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.

Square One has 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.
  • Move your couch a little distance away from the outside wall. This helps the air to circulate and makes the room feel warmer.
  • 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.

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.

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 buildup of dust that can clog filters, aggravate allergies, and produce that distinctive “hot dust” smell when your furnace runs.

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. 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.
  • 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.

Do I need a carbon monoxide detector?

The simple answer is “Yes”

Carbon monoxide is an odourless, colourless gas which can be deadly if undetected. We all know carbon monoxide is produced when a car’s engine is running, but it can also be caused by the burning of oil, coal, wood, charcoal, kerosene, propane or natural gas. Carbon monoxide may come from several sources in your home including fireplaces, cars, furnaces, water heaters, gas ranges, or portable generators.

You should be especially careful if you have a wood burning appliance in your home, such as a wood stove, or if you have an attached garage. The exhaust from a running vehicle can enter the home from the attached garage, and if undetected, can have serious consequences. In Canada, there are approximately 1,000 reported poisonings and 250 deaths per year due to carbon monoxide.

I’ve got a smoke detector. Won’t that detect carbon monoxide as well?

No. Smoke detectors only detect smoke from burning or smouldering fires. Carbon monoxide detectors detect the presence of carbon monoxide in the air. You can purchase combination units, but a smoke detector alone will not detect carbon monoxide. Provincial building codes provide guidelines as to where these units must be located.

Carbon monoxide detectors:

  • are designed to sound an alarm before carbon monoxide exposure presents a hazard to a healthy adult;
  • can either be hard wired or battery-operated;
  • are available as stand-alone models or monitored devices. These are monitored by a central station, and will notify of a carbon monoxide buildup even if the home is empty, or the residents are asleep; and,
  • should be CSA approved.

Symptoms

Carbon monoxide replaces oxygen in the blood and prevents you from getting oxygen into your system. At low concentrations, carbon monoxide poisoning can feel a bit like the flu, but higher concentrations, even for a very short time, it can lead to breathing difficulties, unconsciousness, brain damage, and even death. Some symptoms are:

  • headaches
  • nausea
  • drowsiness
  • confusion or impaired judgment
  • loss of coordination
  • chest pains

If you, or anyone else, are exhibiting the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Get outside immediately
  • Call 911 and advise them you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Don’t re-enter your home without approval from the fire department

Safety tips

  • Don’t let your car run inside the garage, even if the doors are open.
  • Contact a professional to have fuel burning heating equipment checked every year.
  • Have chimneys checked for blockages or leaks. And don’t forget to open the flue on your fireplace when using.
  • Barbecue outside, never in the house or garage.
  • Have any new heating or cooking equipment installed by a qualified technician.

Remember, smoke detectors alone will not sense the presence of carbon monoxide. It takes so little to make sure you and your family are protected. If you have any questions about heating your home, how your carbon monoxide detector works, or home insurance, call 1.855.331.6933.

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Even when you take precautions, accidents can happen. Home insurance is one way to protect your family against financial losses from accidents. And, home insurance can start from as little as $15/month.

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