The cold weather is here, it's a good time to review the energy efficiency of your home.
Thermostat: Set it and forget it
Heating sources play a significant role in your Hydro bills during the winter months. Having a temperature-controlled thermostat is a terrific way to make sure that you are only using as much heat as you need. This doesn't mean only using your heat when you are in the house, it means the opposite! Keeping your house at a consistent temperature means that your heat is only going to come on when the temperature drops below your desired temperature. Leaving your thermostat set to 19 degrees it may come on sporadically throughout the day, but it also means that you won’t be coming home to a cold house that takes hours of energy to get up to temperature.
This also doesn’t mean that your thermostat has to be the latest and greatest. This is something that has been around for quite some time! Where having a wifi connected thermostat really helps is that you can set it to a lower temperature (2 degrees or so lower) when no one is home so that the heat comes on less frequently and then have the temperature increase to your desired temperature before you get home. A lot of these companies also provide recommendations on how you can run your heating system more efficiently and even make different heating schedules based on your use. You can also make your own changes based on what you see from these statistics. If you notice that your heat is coming on quite often to keep your temperature up, there is a good chance that there are some things to be done that could improve the overall efficiency of your home. It could be as small as adding weather stripping to outside facing doors or ensuring that your home is properly insulated.
Not only does an energy efficient home lower your monthly expenses, but it can also add value to your home when it comes time to sell. When we list a property for sale, we look at the heating type (electric vs. gas, baseboards vs. forced air, etc.) to add value for potential buyers.
For more information on what to look for in your home to make sure you are getting the most out of your heating, get in touch with us, and we can point you in the right direction!
Check anything that is between you and the cold outdoors for any drafts. For doors, you want to double check that there are no gaps that air is coming in. This can be done by holding your hand a few centimeters from the door and checking all around for any places that you can feel air coming through. If you feel anything, you can add weather stripping which will keep air from getting through. If you already have weather stripping, it would be worth checking that the stripping isn’t worn out. On a bright day, you can also turn off all your lights, and make the inside of your home as dark as possible and look for any sunlight that is coming through cracks in the door.
For windows, you can do the same hand test to determine if there are any areas that you may be losing heat from. Depending on the age of your home/windows, it could also be time to replace older windows with newer, more energy-efficient windows. It sounds weird to think of windows being something that has an energy rating, but newer windows have been designed in a way that keeps heat from escaping, which means that your home won’t cool down as much. Combined with your temperature-controlled thermostat, there’s a good chance of reduced Hydro bills!
It's also important to make sure that there aren’t any drafts coming in through the areas of your home that aren’t lived in, such as the crawl space and attic. Most crawl spaces have venting to the outdoors, which is great for airflow in the summer months, but in the winter, this means heat loss! Typically, these vents will have a sliding door that turns off the airflow within seconds! The same goes for any vents that you may have in the roof.
Did you know that your furnace filter should be changed every 3 months? Don’t feel bad if you didn’t, because I didn’t learn that until my most recent furnace service! Your furnace works by pulling outside air into the system and heating it rapidly and pushing it through your air ducts. Without a furnace filter, there could be debris and dust picked up by your furnace and pushed through the rest of your home. The filter keeps these particles from being spread throughout your home, but if this filter is full, it is also restricting the amount of air that is passing through, meaning that it takes longer for the temperature in your home to rise. Having a dirty filter will also make the filter less effective and some of the particles that the filter is trying to block end up getting pushed through your home and can wreak havoc come allergy season! The filter is typically located in the heart of your furnace system and is quite easy to replace. Keep in mind that there are many different filter sizes, and the size can usually be found on the edge of the filter. I keep a few filters on hand so that when my phone reminder goes off, I don’t have to run to the store. When I had my furnace serviced, they replaced the filter for me and checked that the rest of the system was working efficiently.
It is recommended to have your furnace serviced once a year. Keep in mind that most companies that perform this service, also service heat pumps and air conditioning so the summer is a very busy time for them, especially if Nanaimo gets another summer that the outside temperature reaches 40 degrees, so try to schedule early!
Utilize Your Home’s Layout
One thing that I don’t see ever changing is that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. This means that you can take advantage of the natural heat from the sun by capturing it in your home. In the mornings on sunny days, open your blinds or curtains on the east wall of your home to allow the sunlight into your home to add to your heating. As the day goes on, adjust your window coverings so that the sun is still coming in. Speaking of window coverings, if you have blinds, it’s important to make sure that your blinds aren’t creating moisture build up on your windows. This is caused when your blinds are fully closed and the temperature difference from inside and outside creates condensation. Leaving blinds with a small gap still provides privacy from your neighbours, and allows for better air circulation so that the condensation doesn’t sit on your windows and allow mold to grow.
You can also optimize your living space for air flow so that your home heating system is working more efficiently. A quick way to do this would be to make sure that any vents are unobstructed. Go room by room to locate your vents and, if possible, move furniture away from these areas. If you have places in your home that are constantly colder than others, using a space heater or fan, you can push the air through your home to those areas.
Humidity Can be Good
Why do you think so many people like to live in Florida?! Humid air holds heat better, making your heating more efficient. This doesn’t mean you should be living in a rain forest (We already do on Vancouver Island), but controlled humidity can be a good thing. This doesn’t mean you have to go and buy a humidifier. Steam creates humidity, and cooking and showers create steam. It is important to make sure that you are not leaving your home too humid as this can facilitate the growth of mold and other bacteria. If you keep your home more humid as a way of holding heat, make sure to check for moisture and condensation build up. Check the walls of your bathroom and make sure they aren’t sweating. Windows are another hotspot (wet spot?) for condensation to build up due to the quick temperature change. If you find that you can visibly see water in your windows, this may mean that your home is too humid and turning on fans in the home can help to balance this.
Check Your Insulation
Making sure that your home is insulated from the outside temperatures keeps your heat in, and the cold out. A quick way to check the insulation in your roof without having to access the attic would be to check the frost and snow on the outside of your roof. If it is melting faster than your neighbour's, heat is being lost due to poor insulation. The heat from your home is rising and escaping at a faster rate and means that you are likely to have to heat your house more. If you are noticing this heat loss, then it could be worth looking in the attic to ensure that your insulation is installed evenly throughout and that there aren’t any spots where the insulation is coming away from ceiling, and if it is, you can fix one area without having to replace all the insulation.
Holiday Baking Means Holiday Heating
You know how in the summer the kitchen gets too hot to cook in? In the winter this becomes an advantage! If you have plans to be cooking, you may be able to turn down the temperature in your home slightly without noticing too much of a decrease in temperature. This must be why there aren’t any summer holidays that have turkey traditions!
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