It’s not the snow banks, bad driving or dark-side-of-the-moon type temperatures that frighten Canadians about winter; it’s the cost of keeping warm. It’s expensive, it’s unavoidable and it’s likely to go on until May or so, depending on your zone. But there are things we can do to lessen the blow. Here are 15 tips to take some of the bite out of those heating bills.
1. How well is your home insulated? Here’s a little experiment: the next time your neighbourhood gets a dusting of fresh snow, go take a look around. Some roofs will hold the snow and some will melt it from underneath. You want a roof that holds the snow — that’s a sure sign of a well-insulated roof. The bare roof is a sure sign of heat loss.
2. Get your furnace serviced. A well-running, clean furnace is an efficient furnace — and a safer furnace. Check into service plans you can purchase.
- If your furnace is old and inefficient, think about replacing itwith a new, energy-efficient model. Check with your municipality and provincial government about any incentive plans or rebates, and look into the Government of Canada’s ecoEnergy Retrofit program, which offers grants to help make homes more energy efficient.4. Heat yourself first, then the house. Put on a sweater, socks and cosy slippers. Snuggle up on the sofa with a blanket when watching television or reading a magazine. Then turn that thermostat down to 68°F or 20°C — still a comfortable temperature, but one that will save you money.
5. Check your house for drafts, and install weather stripping where needed, as well as clear plastic sheeting over windows in as many rooms as you can.
6. Close off unused rooms. Shutting doors means you’ll only heat the rooms you use most often. Close vents in unused rooms, too. On the other hand, do heat the basement — even if you don’t go down there much. A cold basement will make the first floor of your house feel cold.
7. If you have a wood-burning fireplace, remember to shut the flue when it’s not in use. Heat will fly right up and out if you don’t.
8. Close the curtains or blinds over windows at night to help keep precious heat in; open them all up during the day to collect free heat from the sun.
- Craft or buy door and window draft snakes— they really do help, and they’re adorable.10. Don’t heat the house for Bubbles the goldfish. When you go to work, turn the thermostat down to 60°F or 16°C. Even if you have a dog or cat, they’ll be fine. After all, they’re wearing a fur coat and love to burrow in blankets.
11. Install a programmable thermostat. Set it to lower the temperature at bedtime and when you leave for work, and to warm up before you get home or crawl out from under the duvet.
12. Don’t sleep in a sauna. Turn the temperature down to 60°F or 16°C while you’re all bundled up in blankets. And speaking of bedtime, try wearing fluffy socks at night.
- How is your home heated? Right now, natural gas is generally the cheapestway to go. But what to do if your old house is devoid of ductwork because when electricity was cheaper, the previous owner put in mega-watt-sucking baseboard heaters?
Well, you could do a major renovation or you could invest in a gas room-heater or fireplace. They’re relatively inexpensive — units can start at $2,000, installed — and considering the value and warmth one would add to your abode, the cost is totally worth it.
14. Install ceiling fans to push the hot air back down to people level and circulate the warmth.
15. Just finished baking or roasting something in the oven? Leave the oven door ajar and use that heat for an extra blast of warmth in the kitchen.
Between the holiday feasts and buying gifts, winter can be a challenging time to save money. But by adopting a few good heating habits, we can cut back on waste, and that’s money in the bank.