5 STEPS TO A MORE ENERGY-EFFICIENT HOME
This year, the average Canadian will spend upward of $1,800 on natural gas and electricity bills; much of that during winter, when cold drafts entering the home can significantly jack up indoor energy use. Here are some hints on how to stay toasty warm this winter-without taking a financial hit.
1. Maintain your furnace
Do-it-yourself: Check furnace filters once a month for lint buildup, and clean or replace them every three months. Clogged with dirt and dust, they can be an energy suck and won’t last as long. Regardless of age or quality, a furnace should undergo a checkup every two years (or annually, for an oil system) to prevent expensive breakdowns and maintain the manufacturer’s warranty.
Big fix: Pellet stoves heat up large spaces by burning sticks of compressed sawdust and scrap wood. They take more maintenance than gas or oil stoves but allow you to turn the thermostat down, or even off, if you’re spending a lot of time in one part of the house.
2. Turn down your thermostat
Do-it-yourself: Setting your thermostat back by 4°C to 6°C for eight hours each day can shave up to 15 per cent off your heating bill. The Canadian Centre for Housing Technology finds it most efficient to keep your home at 22°C when you’re at home in the daytime and at 16°C to 18°C otherwise. Contrary to popular belief, your furnace won’t work extra hard to bring temperatures back up.
Big fix: Try a thermostat with a brain: some will track your daily home-and-away habits, set the temperature accordingly and are programmable using your smartphone. (One, called the Nest, is even designed by the minds behind your favourite Apple products.)
3. Inspect your roof and gutters
Do-it-yourself: Before temperatures dip below freezing, clean your gutters and downspouts of any leaves and debris clogs-clogs mean melting ice will seep into roof shingles. If you have an operational fireplace, make sure its damper is still working and keep it closed when not in use.
Big fix: Think of insulation like the toque your roof needs to wear in winter-up to 25 per cent of a home’s heat can be lost through the roof if it’s not properly insulated.
4. Seal windows
Do-it-yourself: A thrifty treatment for thin glass windows is to line them with bubble wrap: mist your windows with water and push the bubbled side of the sheet against the pane. No glue needed-simply re-mist and reattach if the plastic loses adhesion.
Big fix: Adding storm windows to existing frames is one way to boost heat retention. Replacing them entirely with Energy Star-certified windows, double- or triple-glazed and filled with insulating argon or krypton gas, keeps them sealed year-round.
5. Seal doors
Do-it-yourself: Prevent cold-air leaks with a draft snake: a plush doorstopper placed in entryways to stop drafts. If you’re crafty, make your own, but something as simple as a rolled-up towel will do.
Big fix: If your front door lets in more drafts than people, consider upgrading to an airtight model with double- or triple-glazed glass, an insulated core and good-quality weatherstripping (some newer frames include a magnetic strip that seals more tightly).
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