Photo by Sam Howzit, acquired via Flickr.com
How to Save on Heating When Prices Go Up
Enbridge has applied to the Ontario Energy Board and received approval to increase the price of natural gas in Ontario by 40%, effective April 1st (but no joke).
The increase will hit some people hard, particularly seniors, but there's nothing much we can do to stop it.
So, here are some tips to help you save on heating costs when natural gas prices go up. I've divided these tips into four categories: air leakage, insulation, heat distribution, and furnace efficiency. I'll talk about what you should look for, what improvements to make, and which changes are the most cost-effective.
It's common sense that you want to keep the warm air inside and the cold air outside. Even a small leak matters if the airflow is continuous.
Check the weather-stripping on your doors and windows. The gaps around all moving parts should have weather-stripping. If it is missing, worn out, or ill-fitting, replace it.
Check the caulking around all door and window frames. If it is cracked, loose, or missing, re-caulk the frame.
Check bathroom and kitchen fans to make sure the flap closes properly when the fan is off. The flap is located just above the fan, and thought it's normal to feel a tiny amount of cold air, a draft suggests the flap is open.
If you have a foreplace, check that the damper closes properly.
Avoid opening windows in winter. Even a slightly open window will let out a significant amount of air.
Avoid leaving doors to the outside open. A storm door is not insulated, so close both doors. Avoid having conversations in an open door.
Even if your house is airtight, heat will still radiate to the outside through your walls and roof. Proper insulation slows this process so your furnace doesn't have to work as hard.
If your attic is insulated to less than R40, or if your walls are insulated to less than R20, you should consider adding more insulation.
If you have single-glazed windows, replace them with modern windows as soon as you can afford it.
Generally, fixing these problems is more expensive than fixing air leaks, but gives bigger results.
If your home has cold pockets in any of the living areas, you may find yourself turning up your thermostat.
Instead, make sure your furnace fan runs 24/7 on low speed, to keep air circulating through the whole house.
Re-arrange furniture to move seating areas out of cold pockets. Keep furniture away from outside walls, as this creates cold pockets as well.
If you have unused rooms, keep the vents and doors closed.
If your existing furnace is nearing the end of its service life, replace it with a high-efficiency model.
Be sure to keep your furnace filter cleaned or replaced regularly, a minimum of once every three months. A dirty filter prevents air movement, which lowers efficiency.
Buy a programmable thermostat and program it properly. Your house should be colder at night (you'll sleep better, as your body associates cold with night time), and during your regular work hours.
Resist the temptation to heat the entire house just to make a morning shower more comfortable.
You may also want to upgrade your furnace fan to a DC two-speed fan. This will save electricity rather than gas, but it all helps.
Always do the math on any big purchases to make sure the savings will outweigh the costs. Sometimes it's best to wait for something to wear out rather than replacing it immediately.
Keep up your regular maintenance, and work to change any bad habits that are costing you money.
With a little determination, you can cut your heating costs considerably.
Want to know more about heating and cooling your home efficiently? Just ask me, I'll be happy to help.