The leaves are turning, the Leafs are losing, turkeys are on sale at the grocery and there is a nip in the air. These are all sure signs that fall is here. This means that it is, or will be soon, time to turn on the heat. This seems like a good time to examine what we can do to reduce the amount of heat-related energy we use this winter.
The first thing is to make sure your furnace is in good working order. Having a dirty filter slows the passage of air through the furnace so a furnace with a clean filter operates more efficiently than one with a dirty filter. Also, like a car, keeping all the moving parts in a furnace clean, lubed and “tuned up” also adds to the efficiency and subtracts from your energy bill.
For us a key tool for energy conservation is a programmable thermostat. These ingenious little devices mean that you no longer have to remember to turn the heat down before you go to bed or go out for the day. Plus, and this is huge, it means that you can wake up to or come home to a warm house. If you have a regular routine (get up, go to work etc) simply program the thermostat to have your house warm for you when you get up, cool it down again when you go to work and then have it warm again when you come home. Many models can be set with a different program for week days from weekends since requirements may be different for those days. Some can even be set for different programs for each day of the week, if your life and schedule are that complicated. All thermostats also have manual overrides for when you step outside your routine. When used properly programmable thermostats can significantly reduce energy use and heating bills. Plus they are not that hard to install or program.
Thermostats should also be set as low as possible (within the limits of comfort). Not higher than 21 degrees Celsius is suggested for the daytime (when you are home) and 2-3 degrees lower at night. Obviously the health and age of the occupants of a home will play into that decision, but we should try to go as low as we can.
Another energy saving device is the ceiling fan. As we know, hot air rises therefore the heat we pump into our rooms can end up near the ceiling while we shiver in the cooler air below. A ceiling fan can move this hot air around and redistribute it into the room.
Lower tech energy saving tips include blocking drafts. If you have older windows and don’t see yourself springing for new well sealed ones this year consider sealing them with plastic. You can buy these window sealing kits in hardware stores. It doesn’t look great at first but in a couple of days you won’t even notice it and you will be warmer. Blinds and thick curtains are also good for sealing in heat, especially at night. Don’t heat unused space: close doors to and vents in rooms that are not used or curtain off unused areas.
Saving energy used for heating lets us actively participate in conservation and also save money. So dig out the sweaters and bundle up, and have a warm, safe, and less costly winter.
– Sophia Dore is an environmental scientist with Conestoga-Rovers & Associates. Andrew Laursen is an assistant professor at Ryerson University; firstname.lastname@example.org.