Happy New Year! I hope that all who are reading this are having a blessed start to their 2017. A new year always brings new hopes, new challenges and the desire to take control of the year and make it the best we can. While we can do that with most areas in our lives, there are always going to be some things that are beyond our control like taxes in particular carbon taxes. For those of us in Alberta, 2017 brings us into the era of the new Carbon Tax. We all have our own views on the merits of the carbon tax, but I’m not interested in getting into that. The reality is that for homeowners, expenses will go up in 2017. Energy will cost more, so for the sake of both the environment and our pocket books, it’s in our best interests to find ways to reduce our energy costs.
Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to be posting some tips on ways that we can make our homes more efficient. Whether you own or rent, if you’re paying your gas and power bill, there will be something for you. I’ll cover such topics as energy efficient lighting, Heat Recovery Ventilators (HRV’s) and water heating efficiency.
Today’s post focuses on preserving heat in our homes. About half of our energy costs go to heating and cooling our homes, but if you were in the Edmonton area a couple weeks back when it was pushing -30 at night then you know we’re putting a LOT of money into heat! So here 4 things you can do to lower your heating costs.
- Seal off drafts: This is simple and it’s a no-brainer. If you have a draft coming in, you have heat going out. Take a candle around your home, hold it up to various places and look to see if the smoke dances. If it does, you’re losing heat. Here are the most common places to look for drafts:
-around doors and windows
-around your attic hatch: in many homes I’ve inspected, the attic hatch doesn’t sit evenly on the trim which creates a gap
-where the main floor wall frames sit on the concrete foundation: any unevenness along the top of the concrete creates a gap for warm air to escape
-openings in the walls for fan exhausts (bathroom and kitchen)
-electrical outlets on exterior walls
If you find a draft around a door, window, along the top of the concrete foundation or an opening in the wall, use an expanding foam to seal the gap. If you’re losing heat through your attic hatch, install weather-stripping around the edge to create a seal.
- Upgrade to a programmable thermostat: It doesn’t make sense to heat your home when no one’s in it. In reality, when no one’s home, the house only needs to be warm enough to keep the water pipes from freezing ñ although that would make for a chilly homecoming at the end of the day! If you have a programmable thermostat, you can set it to your normal daily schedule so that the house is cooler when you’re at work or sleeping. Then it will automatically start warming the house so that when you return from work or are getting up in the morning it’s a comfortable temperature.
In most homes, about 5% of the heating bill will be saved for each degree that the thermostat is lowered for at least eight hours each day. Let’s say you like your home at 22∞ C, but drop it to 16∞ C for 10 hours when you’re working/commuting and another 6 hours at night, that’s 16 hours/day that you’re dropping the temperature. That’s a 6 degree decrease for a savings of 30% for every 8 hours. In this situation, you’d be saving 30% of your heating bill for those 16 hours each work day! That makes the cost of the new thermostat a lot more attractive!
- Close your curtains when the sun goes down: When the sun goes down and our lights go on, most people will want the curtains closed for privacy, anyway. But in rooms that aren’t often used, window coverings are often left open. Closing those coverings traps the cold from the window between the covering and the window and keeps it from coming into the home. This puts less pressure on the furnace to heat the home, which saves you money.
- Increase your attic insulation: As a general rule, a house will lose 25% of its heat through the walls, another 25% through the floor/ground and the remaining 50% through the roof. So even though increasing the insulation in your attic may seem expensive, the savings can really add up. This is especially true if you live in a home older than 30 years and the attic insulation has never been increased. I’ve inspected many homes from the 50ís that still have 3-4 inches of wood shavings in the attic as insulation. A normal duvet cover would provide better insulation! I’d recommend that if you have less than 10 inches of insulation (of any kind other than closed cell spray foam) in your attic, then you’ll notice a difference in your heating bill by adding more.
Taking care of these 4 details can really help to take a bite out of those heating costs this winter and make that dreaded carbon tax not such a big deal.