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 Indigenous communities who typically 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 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. Don’t let heat escape out the window
Single-pane windows can account for up to 25% of total house heat loss. They also can contribute to health and safety problems such as mould when condensation forms on the inside of the window. An easy way to block drafts and reduce moisture in these windows is to apply window film. Window film and 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 draft-proofing of your doors and energy-wasting gaps in the walls (such as around electrical outlets) is easy to do yourself, will make your home cozier and save you money on utility bills. Even a simple solution such as installing a door sweep or using old towels to block icy drafts from coming in under doors will help keep the warmth in your home.
Cost is based on increasing the temperature over 20°C for an average 2000 sq feet, electrically heated home constructed in 1990, of British Columbia, Canada in central (Mid), southern and coastal climactic areas as modeled in HOT2000. Your savings will vary depending on the size and age of your home. (Source: Empower Me 2018)
4. Check your chimney
Don’t lose heated air up your chimney! The chimney on your wood-burning fireplace acts like an open window, so 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. Also, consider installing a fireplace insert with tempered glass doors and a heat-air exchange system that blows warm air into the room.
Bonus tip: Make sure wood is seasoned before putting it into your wood burning appliance. Wood typically takes 12 months to season and dry. Wet wood produces 15% less heat and is the leading cause of chimney fires.
5. Insulate Your Attic Hatch
Hot air rises and may be getting pulled right up through the attic hatch so you may not notice a cold draft even though your expensive hot air is floating away. Insulate your attic hatch by glueing layers of rigid styrofoam securely to the hatch cover. Then create a tight seal for the hatch cover by using a continuous piece of weather stripping around the perimeter of the attic hatch frame. The attic hatch is just like an exterior door and can be a nasty source of drafts in a home
6. Reduce your hot water use
Hot water is expensive, accounting for 19% of the average Canadian utility bill. Hot showers can be a great way to heat up in the winter, but if two people in your home cut their shower time by only a minute each, you could save $30 over a year. Turning water off when shaving and brushing teeth is another easy way to reduce your hot water bill. Installing efficient showerheads and tap aerators can help cut down on the amount of water you use by up to 20%, without sacrificing water pressure.
Make sure you have a full load before running your dishwasher and washing machine. Cutting one load of laundry per week could save you $18 a year on your laundry costs, even if you’re using cold water only. By switching from hot to cold water for an average of three loads per week, you could save up to $22 per year on your energy bill. (Source: BC Hydro, based on electric heat.
Blocking icy drafts is a low-cost way to keep your home cozy this winter. (Source: Empower Me 2018)
7. Use appliances efficiently
Appliances are responsible for 12% of energy used in the average home. Using your fridge efficiently can have a big impact on your bill, especially if it’s an older model. The ideal temperature for fridges is 4 °C, allowing for food to stay fresh and safe. Hot food placed immediately into your fridge will make it use more energy, so let your holiday cooking cool to room temperature before you put it in the fridge.
Conserve oven heat by baking goodies all in one day and leaving the oven open to circulate the leftover heat once you’re done. When cooking, open the oven door only when necessary as 20% of the heat escapes each time it’s opened. Opening the door of your dishwasher to let the load air-dry can cut the total energy use for the wash by 15%. (Source: Government of Ontario).
8. Change furnace filters
Clean or replace your furnace filter every 3 months as dirty filters reduce the furnace airflow. Furnace filters are relatively inexpensive and easy to change. Annual maintenance will keep your furnace working at peak efficiency and is the best way to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in your home.
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. 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.
Heating your home accounts for more that 60% of Canadian utility bills (Source: Empower Me 2018)