Whether you’ve lived in Canada your whole life or you’ve recently arrived (hopefully eager to experience your first true north winter!), the season has a way of catching you by surprise. Identifying areas where you can make your house more heat-efficient is a great way to minimize the less enjoyable aspects of winter.
This winter, it’ll pay to be prepared for all the season has to offer, both good and bad. Follow the tips below to make your life more comfortable and create memories that are as warm as your home:
- “Put on a sweater!” Keeping our bodies warm by wearing layers inside the house lessens the need to crank up the furnace. It’s a no-cost way to fight the cold and inadvertently reduce your environmental footprint.
- Use a programmable thermostat: Unless your furnace is so old that it should be on exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum, consider purchasing a programmable thermostat. Setting the furnace to a lower temperature when you’re not home or when you’re sleeping saves money. Once it’s turned back on it will take some time to resume to a comfortable temperature, but it’s still a cost savings overall. Important tip: Always be sure the pilot light is on. Turning off the furnace completely can lead to pipes freezing and potentially bursting, costing you much more than you would’ve saved by turning it off.
- Before winter comes, have your furnace serviced and cleaned: Hiring a qualified furnace technician to clean, tune up, or do minor repairs on your heating system, as well as make suggestions for greater efficiency, will save you money in potential repairs. Do it while the weather is warm and you won’t run the risk of dealing with a broken furnace when you really need it. Maintaining your furnace extends the lifespan of the unit, thus saving you thousands of dollars down the road.
- Seal doors and windows: There are a few great tricks you can use to determine if you’re losing heat through your doors and windows. Light a stick of incense and let the smoke waft as you walk from room to room. The smoke will blow harder near any drafts and you’ll be able to see just where you’re losing heat (and it makes your house smell pretty!). For doors, place a piece of paper in the door frame and close it. If you can pull it out easily without tears, you’re losing heat through your doors. Use weather stripping around doors and windows, and stuff extra insulation into joists in crawl spaces or basements. If you have older windows with storm window attachments, you might need to use plastic sheeting. Consider investing in more efficient windows if it’s in your budget. The savings over the long-term will make it worthwhile.
- Check your dryer vent and chimney flue: Less obvious airways – dryer vents and chimney flues, for example- need to be checked for ice that may have jammed open the dampers. When you close your chimney flue, be sure that it’s closed tight. Again, lighting a stick of incense or a candle will let you see if it’s still open. For a dryer vent, clear away ice and double-check that it’s definitely shut.
- Make sure your ducts are clean and vents are unobstructed: If you have a forced-air heating system, make sure that the vents are unobstructed, fully open in regularly used rooms (it’s a good idea to keep unused vents closed), and that they’ve been cleaned by a professional furnace technician.
- Use space-heating solutions wisely: It makes little sense to turn down your gas furnace only to use electric space heaters. They aren’t as efficient and can cost you more eventually. However, if your furnace runs on electricity, it may pay to lower temperatures in large, less-occupied rooms and use space heaters in busier rooms. Other options include a gas fireplace, heating blankets for cozy tv-watching, or other low-cost heating methods (remember that sweater!).
- Change filters every 30 days: It’s important during the winter months to change out your system filters regularly. The cleaner the filter, the more efficient it is. This is an affordable way to enhance the power of your furnace and save you money.
- Optimize your home to conserve heat: Not every square centimetre of your house requires heating. Prioritize the areas that you need to stay comfortable — the kitchen, living room, bathroom, and bedrooms, for example. There is usually no need to keep closets, mudrooms, garages, or unused basements at a comfortable temperature. Close off vents or turn down whatever heaters your home uses in these areas. If your garage opens into your house, use weather-stripping around the entry door or use a rolled-up towel to block cold air.
- Insulate your basement: A house loses thirty to thirty-five percent of its heat through the basement. If you’ve been putting off insulating yours, know that doing so can save you up to $400 a year. You’ll get back the investment not only in money saved, but in the increased coziness of your house.
Take advantage of rebates: Through Ontario’s Save on Energy Program, there are a number of incentives to upgrade your furnace, HVAC, heat pump, and air conditioner. (Note: the province’s furnace rebate is only available until Dec. 31, 2018.) These upgrades must be done through a certified contractor.
- Other easy fixes: A car doesn’t need to be plugged in for more than four hours, so invest in a timer if you have a block heater. This will lower your electricity bills. Use a low-flow shower head to save both water and energy. A win-win.
The human brain is remarkable in its capacity to remember pleasant things, and winter usually brings thoughts of cozy nights by the fire or tobogganing down glistening slopes. We sometimes forget the bone-chilling cold or often exorbitant cost of heating our homes.
Winter can be daunting but your heating bills don’t need to be. The above tips will help you put your money toward more memorable things (like skis or toboggans) so you can enjoy all that winter has to offer. Save money and stay warm both outdoors and indoors this season.
For furnace service and maintenance or installation of a more efficient system to keep you toasty this winter, call Align Heating at (647) 217-9601. Our team of specialists in Brampton offers 24/7 full emergency installation, repair, and maintenance on residential and commercial heaters.