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Heating your home efficiently

As the leaves begin to fall and the air turns colder, many Canadians are reaching for the thermostat. Keep in mind that there’s more than one way to stay warm this winter, and some ways can help you take it a little easier on your pocketbook and the environment. There are a few ways to improve comfort and save energy this heating season.

Insulate your home

  • By properly insulating your home, you can ensure that heat stays in and cold stays out.

  • Check for gaps around fans, vents, and pipes. Heat can easily escape if these go through to the outside. Check your home for air leaks and block them; even small leaks through keyholes or light switches can make a difference in temperature. Test for leaks by walking through the house with a lit candle and holding it near doors, windows and any other openings. Hold it still; if it flickers, there’s cold air coming in.

  • Place your furniture toward the center of the room where it’s warmer, not near the external walls. However, keep couches and chairs away from the radiators or heating vents or they will absorb precious heat that could be used to warm the entire room.

  • When renovating your home, upgrading its features or repairing broken windows, consider installing low-energy windows. New technology can dramatically reduce energy loss to the outside, keeping rooms warmer and reducing drafts.

  • If a floor isn’t insulated, about 10 per cent of heat loss in a room can be attributed to it. Our ancestors knew this; hooked rugs were a fixture in colonial homes. If you have wood floors, consider purchasing area rugs, which are both decorative and functional.

  • Prevent cold air from leaking in beneath your outer doors by blocking it with door snakes. These “creatures” are nothing more than a long tube of material filled with a dense material such as sand to keep it in place across the bottom of the doorway while blocking the chilly air.

  • If there are rooms in your home that you don’t use, close the doors and the heat vents there during the winter. You are effectively diminishing the square footage you’ll need to heat, so you’ll be able to save on your heating bill. However, if you need to use the rooms periodically, allow a day or two for them to warm up.

Insulate yourself

  • Dress in layers, including a warm sweater and slippers. Remember the blanket with sleeves advertised just about everywhere? Do what you can to stay nice and warm while you’re watching TV. No need to turn up the heat.

  • Using an electric blanket at night is less expensive than heating your whole room. Better yet, how about a cozy down duvet?

Windows and doors

  • If your windows are single pane, you may want to replace them with double glazed windows. Plus, this helps keep unwanted noise out.

  • Use window coverings that keep in warmth. Drapes and blinds can act as an extra layer of insulation.

  • Check around windows and door frames for gaps. You may need to apply a sealant.

  • Use plastic window covers to help prevent heat loss.

  • Check your door and window seals annually to make sure they haven’t worn out or become brittle. Replace worn or brittle gaskets as you find them; this helps seal windows and doors tightly, preventing air from slipping through and keeping insects outside.

  • Check your window wells to make sure there is proper sealings so water does not leak into the basement.

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Furnace

  • When the temperature drops, keep your furnace running efficiently with annual maintenance. Check with BC Safety Authority for a list of contractors.

  • If your furnace is more than 15 years old, consider replacing it with a modern ENERGY STAR furnace.

  • Clean and replace your furnace filters regularly. A clogged filter can significantly reduce the airflow through your furnace, hampering its ability to effectively distribute heat throughout your home.

  • Have your ducts cleaned periodically, to reduce the buildup of dust that can clog filters, aggravate allergies, and produce that distinctive “hot dust” smell when your furnace runs.

  • Get the most heat from your radiators, especially those located on outer walls, by placing heat reflective aluminum foil behind the radiators. Rather than allowing the heat to escape through the walls, the foil reflects it back into the room. Hardware stores should have this special foil available, but good quality kitchen foil can serve, too.

  • Place a shelf above the radiator, especially if you have high ceilings; it can channel the heat and prevent it from rising too high. However, don’t place items directly on the radiator because it will prevent some of the heat from warming the room.

Thermostat

  • Before you go to bed, or when you’re leaving the house for the day, try turning down your thermostat or consider installing one that is programmable. To avoid frozen or burst pipes, never turn your thermostat below 15 degrees Celsius.

  • If constantly adjusting your thermostat is too inconvenient, consider purchasing a new “smart” thermostat. Many new thermostats can actually learn when you come and go, then automatically adapt your home’s heating schedule.

Weather-stripping

  • A little bit of weather-stripping around windows and doors can stop drafts from coming in and warm air from going out.

  • Weather-stripping is inexpensive and easy to install. Plus, it can last for years.

Wood fireplace

  • When you’re not using your wood fireplace, be sure to close the damper. If you don’t, the effect is similar to having an open window in the room. This will stop cold drafts from entering the house. Just don’t forget to open it when you light a fire.

  • Installing glass fireplace doors can also help prevent heat loss.

  • Consider investing in a chimney balloon, which is made from laminate and inflated in the chimney, just out of sight. It prevents cold air from entering and warm air from escaping. However, if you do decide to build a fire, be sure to remove it first.

  • Have your chimney regularly cleaned and inspected according to the manufacturer’s recommended schedule. Soot, dust and even birds and animals can clog up chimneys, which can result in poor performance and lead to house fires.

Other home heating tips

There’s no need to fear the cold if you take the proper measures to ensure you’re warm and protected when you’re inside. If you have any questions about heating your home or about home insurance, call 1.855.331.6933.

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