Monday, February 7, 2011


So as it turns out, living in a log house in the forests of Quebec is an expensive endeavour. While we have the fortune of having great supplies of hydro electric power in this province, which translates into reasonable electricity rates, when you use thousands instead of hundreds of kilowatts, you have a problem. 

This eating area is actually cold, not even cool.
We knew moving here that the heating costs would be substantially higher than our previous home, a townhouse. The new place has baseboard heaters as its main heating source as well as a propane fired woodstove-looking heater in the kitchen (lowest level in the house) to keep the lower area of the house warm. This propane heater works well to keep the ultra-drafty kitchen reasonably warm. We also use a 1000W space heater that we move around the house as needed, an electric fireplace heater in our bedroom, and then the baseboard heaters do the rest. We have a wood fireplace in the main living room area, however, it is an old stone masonry fireplace with no installed blowers, so essentially, if you want to kick all your draft points into overdrive, you light a fire. The fireplace blows so much air out the chimney that replacement air has to come from somewhere and that somewhere is all the draft points. So in effect we cool the house by lighting a fire, so we don't do it all that often on really cold days. The house also has a lot of big windows which are drafty, too.

You can feel a small breeze from these windows

So back to my main point: electricity. We went from using about 15 kWh per day in the summer to a whopping 50kWh per day in the fall. Recently we got our latest bill for the winter months: 95 kWh per day! A shocking embarrassment. Now, we knew that the baseboard heaters would cost more to run but a 600% increase!?! We are doing all this stuff we can to live more responsibly and reduce consumption etc... yet we have this 6100 kWh bill for a 64 day period.

We decided to brainstorm a bit to figure out some simple and easy solutions to reduce our consumption. Here is a brief list:

-         Not use the electric fireplace in our room, instead, we use the electric blanket Erin got for Christmas. Erin is constantly cold in the best of circumstances, so winter here has been a bit tough for her in the temperature department. We used to have the electric fireplace on high all night (or whenever I would wake up sweat-soaked and turn it off) which would run about 8 – 10 kWh per night. The electric blanket should cut that substantially.
-         We have been setting all the thermostats down to about 15°C at night except the girls’ rooms.
-         We are going to go back to hang drying most of our laundry on the 3 drying racks we have
-         Setting the hot water tank down 10 - 15°C
-         Committing to taking shorter showers (pssst: Erin)
-         Replacing some 100 and 60 W bulbs in the house with some of the CFL’s we saved from our old place
-         Identifying and temporarily covering major draft areas
-         Erin made some draft baffles for the bottoms of doors (I need to do a major repair / overhaul of the weather-stripping on doors but this will be a bit more challenging, considering I cant buy anything new…).
-         Turning off the computer when not in use
-         Candles! Nice motif and kick off a pinch of heat.

So this is just a starter list of things we are doing immediately but there is so much more we can do.

My goal for the next billing period is to have cut our electricity consumption by 45% or down to an average of 52 kWh per day. I will be tough, especially if we get some more serious cold snaps, but I think, if we all make the effort and put on some sweaters, we can do it.

If you have some more neat ideas to save electricity of save heat energy in our home let us know! Send a comment here so everybody can share them and try as well!




  1. Curtains. Heavy curtains. Close them at dusk, open them after dawn.

    Pop can solar heaters are pretty effective too.

    You can use strips of cardboard as weather stripping. You can paint it to make it look nicer if you want.

    Bed caps. When it's really frigid I sleep in a light toque. You lose 85% of your body heat through your head, so it makes a huge difference.

    I'd look into replacing the fireplace with an air tight wood stove. It'll save you a bundle in the long run.

    Old fashioned candle sconces will help reflect your candle heat into the room.

    Good luck!

  2. Keep those 60 and 100 Watt bulbs through the winter as they produce a decent amount of heat.

    Bake more and use the oven all you can, then afterwards leave the oven door open to let the heat out.

    Unplug all toasters, coffee makers, coffee grinders, any electric power vampires.

    There are thermal pads you can put on the backside of your electrical socket covers that help insulate and keep more heat loss from those areas.

    Can't wait to read all the other good tips you get!

  3. Please be careful reducing your hot water tank! There is a point at which it's not healthy if left too low (bacteria etc)...
    Good luck!

  4. The first thing I thought when reading this post was "where are the curtains?". So along with commenter no. 1, I would recommend curtains on all the windows. Window quilts might be an idea for some of the worst areas but only having ever seen them on other people's blogs I'm a bit sketchy on the details of how to hang etc. Can't be too hard though.

    Otherwise the mantra tends to be insulation, insulation, insulation. As I rent, I've never had much say in this regard but I've done things like replace really old lagging jackets on boilers, which can make a huge difference. Insulating a house is not necessarily a small project so it is something you can definitely at least be thinking about during your compact year, even if you prefer not to actually spend anything on fixing it this year.

    With regard to general electricity usage, do you have a plug-in meter so that you can measure the different electrical things you use and see exactly what the big energy drains are. If not, try to borrow one for a week or so so that you can get a bit of a record going on when and where you are actually using the energy. Also a good idea to take a reading from your normal electricity meter at least once a week, if not once a day, to try and just get a feel for exactly how much electricity you are using at certain times, during certain events etc. Can't remember now how old your kids are but I think they're still fairly young. Do they understand the concept of trying to save energy and do you think maybe you could get them interesting in helping you figure out some of this stuff as a 'game'? I know I've heard other people with kids talking about how interested their kids were once they made the connection between how fast the meter was moving up/around and the fact they had just switched on x, y or z.

    And finally (assuming blogger lets me post a comment this long!), I'm another one who understands that a nightcap is not just for drinking, they can be for wearing too. I just have a very loose wooly/thinsulate hat. Wear it to bed, it's never on my head by the time I wake up next morning but it's great while going to sleep.

  5. Seems to me that, while you're not supposed to buy new things, it would make more sense to buy weatherproofing materials, rather than letting the energy/electricity to go waste. Of course, this is just my opinion :)

    I used to have electric heat in my old place, and even though it was essentially a 3-bdrm ground floor apartment (they called them stacked townhouses), my hydro bill was $200 a month all year. Completely ridiculous. So I understand your frustration in this area.