Our energy bills have a tendancy to rise quickly when temperatures drop. Here are some tips for insulating yourself from price shocks when the weather gets cold.
Turn down the thermostat!
It may seem counter-intuitive, but turning your thermostat down by one degree Celsius for eight hours a day during the entire heating season could save you two percent of your annual space heating costs. Consider using a programmable thermostat that will allow you to lower the temperature when you are sleeping or away from the house, as this will mean that your home is warmest only when it needs to be (i.e. when you are awake and at home), and not constantly. Frequently lowering the temperature of your house will accumulate considerable energy and cost savings over the long run (throughout the winter season).
Don't get into hot water!
Water heaters are typically the second-highest energy consuming appliances after space heaters. Turning down your water heater by a few degrees can reduce your energy consumption and have a considerable impact on your bills. Reducing your water heater temperature saves energy by reducing standby losses (the heat lost from the water heater into the rest of the room) and operating costs (as the heater doesn't need to work as hard to reach the desired temperatures). Many water heaters are automatically set to 60 oCelsius, but turning your water heater down to 50 oCelsius is appropriate for your appliances that use hot water (such as your dishwasher or washing machine), and is actually better for your water heater and pipes, as it slows mineral buildup and corrosion. If you have small children it's also a good idea to turn down your water heater in order to reduce the risk of scalding.
Conduct a home energy audit to identify the most important energy-saving improvements you can make for your home
A licensed home energy advisor will go through your entire home to identify the most cost-effective measures you can take to improve your home's energy efficiency. Find out more about what a home energy audit entails and how it can help you make your home more energy efficient.
Often it's the areas that aren't often used, such as the attic or basement, that are the biggest sources of energy loss, as they may be forgotten and not insulated properly. Don't forget insulation in the ceiling, which is particularly important as hot air rises. Also consider insulating the pipes of your water heater as well, in order to reduce standby losses (heat lost from the water heater into the rest of the room). This is particularly effective for older water heaters, which are not as well insulated as new models. If your water heater is fueled with natural gas, make sure that the air intake vent is left uncovered.
Instead of turning up the heat, consider throwing down a couple of rugs on a cold floor. Not only do rugs insulate heat, they also insulate against noise. Consider energy efficient window treatments as well, such as tight-fitting, insulating drapes or shades on drafty windows. Drapes and curtains can also help insulate your home, but try to keep blinds open when the sun is out to take advantage of the natural heat. However, make sure to keep them closed at night so as to prevent heat loss. Consider rearranging your furniture so that chairs are closer to interior walls. Try to avoid sitting in drafty areas.
Change the direction of your ceiling fans
Switch the rotation of ceiling fans to change the airflow so that the blades push up air towards the ceiling and drive it back down towards the edges of the room. As hot air rises, air circulation helps ensure your entire room is warm.
Make sure your heating system is in good shape
Regular maintenance of your furnace will ensure that it is working efficiently. Try to have your furnace serviced before the start of the winter season so that you know that it is working in top shape. You should also change your furnace filter about once a month during the winter season. Regularly replacing your furnace filter will keep it from working harder than it needs
Don't use a wood burning fireplace when the outside temperature is below -7 oCelsius
The amount of cold air that will enter through the open flue will offset any heat generated for your home. Make sure your fireplace damper is closed when not in use. If you decide not to use your fireplace, consider blocking it with some rigid insulation in addition to closing the damper (even when closed, the damper will likely allow some air leakage).
Don't use your vehicle block heater if temperatures are warmer than -15oCelsius
You only need to use a block heater for two hours before driving your car, even on the coldest days. Consider getting a timer for your block heater, so that you're only using it when you need it