There are so many additional costs associated with home-owning apart from mortgages, which we tend of think of as the primary expense. Yet on top of mortgage payments, we must budget for insurance payments, utilities, maintenance, and so forth additionally. Given the many expenses we must manage, who wouldn't welcome a break in any of these? We'll start with a bit of bad news: most Canadian households are not operating efficiently when it comes to energy and water consumption. Now the good news: this means there are hidden savings to be had in your home without spending a single red cent (ahem, we meant to say “shiny nickel”—RIP penny) on costly upgrades. Here's how you access them.
Manage your air well. For something that's typically mistaken for nothing, we spend a lot of money on air. We spend to heat it, and we spend to cool it...so we should be careful about where it goes. First of all, you want to ensure that air which you've either heated in the winter or cooled in the summer isn't escaping unnoticed. The sources of potential leaks are numerous and varied, and increase with the size of your property, so take some time to do a survey of your home to see where air might be leaking out. The most obvious culprit is in the space around window. A substantial amount of air escapes this way, even with seemingly well sealed windows. In the winter, the best way to prevent this is with caulking. This is a very inexpensive way to implement a system that will save plenty. Using plastic film over the windows in addition to the caulking is even better—and has the added advantage of preventing condensation (and thus mold) too! In addition to preventing the loss of heated or cooled air, avoid heating or cooling more than you need to. If there is a room that is seldom used, close the vents there. While this won't seal it off and prevent the air from entering there completely, it will reduce the waste significantly.
Manage your light well. This applies both to natural and artificial lighting. Natural light has a huge role to play in terms of contributing to the temperature of your home. During the summer, sunlight is actually a costly intruder. If you allow it in unfiltered, you will be paying and re-paying to cool it all day long. Using shades to decrease the amount of sun that comes in will reduce that expense significantly. If you want to step it up a notch, use foil on your windows. This will reflect the light right back outside before it can convert itself into energy (heat) inside your house. Of course, during winter months, the same principle applies, but with the opposite application. Letting in sunlight through closed windows will reduce the amount you spend on heating. When it comes to artificial lighting, remember to turn off lights in rooms and closets that aren't being used. Replace inefficient bulbs with efficient ones, and keep lamps unplugged when they are not in use (even when they are switched off and plugged in, they are still using energy).
Manage your plants well. Plants have a great deal to do with the conservation of resources. Most people are aware now of the ability of a living roof to shield a house from excess heat in the summer, thereby reducing the amount spent on air conditioning significantly. Trees can have a similar effect when planted strategically. Although purchasing a mature tree may be costly, this isn't the only way to reap the benefits of tree shade: buying a sapling of a fast-growing variety may not give you the shade you seek immediately, but you'll be sure to see its effects in summers to come. Energy isn't the only resource that plant management can conserve either: water can be conserved if you give careful consideration to what you grow. Choosing drought resistant plants, such as bitterroot, plains prickly pear, and blue flax (all with stunning blooms, by the way) is a great way to reduce the amount of you spend watering your yard.