s a common misconception that a furnace or electrical heaters work harder than normal to warm your home to a comfortable temperature after the thermostat has been set back, resulting in little or no savings. However, years of research and a number of studies have disproved this myth. The energy needed to reheat a building is approximately equal to the energy that was saved when the building temperature first dropped. You save energy between the time that the temperature stops at the lower level and the next time the heat is turned up. Therefore, the longer your house remains at the lower temperature, the more energy you save. Considering that heating makes up a large portion of your energy costs, lowering your thermostat can make for significant savings on your bill.

In conclusion, by making small adjustments in behaviour and long term investments in energy saving we can save money and help reduce our carbon footprint.  Start today!  You will not regret it.