10 simple ways to save energy and lower your heating bills this winter
Heating your home or cottage during a cold Canadian winter can cost a pretty penny — and it can take a hefty toll on our environment, too. Save energy and your hard-earned cash by keeping these simple tips in mind this season:
- Weatherproof your windows. This might be old news if you’ve already prepared your home for winter, but it’s worth a reminder: Inspect your windows each year and patch any cracks or holes with fresh caulking. For even more protection from the cool air, consider sealing your windows with a thin layer of plastic and waterproof tape. Even one or two neglected windows could be making your furnace work harder than it needs to — and you might be surprised just how much you could save by doing away with that draft.
- Replace tired weather stripping. If it’s been a while since you’ve checked the weather stripping on your outside doors, take some time to inspect it thoroughly and make sure there are no gaps that could let in a draft. If you can’t see any gaps but want to check if a particular section of weather stripping is still doing its job, place a piece of paper over it and close the door. Then, begin to pull the paper out slowly. If it takes little to no effort to pull the paper out, it means the seal probably isn’t tight enough and you should consider replacing it.
- Plant some protective greenery. If your home has lots of windows, consider planting a few evergreen trees or shrubs nearby to shield them from the wind. Not only could the trees prevent wind from coming in through existing cracks and stop warm air from being swept away from your home’s outer walls, but they could even prevent further wind damage to the windows themselves.
- Don’t procrastinate — insulate! Heat can easily escape through poorly insulated walls and ceilings, so much so that your attic alone could be sending your energy consumption (and your heating bill) through the roof — literally. If you find that the insulation in your attic is below or level with your floor joists (the wooden beams that run horizontally across the floor), think about adding some eco-friendly insulation — enough that the joists are fully covered. Look for insulation made from natural or recycled fibres like sheep’s wool, cotton, shredded denim, cellulose, or cork. When you’re adding insulation, make sure you don’t cover any of the soffits or vents in your attic, as they’re needed for proper ventilation.
- Let the sunshine in (but keep the wind out). Even in the colder months, natural sunlight can bring plenty of warmth into your home. Once your windows are properly sealed and protected from the elements, open the curtains and let the sunshine in during the day. At night, keep your curtains and blinds closed tight for further protection from harsh winter winds.
- Maintain your furnace. Keeping your furnace properly maintained will help keep it running as efficiently as possible. Change the filter about every three months (or more often when it seems like it’s running 24/7) and have your furnace inspected by a professional as often as the owner’s manual recommends.
- Reverse your ceiling fans. Heat rises — so why not use that to your advantage? Most ceiling fans have a reverse setting that can be used when your furnace is running. By reversing the direction of your fan blades so they rotate clockwise, you’ll draw down any heat that has risen to the ceiling and prevent it from dissipating through the roof or walls.
- Layer your clothing. Turning your thermostat down a few degrees might be the easiest way to save energy and lower your electricity bills. So if you’re used to walking around the house in a t-shirt and bare feet, consider throwing on your favourite sweater and a warm pair of socks or slippers. Keeping your feet warm is especially important, since it can help regulate your body temperature and keep you cozy all season long — even when you lower the thermostat.
- Program your thermostat. Not only is it unnecessary to keep the heat on full blast when nobody’s home (or when everybody’s sleeping), but it’s also a waste of energy. Thankfully, most modern thermostats can be programmed to get all toasty before you wake up, lower a little during the day, heat up just before you get home, and lower again while you’re sleeping. (But don’t lower the temperature too much, or you’ll make the furnace work harder when you turn it up again, which will just take more power. The highest energy savings likely occur when you reduce the temperature by around 6°C.)Bonus tip: Programming your thermostat based on your schedule is great for the environment and your wallet, but if you plan to take a vacation, set the temperature to at least 13°C (about 55°F) to prevent your pipes from freezing and bursting while you’re away — and remember to have someone check in on things every few days.
- Consider installing a smart thermostat. Did you know there are apps you can use to change your home’s temperature when you’re on the go? If you feel like your thermostat is stuck in the Dark Ages, consider installing a smart thermostat that you can control from your phone, using an app like Nest, Ecobee, or Total Connect Comfort, for example. While investing in a new thermostat doesn’t come without a price tag, it could give you more control over your home’s temperature and help you save in the long run.
Don’t get caught off guard when winter hits its peak. Take a little time to plan for those minus-double-digit days before they happen, and avoid a nasty shock when you receive your first heating bill of the season.
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