A quick note to readers from outside Quebec: now that the dams are over 40 years old, our hydroelectricity is probably the cleanest in the world (this acknowledges that dams do produce GHGs and have negative environmental effects by flooding ecosystems).

Electricity is also very inexpensive for Quebec residents. We pay a low rate on the first 36 kWh per day and a premium on the remainder we use to incentivize us to conserve energy. This premium is usually applied in the winter. The premium is more than it used to be, which may be why we predominantly use electric heating.

This contextualizes the value of the kWh expressed in the article. Your mileage will vary depending on your own household energy mix; I hope it might encourage you to switch to non-petroleum/non-carbon-sourced energy for your needs.

Now that it’s been five years since I first published “Saving Electricity in Winter,” I thought it was time to do an update. After all, I’ve installed a pellet stove, added insulation to my attic, and gotten a new Ener-G-guide rating for my home through Quebec’s Reno-Climat program

Last year, I posted the following status update to Facebook to celebrate my results. (I’ve posted a lot of good stuff to FB that I should’ve posted here!)

A close up of the readings

First, a look at the first year I lived here, my consumption, the electricity rates, and my equalized monthly bill.
Here’s a screen cap of my energy consumption in 2011. Annual total (exempting the last reading): 15270 kWh. E means estimated, R means reading.

After a gap in time:

The following year’s consumption: down by 2000 kWh

For all the factors affecting your consumption of electricity and what you can do to reduce them, visit this page onHydro Quebec’s website.

In 2014, I was already fairly efficient in my electricity use. This is an example from a report I generated in 2015:

Just over 12,000 kilowatt hours per year!
In 2015, the date of this report, my pellet stove would fit in the “other appliances” category, as would the dehumidifier that I use in the laundry room.

But I knew I could do better. So I started the Reno-Climat program for a second time. My green renovations took a long time to do because I was doing a decent amount of work without being a total retrofit.

In 2017, I had to finish up my audit period for the program. Here’s the lowdown on the reports I got.

The first time I did it, my weather-stripping and sealing efforts brought my house rating up from 60 to 66; the second time, I’d made a marginal improvement on my own so the initial rating went up to 67. After this blower-door test, I did the work I listed above (added insulation to an exposed storage space above the garage and along its firewall, got a new garage door with a higher insulation value, replaced my fireplace with a sealed pellet stove, weather stripping.) After the final blower-door test, I added more insulation to the attic to bring it from R20 to R50 (measured by depth of insulation). Here are the images:

The work was finished in its entirety by May 2017. A few months later, I received a subsidy cheque that offset the cost of some of my upgrades. And in July, oh joy! I got my annual Equalized Payments Plan bill. I didn’t owe any money for a month as I was ahead on my payments.

Therefore, my payment lowered for the next year – as it had for several other years.

My electricity consumption over 2016-17:

I was really quite pleased! My payments went down to $80 per month.

And then a setback:

It’s unfortunate, but I’ve risen above the mega-kilowatt-hour again, and my bills went back up to $100 this past summer. This includes $8 a month to catch up to the previous year’s outstanding balance.

How? Well, the (significant) increase in consumption is attributable in part to having AirBnB guests (a household of 3 or 4 will consume more electricity than a household of 1 or 2, especially if they aren’t energy conscious).

I bought a new washer/condensing dryer and dehumifier for my laundry in 2017 (probably a neutral energy purchase, and certainly far better than a standard dryer’s energy loss). I also bought a new stove in 2018. Its EnergyGuide rating was no better than the stove I had previously. Any increase in use, then, will show up on the electric bills.

It was also a colder winter a the beginning of 2018 compared to 2017. If winter 2019 proves to be colder still, then that’ll add to it, too. Though that would indicate I need to check my insulation as well as the weather stripping. My house is comfortable, but more insulation should have a dampening effect on any cold spells.

And perhaps I should check the energy consumption of my pellet stove, and if I find out that it’s an energy hog, temper my use of it. I use it a lot.

Another thing: the rates went up.

I think if I’m going to get back under the 12,000 kWH rating per year, it’s time for me to go on another weather-stripping binge – after all, the stuff ages and gaps can be created anew. Caulking! Tonnes of fun.

But apartment dwellers and home owners should both be prepared to check and do their weatherstripping on an annual basis, when winter sets in.

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