Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are essential to Ontario households. However, household heads should be financially prepared for the rising costs associated with the use of such units. Financial Post writer Parker Gallant delves into the significant increase of electricity rates over the years.

Fast forward 11 years. Today, Ontario electricity costs average over 9 cents per kWh, delivery costs 3 cents per kWh or more, the 0.7-cent debt retirement charge is still being charged, plus a new 8% provincial sales tax. Additional regulatory charges take all-in costs to well over 15 cents per kWh. The increase in the past 10 years averaged over 11% annually. Recently, the Energy Minister forecast the final consumer electricity bill will jump another 33% over the next three years and 42% in the next 5 years.

Numerous factors account for the soaring electricity rates, but those issues should not be the focus of homeowners right now. Instead, what they should concentrate on is finding ways to minimise the effects of rising utility costs. A good solution is to use energy-efficient Toronto heating and air conditioning systems in their homes.

When buying a new HVAC unit, look for the Energy Star symbol

A good gauge for energy-efficient HVAC units is the accompanying Energy Star symbol. Appliances bearing this mark means they passed strict technical specifications for energy performance. Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) is the agency behind the creation of energy efficiency standards for all energy-using products, from water heaters to lighting products.

Ensure proper maintenance of HVAC units

Energy Star-rated heating and cooling equipment can only do so much. They are bound to fail at one point if their owners fail to properly maintain them. Homeowners should regularly check if their air filters are dirty or clogged and replace them as needed. Meanwhile, complex problems like a malfunctioning condenser or a defective blower fan motor should be entrusted to well-trained heating contractors in Toronto like those from Laird & Son.

Keep home airtight.

Well-maintained HVAC systems are not a guarantee of energy-efficient use. Homeowners also have to create a secure building envelope by sealing and insulating air ducts and caulking and weather stripping gaps in windows. At times, the holes through which indoor air may escape from are not readily apparent, so homeowners may need to double their inspection efforts.

Rising electricity costs are a problem for Toronto households. However, instead of panicking, the smart thing to do is to embrace energy-efficient practices, especially when it comes to HVAC units. Doing so will minimise the brunt of the soaring utility costs.

(Source: Ontario’s Power Trip: Irrational energy planning has tripled power rates under the Liberals’ direction, financialpost.com, June 2, 2014)