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Home Saving Tips

In Toronto, ‘Tis the Season to Save Money–Ways to save on energy costs in the winter

As the mercury continues to drop, families across the GTA begin to haul the heavy coats, mitts, toques and scarves out of storage. Preparing our bodies for the harsh Canadian is always a tedious task and a sad reminder of the cold months that lay ahead.

save money winter toronto 2015

Just like our bodies, our houses need special attention during cold winter months. We all know that heating costs go up this time of year; however, there are steps we can take to save money as well as make our homes more energy efficient. Toronto Property Managers and Landlords, in particular, are faced with challenges, as we might have multiple properties to care for as well as tenants that need to comply with our energy saving initiative.

Some ways to save on energy costs in the winter are simple and require minor changes to habits while others may involve the purchase and installation of energy efficient units.

In Toronto, heating can account for up to 60 per cent of your electricity bill.

The following tips can help save you a lot of money, while not compromising the comfort level in your home.

  • Replace your old thermostat with a programmable one to manage your heating automatically. Energy savings will quickly pay for the cost of the thermostat in the first year.
  • When we’re sleeping or not home, a lot of energy goes into heating rooms that are not occupied. By setting the thermostat to 18°C when you’re asleep and –20°C when you’re not home, you can reduce heating costs by up to 10 per cent.
  • How long have you had your furnace? Take a look at the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating. The higher the rating, the more efficient the model. If it’s not up to snuff, replace it. You can receive a $250 credit from the Save ONenergy HEATING & COOLING INCENTIVE.
  • Once you have an efficient furnace, make sure to maintain it properly. Furnaces that are well-maintained run at full efficiency take less energy to run and can save you heaps on your energy bill. Clean or replace the filter monthly and have it serviced by a licenced HVAC professional once a year.
  • Draft space? Air leakage can account for as much as 25 per cent of your total heating costs. By caulking and weatherstripping windows, doors, dryers and other vents, you can decrease air leakage significantly. Even little things like installing insulated plates on electrical outlets can make a big difference.
  • Up to 25 per cent of heat loss is through windows. Older houses were with single pane windows, which are ineffective in keeping the warmth in and the cold out. As a temporary solution, plastic window covers can help reduce drafts and can be purchased at most hardware stores. You can replace the windows altogether with Low-E double paned windows. These windows contain argon gas between the panes which acts as a great insulator in both the winter and summer months. Although they can be pricey, they’re worth the investment in the long run.
  • Don’t waste heat. Close doors and shut off heat registers when you’re not in the room.
  • When you turn on your furnace, do not switch your thermostat to a hotter setting than you need. It will not heat the room any faster.
    Increase the amount of insulation in your home to keep it warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. The attic and basement represent as much as 15 – 30 per cent of your home’s overall heating and cooling losses. Make sure you add attic vents so hot air can escape.
  • Let the sun shine in. During the day, keep your curtains open to heat your home naturally.

Whether you’re looking to cut costs in your home or rental property, sharing the vision with your family or tenants can be helpful. Setting habits that fall into your kids daily routine can be fun and will give them a sense of responsibility. As for your tenants, engage in conversation with them through letters, emails, or direct calls. Be sure to ask for their feedback as this will build a stronger relationship with your tenants, and will allow for higher buy-ins in future initiatives.

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8 Great Money Saving Tips for Families this Summer

8 Money Saving Tips for Families this Summer

kids-sprinkler-home

We all know raising kids can be costly, so we’ve come up with a handy list to save this summer. Here are a few tips to keep boredom at bay while sticking to a budget.

1. Go Camping
Some of the best family vacations take place just a few hours outside of the city. Avoid paying for sky-high airline tickets and resort fees by planning a camping weekend. Ontario has some of the most scenic conservation areas offering family-friendly campgrounds
. Get in touch with nature while making new summer memories at one of our Province’s many campgrounds. To avoid disappointment, you can now book your campsite in advance at www.ontarioparks.com

2. Sell Stuff
Saving money is good, but making money is better! Planning a yard sale can be a great project for the whole family. Not only will you free up space that can be used for activities, you can put some of the money made from sales aside for a weekend away or a treat for everyone to enjoy. So instead of letting that bike your eldest has outgrown continue to collect dust, include it in your sale’s inventory. Remember to price things correctly—check kijiji.ca to see what items are currently going for. You might surprise yourself! Don’t forget the lemonade stand for the little ones!

3. Fuel Up for Less
Do you remember when gas was $0.40 a litre? Sadly, those days are gone, but you can find deals on gas near you by visiting www.gasbuddy.com. Just enter your postal code and pick from a list of pumps offering competitive prices. Before you tackle that highway traffic on the way to the cottage or the waterpark, save a few dollars while filling up. You’ll be happy you did.

4. Clip Coupons
There are a number of websites that can help save you money on products or services. Sites like RetailMeNot.ca, bargainmoose.ca and OneSpout.com offer activities at reduced rates and sell promotional certificates. From saving on home renovation items at Home Depot, to discounted tickets at Great Wolf Lodge, you are guaranteed to protect your pocket without compromising the fun factor.

5. Keep Cool While Saving Energy
With the high cost of electricity, being cool can come with a hefty price tag. Although fanning ourselves incessantly might seem like the only solution, there are cost-efficient alternatives that will keep the heat at bay while keeping the dollars in our pockets. Simple things like blackout drapes, opening the windows to allow natural air circulation, and keeping the air off during the day can literally save you hundreds. Another fun activity that needs a comeback is the sprinkler—make sure you water your garden in the early morning. Attach the hose to the sprinkler around noon and let the kids go wild.

6. Eat Healthy
Healthy, organic foods can be pricey, however, the repercussions of eating processed foods that are high in saturated fats and sodium can cost you and your family a lot more in the long run. Toronto has a ton of farmers markets where you can snag great deals on fresh foods while helping our local economy. Remember, Farmers Feed Cities.

7. Fruit and Veggie Picking
An alternative to visiting a farmers market is picking your own produce—literally. There are a number of farms just outside of the city where you can harvest your own fruits and veggies. Get organic food for the fraction of the price while having the experiencing of picking it live from the vine. One of our favourites is Downey’s Farms, which has a wonderful selection of seasonal goodies at fantastic prices. Visit www.downeysfarms.com for more details.

8. Last Minute Deals
With all the money you saved over the summer, you might find yourself having some extra cash for an end of summer getaway. Sometimes buying vacations or airline tickets at the last minute can save you anywhere from 50%-70% off your trip. Check out sites like RedTag.ca, SunWing.ca, iTravel2000.com, Kayak.ca or even Google flights to find the most up-to-date discounted prices on vacations. Make sure to keep an eye out for the resorts that let kids stay and eat for free, which adds an extra bonus to purchasing any vacation package. So get ready to pack your swimsuits and sunscreen in a pinch when you find that deal that to the Caribbean that is too good to pass up.

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Saving on Energy Costs — Heat Pumps and Condos

With energy costs on the rise, several Canadian homeowners are looking more cost effective methods to heat and cool their homes.  Heat pumps use compressors to transfer heat from one space to another.  During the cooler months, they warm your home by drawing heat from the outside environment indoors and in the warmer months, they cool your home by pushing the warm air from the inside environment out. Because heat pumps work by transferring heat instead of generating it, they are an energy efficient alternative to furnaces air conditioners, and operate at a fraction of the cost of conventional HVAC appliances.

Source: Natural Resources Canada, 2014

Source: Natural Resources Canada, 2014

In cities where seasons go from one extreme to another, heat pumps offer a multitude of benefits. The majority of condominiums in Toronto use electric heating systems.  Because heat pumps can reduce the amount of electricity for heating by as much as 30% to 50%, they are possibly the best HVAC option terms of energy efficiency and ease of comfort.  In fact, many newer condos come equipped with heat pumps, as they create comfortable environments by maintaining a regulated temperature within the unit throughout the year while minimizing the building’s overall carbon footprint.

Whether you’re a homeowner who is looking for more cost effective ways to heat or cool your home, or a property manager of a rental or a condominium corporation, you can take control of electricity costs by upgrading your building’s HVAC equipment, learning about when and how to use electricity (peak times of the day), and streamlining operating processes.

There are programs available through the Government of Canada that benefit both homeowners and property managers by offering financial incentives for energy efficient projects. These can be used with all types and sizes of electricity saving projects including lighting system upgrades, installing new equipment controls for further savings.  They can also assist you with training tools and resources for tenants. By taking control of your electricity use, owners and property managers can:

  • reduce electricity consumption
  • manage when and how to use electricity
  • increase property and resale values
  • reduce greenhouse-gas emissions
  • reduce operation costs while keeping tenants happy and comfortable

To find out more information on heat pumps and their benefits, consult a government certified Red Seal HVAC technician, or visit the Government of Canada Natural Resources website.

 

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Spring 2015 – Home Improvement and Renovation Tips

Spring is finally here and with warmer temperatures working in our favour, many homeowners are eager to tackle home projects that have been placed on the backburner over the winter.  From the ‘big spring clean,’ to maintenance and renovations, this season brings a buzz of activity around the house for DIY weekend warriors as well as professional contractors.  For those us who have had difficulty finding a home due to a shortage of listings in the GTA, or the $1 million price tag for the average Toronto detached house, renovating your current property has become a popular alternative. 

Before beginning any major home project, a plan of action should be implemented.  This should include research, preparing a budget to adhere to, knowing the history of your home and any structural issues it may have, as well as hiring reputable contractors who would be suitable for the project which you wish to undertake.  Major renovations can seem stressful, however, when planned and executed properly, can make your home more livable and increase its resale value significantly.   

No matter the size of your project, a homeowner should have an idea of what to expect.  Whether it is to create more space for a growing family, add sustainable features to your home design, increase functionality of your existing space, or convert your basement into a rental apartment, educating yourself on costs involved and preparing a budget is necessary.  It is easy for expenses to go unnoticed, especially when they find themselves among a list of others.  Before you know it, you’ve gone over $30,000 over budget, and have tacked on chunk of unexpected debt.

It helps to speak to someone whose home has undergone a similar renovation.  This can help you with design ideas as well as what costs would be involved.  Oftentimes, neighbours can tell you a lot about your house and can provide insightful advice simply because their home most likely shares similar structural traits to yours.  Asbestos use, soil type, original electrical work and plumbing, are factors that might have been overlooked during an initial home inspection and are important to bring to a contractor’s attention before beginning your project.  If your neighbour is satisfied with the work that was completed, and the result looks like something you’d like for your home, ask to get referred to their contractor.

Finding a reputable contractor whose work you approve of can save you a lot of time and money.  Word of mouth is usually one of the best ways to find a trustworthy contractor, however, it is always wise to do your own research.  Although we’d always like to have a project completed within budget, hiring a contractor based on price alone, is never a good idea.  Over the long term, poor workmanship can result in costly repairs.  Minimize surprises by obtaining quotes and estimates in detailed writing.  Always obtain referrals, as this can mean the difference between a dream reno and a disaster.  Additionally, contractors should be able to provide proof of liability insurance.   Depending on the project, knowledge of municipal codes and by-laws should be required.  Request copies of insurance policies and call to ensure they are up to date and enforced.  Ontario law allows homeowners to withhold 10 per cent of money owed to the contractor for a maximum of 45 days once the job is complete to allow the homeowner to assess whether there are any issues with the workmanship.  Taking on a major structural project is a big decision, and this can offer a homeowner peace of mind, as well as assurance that the quality of the project meets your standards.

With interest rates at a historical low, home renovations serve as an excellent long-term investment, which can greatly increase resale value.  Financing a renovation should always be approached cautiously, as becoming house poor over a renovation is not worth the stress of involved.  For more real estate tips on how to get the most from your investment or property, contact us or check out HighGate’s Professional Renovation and Maintenance services.

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How A Clean Furnace Filter Can Keep Heating Costs Down

find-money-savings-in-the-home
Contrary to what our weather might suggest, spring is only three weeks away. While many of us prepare our spring-cleaning checklist, we tend to overlook our home’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system.

An HVAC system plays a vital role in indoor air quality and essentially, our health. As Canadians, we spend the majority of the winter indoors and can generate a great deal of air pollutants just by occupying our home. Furnace filters can prevent contaminants such as dust, pet hair, dander, and chemicals from entering the ducts and circulating back into our living space. Over time, these contaminants build up, which not only reduces the filter’s effectiveness, but also forces the heating system to work harder to warm your home.

Changing furnace filters regularly can significantly reduce the amount of harmful VOCs, mold and allergens that get released into our homes. In addition to the health benefits, there are financial benefits that come with the regular replacement of filters.
Here are just three examples of how a clean furnace filter can save you money:

  1. Clean filters allow air to flow through the ducts of your HVAC system efficiently. Over time, debris accumulates on the filters and in the ducts, which reduces airflow. To compensate, your system must run longer to heat or cool your home, resulting in high utility bills.
  2. By regularly changing your filters, you reduce the risk of an overheated furnace, which can lead to system damage and costly repairs.
  3. Air filters can cost anywhere from $15–$30 and take minutes to replace. New furnaces on the other hand, are a bit on the pricey side—ranging from $5,000–$10,000 with installation.

Additionl Tips

  • If you are planning on changing your furnace filter yourself, take down its measurements before you head to the store—this will save you time and stress.
  • Another good idea is to keep track of the date you change the filter. Generally, filters should be changed every 60 days, but this can vary depending on your lifestyle.

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