Have the furnace checked and cleaned by a professional. A furnace that is running properly is more efficient and won’t use so much fuel. If you fix any problems now, you don’t have the risk of something happening one cold weekend when the outside temperature’s minus 20 or worse. Also keep in mind that some companies won’t come out after hours or on a weekend if you’re not one of their regular customers.
Go out and buy a new furnace filter and a spare. It takes a lot less power (electricity) to pump air through a clean filter than one that’s completely clogged up with dirt and dust, and it will also keep the house a little cleaner.
Most importantly, although this has little impact on your actual energy bill, make sure your carbon monoxide and natural gas detectors are working properly, and at the same time, check the smoke alarms. These devices really do save lives. During freak wind conditions, you can get blow back down the chimney, and if your furnace is producing carbon monoxide, the whole house can become lethal in a very short time.
If you don’t have good quality double glazed windows, now is the time to put up the storm windows. Seal them with caulking compound so they are actually airtight. If they’re not airtight, you’re going to be constantly drawing cold air into the house. Another way to keep the heat in is to tape clear plastic all around the window frame. Do this to most of the windows, but leave a couple so that you can open them for ventilation if necessary.
A simple way to see if they are airtight is to wait for a windy day, then hold a candle at the window frames. If the flame flickers, cold air is coming in. Do the same around the outside doors, and be prepared to change the weather stripping. Weather stripping is usually light foam rubber which is glued around the door (and, if appropriate, the window) frames. It’s quite cheap and an excellent investment, but it doesn’t last forever, so even if you have it, it might not work properly after a couple of years.
Hot water is normally the second highest energy expense after heating. Union Gas is offering a free energy saving kit to their customers, worth $35. The kit contains a water saving shower head, an aerator for the kitchen and bathroom taps, a roll of Teflon tape, and 2 metres of pipe insulation, but is only available while supplies last.
Union Gas estimates their kit can save you up to 27,300 litres of water (very significant if you have a well or septic tank, or a water meter), and 113 cubic metres of natural gas over a year. That adds up to about $22 a year in savings, but when you add the GST, and starting next year the PST, that’s more or less a case of beer! So why not go for it? And as an added bonus, which your children and grandchildren will come to appreciate, there are 214 kilograms of CO2 that you won’t be adding to the atmosphere.
More details on this free offer are on the Union Gas website: http://www.uniongas.com/residential/energyconservation/energysavings/eskindex.asp
Next week we’ll talk about some other simple energy saving tips and programs which will cut your heating bills.
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