Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

March 17, 2016

Taking a HomeSelfe: An Easy Way to Assess a Home's Energy Efficiency

On some of our looooong drives home from town, Hubby and I often weigh the pros and cons of living in the country.

Pros of Living in the Country:
  • Lake view!  With ducks and otters...
  • Foxes, deer and bears mosey through our yard like we live in a Disney film
  • Well water (the water in town tastes like a swimming pool)
  • Peace and quiet
  • More land than we could afford in town 
  • Better odds of surviving the Zombie apocalypse 
  • Beautiful neighbours:

Cons of Living in the Country:
  • 35-60 minute drive into town (depending on where we're going in town/who's driving)
  • No pizza delivery
  • Mailbox that's 7 km away from the house
  • Treacherous dirt road that covers the truck in mud
  • Mud covered truck that covers my clothes in mud
  • So much mud 
  • This:

Our lists get pretty lengthy, but always in favor of living out here!  One money-saving perk was that (until recently) we had lower electricity bills than the folks in town.  While those suckers were on time of use (TOU) billing for electricity, we enjoyed less expensive tiered pricing.  TOU simply means that there are different prices for using power at different times of the day/week and the highest prices are, of course, when people are getting ready for work or making dinner at the end of the day.  In other words, when you need electricity.  This is the breakdown:

Time of use is often flogged as a way to save money on your bill (lies!) but, if I remember correctly, it was created to get people to move energy consumption to lower demand times to relieve the burden on the electricity infrastructure.

In the sticks, our two tiered pricing meant that we paid the low, low price of only 9 cents per kWh every day, all day.  If we used a ton of electricity it went up to a second tier of pricing that was still only 11 cents.  Overall, we saved a bundle compared to our electricity bills in Ottawa, which were TOU, plus it was super convenient to do laundry or run the dishwasher when I needed to, instead of letting it all pile up until 7pm.  I would often call my Mom in town and brag about running the dishwasher at noon.

We were switched over, kicking and screaming, to TOU a few months ago and immediately our bill increased by about $100 a month, despite our best efforts to keep power usage low during peak hours.  It's impossible to get our bill down to the low price it once was unless we become Mennonites!

We routinely scrutinize our bills these days, looking for ways to cut our costs and comparing our current prices to (the glorious days of) this time last year when we had our old pricing structure.  Because we've been looking so carefully at ours bills, we happened to noticed something curious about our energy consumption: since July, we've been consistently using more power each month, compared to the same bill last year.  It's not enough to make a real dent on the bill (TOU is squarely to blame for that), but it's enough to make us wonder what the heck happened!  We can't think of anything that changed about our lives so we've been on this mission to track down the culprit, examining how much power everything - from our air exchange unit to our water heater - uses.  We suspect something might be malfunctioning and drawing more power than it should.  Finding and fixing it won't lower our bills by much, but every little bit helps! 

Because we've been so obsessively focused on our energy costs recently, when HomeSelfe reached out and asked me to review their (free!) HomeSelfe app, which helps assess your home's energy rating, I was definitely game!  The app has pretty adorable graphics that made thinking about my home (Are my windows double pane?  How old is the fridge?  Is the water heater wrapped with insulation?) a lot less boring. 

See what I mean about adorable graphics?

I was expecting a very perfunctory quiz with the basics we all know (Insulate the attic! Turn off the lights when you're not home!) but the app delved deeper and really made me research some of the aspects of my home that might not be energy wise, and then provided some helpful, customized tips and upgrades I could make: 

After I completed the quiz, some recommendations were made and, for folks in the US, there's the option to connect with vetted professionals to get quotes to address some of the problems the app isolated.  It makes the whole process pretty easy plus HomeSelfe hustles to try and save you some money!  We've gotten some pretty sweet rebates in the past when we've made energy-conscious upgrades, but sometimes those rebates can be tricky to find.

At the very least, this app got me thinking about my home's energy usage and where Hubby and I might want to spend some bucks as we update our house - to save money on our bills in the future.  Sometimes I just need a little push like this to think more about the nuts and bolts of my home, which are decidedly less exciting than new furniture or art.

Now, if only I could figure out what the electricity suck is...

This post is sponsored by HomeSelfe, but I was not required to provide a positive review and all words, ramblings, and thoughts are my own.  I'm just a sucker for saving money! This app is free to use so I highly recommend you give it a whirl - there's no need to purchase anything and you might pick up some customized tips to help improve the energy efficiency of your home.


  1. Do you have an electric clothes dryer? We have one, and it eats electricity. I dry almost all of our laundry on the line outside or on racks indoors in winter. We also switched to a tankless hot water heater, instead of using electricity to heat water 24/7. Both moves together saved us a lot on our electricity bill and are more eco- friendly, plus our clothes and sheets smell great.

    1. I do have a dryer but I line dry most clothes, usually only towels and sheets go in there. I am SUPER interested in on-demand water heaters! We have two water heaters (our regular and a spare) because our basement is so awkward so it was built around them. I have heard, though, that you have to run the water a bit to get some warm water with on-demand, which worries me living on a well, but I wonder if that's even true? Definitely something to consider and something I'd love to learn more about so I'll have to do some research. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I hear your pain when it comes to electricity bills in Ontario. At our former house the heating was electric and last winter we got a bill for $900!!!! Thank god our new house is on forced air/gas heating. My next project is going to be solar panels for sure.

    1. I loathe electric heat! Our house was too until we converted to propane and we were paying $800 monthly heating bills - even when it only went up to 16 degrees inside some days because the furnace was dying. You just end up hemorrhaging money with electric heat in cold climates. So happy to hear your new house is easier on the wallet! Gas is awesome. I would also love solar panels but they're so expensive. Being "off the grid" would be a dream, though...

  3. Will your electric company send someone to check your lines, meter, etc to see if someone is tapping your line? This happens more than you'd think.

    1. Oh my gosh, that happens? If you have to be nearby to do it, I doubt that because our neighbors are sweeties and so spread out but now I'm kind of curious because it started while I was in Toronto dealing with my family emergency so definitely someone had the opportunity to monkey around. I will find out! Thanks for the great tip - I learned something new today.

  4. I can commiserate about TOU billing- arggggh! Very frustrating when you're home during the day but have to wait to run appliances to take advantage of lower rates. Incredibly frustrating because the peak usage rates that are imposed on homeowners is because of industry use (that's why wkds, holidays and nighttime are low rate while industrial demand is low).
    I find it especially frustrating since we can't do much more to lower our usage (we are energy misers) since half our bill is delivery charges- our use is already low and any further energy reductions wouldn't yield much cost savings because of fees that don't relate to usage. Would love if we could convert to solar.
    Btw- I tried the homeselfe app but couldn't input a Canadian postal code, so I couldn't get an analysis.

    1. I agree: the burden shifted on us to make up for industry use drives me nuts, especially when you see them wasting electricity (like AC on cold days) and I'm forced to wait until it's pitch black to do some laundry. I could rant for DAYS about this.

      Wow! If half your bill is delivery, you really have cut back! What do you do to keep it so low?

      The app is designed for Americans, but you can just pop in a US zip code to use it for fun (use 55605 - it's MN).

  5. That is strange that your bill has gone up every month considering you were gone for that length of time for the family emergency. Even if there is something sucking energy it should have been lower that month with no one in the house. Maybe it's something like the well pump or some thing in the guest house. Hmmmm will be interesting to know what it is, though I wouldn't put it past the electric company to be charging you for something they forgot to or are prorating rates. That's what it's called right? Our electric bill is based on past usage to determine how much we would use to give us more even bills throughout the year so we don't have huge ones in the winter and little ones in the summer. Or maybe I have no clue what I am talking about lol.

    1. Yeah, we found it a bit perplexing. It's small, so we didn't really notice it at first. We only noticed by comparing the usage, not the cost. We wondered if maybe the smart meter malfunctioned. Not sure!
      Your system sounds like it's a good relief on the wallet.

    2. Smart meter? The one the electric company provides? Is it new or get installed around that time you saw the increase? I hear a lot of people's bills have gone up since they got the new meters installed but the electric companies just say that they were being under billed before because of the old system

    3. The smart meter is from before the increase, though I found myself wondering if it could malfunction.

  6. Strange... Tried to use the app online and it only accepts US addresses (zip codes). Am I missing something?

    1. Sorry, I should have specified: it's for US folks but just enter 55605 - that's Minnesota. You won't be able to get hooked up with pros to do any work, but you can still access the free assessment to get you started.


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