Does it seem like the cost of heating your home is getting out of hand? Does your gas or hydro bill send your blood pressure racing? In many parts of Canada, utilities have become an increasingly larger expenditure. And there appears to be no end in sight – to winter nor to the rising costs. What is the homeowner (or renter) to do? Don’t lose hope! Here are several ways you can save money on heating costs.
Dress Warm, Lower the Thermostat
Okay, let’s start with a big one. An obvious one for some, most even, but really this is where you can enjoy significant savings. By turning down the heat (lowering the target temperature on your thermostat), the heat will be running less, thus costs will come down. According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), who randomly surveyed Canadian houses:
- Thermostat settings in the winter tend to be quite closely grouped around 20°C – 21°C (68°F – 70°F).
- The more you reduce the thermostat setting, the greater the possibility for savings
- Generally, a drop of 2°C (3.6°F) will lead to some savings and little risk.
- Some householders reduce temperatures 4°C – 6°C (7°F – 11°F)
Research from the Canadian Centre for Housing Technology shows that winter setbacks for the houses tested would result in heating cost savings of 5%~15%. The highest savings came with a setback of 6°C (11°F).
How is too low? Well, the answer to that is a mix of factors. How comfortable are you with a lower temperature in the house? How much are you willing to dress up at home? If you’re the kind of person who prefers to wear a t-shirt at home year-around, it could end up costing you in the winter. If, however, you’re comfortable wearing a turtle neck, sweater, thick sweatpants and a thicker pair (or two) of socks, you’ll be well insulated and can comfortably turn down the thermostat – and save money! Also you can lower the temperature at night, while you’re sleeping (preferably under a thick duvet or layers of blankets) and don’t require as much heat (especially in 90% of the house now unused). And you can turn down the temperature even further when you’re not at home. A programmable thermostat is great for this – see the section further down. But is there a point where, even when you’re dressed warm, the temperature is just too cold for the house? Yes. Below 15°C, the house could be at risk. Why? That temperature is an average of the house, which means it’s likely warmer upstairs and colder downstairs. Your furnace and other equipment/items in the basement could get a little too chilly, so be careful. Also, in the event of a power outage (ice or wind storm, etc.), the house would cool down that much more quickly, increasing the risk of pipes freezing.
Structural and Cosmetic Remedies
In addition to making a sacrifice on indoor temperature, you can also make a small investment (time and money) in items around the house that will help keep the cold air out and the warm air in. Start with insulation. There should be at least 11 inches (28cm) of fibreglass or rock wool insulation in your attic. Be sure to seal openings in the floor, and also around vents and electrical boxes. Some more tips:
- Cover drafty windows
- Replace worn weather stripping
- Adjust door thresholds
- Plug holes in exterior walls
- Seal air leaks in ductwork
- Keep heating registers clear
- Change your furnace filter regularly
- Use a ceiling fan with a reverse (heat) direction, which will push the warm air down
If you’re handy around the house, great, this shouldn’t take long and will pay off soon. If you feel like you’re not the best at these things and are better off calling in a handyman or house pro, the investment will still pay off in lower heating costs.
What About Other Household Items and Use?
There are things in our homes we use regularly that can help save money on heating bills – and others that drain costs. Bathroom and kitchen fans might seem more necessary in the winter, when the windows are closed and the smells get shut in, but those fans are also carrying warm air out, so be sure to limit their use. Ovens and showers, on the other hand, are of help. You’re using it anyway, so why not take advantage. Leave the bathroom door open when the shower is running; this way the steam will spread elsewhere and start to warm up things a bit. Though you don’t want to leave the oven door open too long while it’s running (which would be counterproductive), leverage that heat by opening the oven door once you’re done cooking and the oven is off. Open the blinds or curtains to windows that are in direct sunlight; use this rudimentary solar power to heat the room! Conversely, keep these closed at night or otherwise when not basking in sunlight. Got a fireplace? If it’s word-burning, you’ll surely save on heating costs by using it! Even if it’s a gas fireplace, you can heat the room nicely and keep the rest of the house cooler. No fireplace? A space-heater can serve a similar purpose.
The more control you have over your house’s temperature, the more you’ll save. A programmable thermostat will give you the option to set one temperature for when you’re awake, one for when you sleep, and yet another for when you’re away. Many even have weekend settings. Want to save even more? Consider the NEST Learning Thermostat, which we offer here at Modern PURAIR. NEST indeed learns the temperatures that you like, so that you won’t have to program and reprogram all the time. It automatically turns the temperature down at night and when you’re not at home, and you can control the NEST from a smartphone, tablet or laptop. To find out more about the NEST Learning Thermostat, or to talk with us about how you can save on heating costs, get in touch with Modern PURAIR today.