Winter’s coming, it’s time to get cozy.
It’s tempting to crank up the thermostat but with home heating accounting for over 60% of Canadian utility bills, our arctic winters can be financially crippling for some households. This is especially true for remote Indigenous communities who pay 2-3 times more for energy than the average Canadian household. Below are 10 simple tips for keeping your home toasty and reducing your environmental impact for little or no extra cost. Now that’s an idea you can warm up to!
1. Heat your home to 20°C
Turning your thermostat down by a few degrees can save you hundreds on your utility bill. Try turning down the thermostat to 15°C if everyone is away from home in the daytime, or while you’re asleep at night. If someone is at home in the daytime aim for 20°C and if you need to warm up reach for a sweater before you reach for the thermostat. Remembering to turn the temperature down when you leave or go to sleep can be a full-time job. Programmable thermostats are relatively inexpensive and easy to install will do the work for you by changing the temperature based on the unique schedule you set. This can mean serious savings on your power bill and you may not even notice the difference.
2. Seal off windows
Uninsulated windows can account for up to 25% of total house heat loss. They also let in moisture in the form of condensation, which can cause home health and safety problems. Window insulator kits are inexpensive and readily available, but you can use a number of tools you might already have to seal your windows and keep the heat from escaping.
3. Block out drafts
Low-cost DIY draft-proofing your doors and energy-wasting gaps in the walls (such as around electrical outlets) will make your home cozier and save you money on utility bills. Self-adhesive gap fillers are relatively cheap and easy to install. Even a simple solution such as installing a door sweep or even using old towels to block icy drafts from coming in under doors will help keep the warmth in your home.
Note: Energy use based on typical Canadian home – Natural Resources Canada 2009. Cost is based on increasing temperature over 20°C for an average 2000 sq feet home in Vancouver in 1990. Your savings will vary depending on the size and age of your home
4. Check your chimney
Don’t lose heated air up your chimney! The chimney acts like an open window. Be sure your damper is closed when the fireplace isn’t in use and check the seal on the flue damper to make it as snug as possible. If you have a fireplace, consider installing a fireplace insert with tempered glass doors and a heat-air exchange system that blows warm air into the room. When you do use the fireplace, reduce heat loss by opening dampers in the bottom of the firebox (if provided). Lower your thermostat setting to between 10-15 °C.
Bonus tip: Make sure wood is seasoned before putting it into your wood burning appliance. Wet would produces 15% less heat and is the leading cause of chimney fires.
5. Insulate Your Attic
Cover up the attic entry with plastic, pieces of insulation, old blankets, weather stripping, saran wrap, painter drop cloth, or even a few old shirts. Any of it will help to slow, if not, stop, the drafts and warm air from floating away through your roof. Heat rises and may be getting pulled right up through the attic so you may not notice a cold draft even though your expensive hot air is floating away.
6. Let the hot air flow
It might feel great to have your favourite seat in front of the radiator, but it is blocking heat from circulating throughout the rest of your home. The same goes for your curtains or drying clothes – keep them away from the radiator so that you can get the most out of your heat source. Moving things away from heat sources also reduces your fire risk!
7. Change furnace filters
Clean or replace your furnace filter every 3 months. A dirty filter reduces the airflow and forces the furnace fan to work harder to heat your home. Furnace filters are relatively inexpensive and easy to change. Annual maintenance will keep your furnace working at peak efficiency – it will use less energy and is the best way to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in your home.
8. Rug up
Rugs not only help block drafty gaps and insulate your floors, but you’ll cut down on the noise too.
Caption: Blocking icy drafts is a low-cost way you can keep your home cozy this winter
9. Use your curtains
Heat from the sun is free so make the most of it. Open your curtains and let the sunlight in during the day to make use of this free heat. When it gets dark shut your curtains, which act as another layer of insulation and keep warmth in your rooms.
10. Have an energy efficient and happy holidays!
There are many ways to reduce your energy use this holiday season. Conserve oven heat by baking goodies all in one day and leaving the oven open to circulate the leftover heat once you’re done. Hot food placed immediately into your fridge will make your fridge use more energy, so let your holiday cooking cool to room temperature before you put it in the fridge. Choose LED light strings which use 90% less energy. Set automatic timers for your light strings. If you want to give the gift that keeps on giving, consider giving LED lightbulbs. Replacing 10 incandescent bulbs with LEDs will save about $70 per year from your utility bill. That’s a whopping $1700 over their 25-year lifespan and will only cost $30-50 to purchase as a gift.
Caption: Heating your home accounts for more that 60% of Canadian utility bills