Alison Griffiths

On May 1, the Ontario government announced that electricity rates would increase more than eight per cent for mid and peak usage periods (off peak rates increased by 4.8 per cent). About 18 months earlier, the Ontario government admitted that electricity rates could go up as much as 46 per cent over the next five years.

On May 16, a 27,000-signature petition, protesting Nova Scotia Power's proposed electrical rate increases of three percent in each of the next two years, was presented to the Nova Scotia Legislature. There have been seven rate increases in the province in the last 11 years.

On May 23, the B.C. government announced that electricity rates would "only" increase by 17 per cent over three years rather than the 50 per cent previously announced by the B.C. Utilities Commission.

Despite the protests, the writing is clearly on the wall and some authoritative studies are now predicting 50 per cent increases in electricity costs across Canada by 2020.

I started my own little protest five years ago when the household hydro bill hit over $400 during the winter months — and my home isn't even heated electrically. The Canadian average is $100 a month, but it varies widely from province to province and by how much time you spend in the house.

My husband and I work at home in a gorgeous, but leaky, 160-year-old stone house. We have a well, which requires a pump, and electrical fencing for our horses. Even though our children are out on their own (finally), our electrical bill does nothing but go up.

Here are eight ways we cut our electricity costs by between $200 to $300 a month.

1. Here's the biggie! The original section of our 160-year-old stone house had 80-year-old windows that leaked like sieves in the winter and wouldn't open in the summer. We remortgaged when interest rates bottomed out and purchased new double-glazed vinyl windows for the entire house. At a cost of $15,000, we initially figured they'd pay for themselves in about 15 years. But the way rates are rising, it could be ten. In the meantime our house is far more comfortable and quiet.

2. The second biggie was installing a high-efficiency oil furnace, which has cut our oil consumption considerably.

3. We chucked an old fridge in the basement that held nothing but beer and pop. We were throwing away money. It was taken away for free courtesy of the Ontario Power Authority. Most provinces have some sort of fridge haul away program. In Manitoba you'll even get $40 from the program, on top of $100 to $150 in energy savings annually.

4. I've always been pretty good at turning off lights but I went one step further by turning off power bars, the satellite receiver and everything else that had a standby setting. We also started turning off the electric fence at night and I intend to replace this model with solar when it conks out.

5. We switched to compact fluorescent bulbs in most areas. However, they don't provide enough illumination for intensive reading or computer work.

6. Next came blinds on sunny windows and we caulked like crazy and filled wall electrical receptacles with foam. Despite new windows, in the winter we put insulating plastic on those facing the bitter northwest wind. We stopped using the door on that side of the house and applied plastic there as well.

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7. The air conditioner settings were set higher and the heat lower (60 per cent of the yearly energy bill comes from heating and cooling).

8. Here's another energy sucker — the dryer. It has become a matter of pride in our house that we use it only for emergencies. I have two indoor clotheslines and one outside. I now prefer the crinkly feel of air-dried clothes and I'm saving money on anti-static sheets. (The clothes washer uses around $100 a year in electricity while the dryer uses between $500 and $1,000.)

It is a little difficult to pin down our exact savings because the costs have continued to go up. But in the five years since we instigated this regime, we've never had a monthly hydro bill over $240 and we usually hover well under $200.

If you need to get motivated to cut your electricity usage, just think about that forecasted 50 per cent hike by 2020.

Alison Griffiths' latest book isCount on Yourself: Take Charge of Your Money. You can reach her at www.alisongriffiths.ca, and on Twitter at @alisononmoney.