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How To Be Energy Efficient This Winter

According to Environment Canada, our coldest months are generally December, January and February, in various orders. Likely one of the biggest home expenses is heating your home in the winter. Now is the time of year to be thinking about your heating and energy costs.

An energy efficient furnace will lower your costs, and adding more insulation to your walls and attic help to keep heat inside. But, what if you’re not ready yet to take on a large investment project?

Related: When do home renovations pay off?

Be Energy Efficient This Winter

Here are some strategies that will help you save energy and money, and stay comfortable during the cold winter months. Some of the tips are free. Others use relatively inexpensive devices from your local hardware store.

Cost-effective ways to get cozy

Get a programmable thermostat – You don’t need the temperature as high while you are sleeping or when you’re at work, but will you remember to adjust it? A programmable thermostat will do it all for you and you could save up to 10%. (Don’t reduce the temperature more than 3 or 4 degrees Celsius, according to Direct Energy.) Higher-end ones can be controlled remotely through your smartphone.

Check your furnace filter – Replace it if it’s dirty. Changing your filter regularly during the winter months will help keep your furnace running properly and reduce energy consumption. (In a pinch you can vacuum it.)

Add caulk or weatherstripping – Feel around your exterior doors and windows. If they feel cool, or there’s a definite draft, seal up those air leaks.

Seal leaks from electrical outlets and light switches – You can buy inexpensive foam insulation that fits behind your electrical outlets and switch plate covers to block drafts on exterior walls.

Cover drafty windows – If you have particularly drafty windows seal them tightly to the frame with insulated plastic film that you apply with the help of a hair dryer.

Lay down a rug – Maybe not that inexpensive, but if you have hardwood floors, an area rug where you sit regularly will help insulate the floor and keep your feet a bit toastier.

Tweak your routine slightly

Lower your thermostat – Even keeping the temperature down just 2 degrees could save as much as 4% on your heating bill while having little effect on your comfort level. And if you do get chilly, well that’s what your sweaters are for.

Rearrange your space – Move your furniture around so it won’t block heating vents. You don’t want your couch hogging all the heat beneath it.

Don’t heat unnecessary places – If there are rooms in your house that you don’t use often, close up the vents.

Take advantage of the sun – Open your curtains on south-facing windows on sunny days to naturally heat your room. Then close them in the evening to keep that heat in.

Try the fan trick – Switch the direction of your ceiling fan so it will circulate warm air during the winter (usually clockwise). The air is sucked up by the fan in the centre of the room and then pushed down around the edges, resulting in a more even temperature throughout the room.

Reduce heat loss from the fireplace – Close the fireplace damper when there’s no fire burning so you don’t lose heat up the chimney.

Chop firewood into smaller pieces – If you have a wood-burning fireplace, spit the wood into pieces that are about 4 to 6 inches in diameter to burn more efficiently.

Lower your water heating costs – Turn down the temperature of your water heater to the warm setting (50 degrees Celsius).

Layer up – Put on a sweater, cozy slippers, or toasty wool socks. Cuddle up on the couch with a throw or that “as seen on TV” Snuggie blanket you received several Christmas’s ago.

Your turn: What are some of your tips to be energy efficient this winter?

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4 Comments

  1. Valerie on December 20, 2017 at 7:04 am

    My house taxes that are the killer. My gas bill will be $60 a month spread over 12 months but my house taxes are over $250 a month!!!

    Putting plastic up is certainly a money saver and even though I have new double glazed windows I still put up the plastic and really feel it makes the difference. Writing from Ontario

    • Eva on December 20, 2017 at 8:32 am

      My 800 square foot house in Toronto is inexpensive to heat, and I thought the $280 a month in municipal taxes to be not so bad. The trouble with our crazy real estate market is that this house I bought to age in place in gets more expensive annually due to increasing taxes thanks to all the tear downs and gaudy rebuilds in the neighbourhood driving up our average house price.

    • boomer on December 20, 2017 at 9:50 am

      Hi Valerie. When I lived in Calgary I paid equal monthly payments of about $115 a month and a few years ago it was as high as $145 a month (looking back at my records). If I paid month by month the winter bills would have been way higher than my property taxes.

      (I guess this topic is more for the Prairie dwellers 🙂 )

  2. Cheryl on December 20, 2017 at 9:48 pm

    I’m lucky that my utilities are included in my rent. I live in a secondary home on ten acres. That said, I don’t waste. I don’t like it overly warm so the heat is only on when I’m home and it’s cold and its turned way down at night. I use energy efficient lights. I do the curtain thing. The house I sold before moving here I had energy efficient curtains that helped keep the cold out in the winter and helped cool rooms in the summer. I’m not quite motivated to put that expense in on a rental! My old house also had a programmable thermostat and I do miss that. You know for those rare times when I go out and forget to turn down the heat.

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