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Earth Hour: How much does one hour of energy cost?

In honour of Earth Hour (March 30, 2019 from 8:30pm-9:30pm) we took a look at the cost of energy, and found some tips to help reduce energy usage.

Reducing energy consumption is not only great for the environment, but it can also help you stay on track with your budget.

Energy bills are measured in kilowatt-hours. So, what is a kilowatt-hour?

A kilowatt-hour (kWh) is a measure of energy. Kilowatt-hours are watts (energy needed) multiplied by time (in hours), divided by 1,000.  

What does this mean for you? Appliances come with a label stating the maximum amount of power it can draw. You can use this to estimate total energy use, and from that, total energy cost.

For example, let’s say your clothes dryer says it uses 3,000 watts. Perhaps over the course of a week you might use your dryer for 7 hours, or an average of 1 hour per day. First, we multiply the watts by hours used per day (3,000 x 1 hour), getting a total of 3,000 watts per hour. Next, we divide by 1,000, leaving us at 3 kilowatt-hours (kWh).

How can I use kilowatt-hours to estimate energy costs?

Kilowatt-hour prices vary by city and province. According to Hydro Quebec’s 2018 annual study (Comparison of Electricity Prices in Major North American Cities), the average kilowatt-hour price ranges from 7.13 cents up to 16.83 cents for major Canadian cities. And most hydro companies have a time-of-use model, which means the cost of a kilowatt-hour varies depending on the time of day. Generally, lower-demand or “off-peak” energy use times (mornings, nights and weekends) have lower kilowatt-hour costs, whereas high demand or “peak” times (during the day) have higher kilowatt-hour costs. To know your costs, check your hydro bill.

How does this work for our example?

If we assume the lowest cost ($0.0713 per kWh) is our “off-peak” energy cost, running the clothes dryer for 1 hour per day during the low-demand time, at 3 kWh, would cost $0.21 a day. Over the course of a month, that’s about $6.30, and over a year, $76.65.

If we assume the higher cost ($0.1683) is the “peak” energy cost, running the clothes dryer for 1 hour per day during the high-demand time, at 3 kWh, would cost $0.50 a day. Over the course of a month, that’s about $15, and over a year, $182.50.

When you factor in all your different appliances that run all day or for multiple hours a day (fridge, air conditioning, hot water heater, television, lights, etc.), the difference in pricing really adds up. By paying attention to peak and off-peak windows, and knowing how much energy your appliances use, you can manage your energy costs more closely.

What appliances use the most amount of energy?

Larger, more powerful appliances are the worst culprit for increasing our energy bills. Central air conditioning, washing machines, dryers, hot water heaters, and refrigerators generally account for most of our energy bill. We tend to use these appliances the most as well (your fridge is never unplugged), so it’s not surprising they make up a significant portion of our energy usage.

As you can see, the cost of one hour of energy can vary depending on what appliance you’re using, and where you live.

Next, let’s take a look at what you can do to reduce your energy consumption and lower your energy bill:

  • Plan to use major appliances during off-peak windows

There’s a reason hydro companies have made it cheaper to use energy on evenings and weekends: there’s already a huge draw on the power system to run all the offices and buildings from Monday-Friday. When you avoid using appliances like a clothes dryer during this time, you help prevent power surges and contribute to a more stable energy structure. Plus, it’s easier on your wallet.

  • Switch to LED lightbulbs

LED lightbulbs use significantly less watts than incandescent lightbulbs. While LEDs are more expensive to purchase, the energy savings you experience over time ends up costing less in the long run.

  • Install dimmer switches

Dimmer switches allow you to use only as much light as you need, helping you save on energy usage.

  • Wash laundry in cold water

Try to wash as much laundry as possible in cold water to give your hot water heater a break. Unless you truly need to sanitize your laundry (if someone is sick, or you’re washing bed linens), cold water gets the job done just fine.

  • Air dry your clothes

Skip the dyer and opt to air dry your laundry on a clothing line or drying rack. If you don’t have the space or you need your clothes to dry quicker, throw a dry towel in with your clothes for the first 15-20 minutes of drying – it will help cut your drying time.

  • Take shorter showers

While nothing beats relaxing under the hot water for a few extra minutes, the added time you spend in the shower will cost you. Try to encourage every person in the household to reduce each shower by a few minutes.

  • Use your BBQ, slow cooker or pressure cooker instead of your oven

In the summer months, opt for BBQ dinners to avoid heating up your kitchen. You can even use your slow cooker or pressure cooker instead since they don’t give off as much heat as your oven.

  • Plant trees around your home

Trees shade your home from the sunlight. As a result, your air conditioning won’t have to work as hard.

  • Shield your house from the sun with the right window coverings

Choose window coverings that let in enough light, but also prevent your house from getting too hot from the sun. You may want to consider blackout curtains for west-facing bedrooms. On the other hand, make sure you’re strategic when choosing window coverings – in some cases, you’ll want to let in enough natural light so you don’t have to rely on light fixtures or lamps during the day.

  • Upgrade to energy-efficient appliances

Appliances are expensive, but the energy savings you experience with high-efficient machines will pay for themselves over the course of a few years. If it’s not in the budget to upgrade all your appliances at once, save a bit of money each month for a new appliance fund, and upgrade to more efficient models as appliances age or break down.

Take advantage of Earth Hour by implementing one or two solutions that will conserve energy. This will not only help the environment, but lower your energy bill as well!

Looking for even more household budgeting advice? You might be interested in these articles: