Heating season: 9 Tips to Keep Warm & Financially Flush This Winter

Toronto Condo Living, Toronto Life

Living in a high demand city doesn’t come cheap! It is no surprise to anyone who lives in Toronto that the 2018 Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey listed Toronto high on the list of most expensive cities to live in the world. While we love Toronto for our accessible transit, sports teams, thriving multicultural communities, and strong job market, we could all benefit from saving a few dollars when it comes to our housing expenses for heating, and it isn’t as time consuming as you might think.

While costs for heating can vary based on provider and type of home –it’s been reported that an average monthly Hydro Bill for an Ontario home can roughly vary between $50 to $100 per month for a condo and $100 to $500 per month for a house. With a little effort you can save up to hundreds of dollars on your heating expenses each year, whether you live on a lakeshore facing condo, or a detached home in mid-town.

Getting Smart with Thermostats

Early adopters of technology are putting their money where their heating bills are. A recent study of smart technology conducted by Telus found that more than one third of people who had invested in smart home gadgets had spent their money on a smart thermostat to help manage their heating costs.

Thermostat companies like Ecobee boast that in 2013 their US customers saved on average around 23 per cent on their heating and cooling costs through using these devices, and this equipment continues to improve over time.

Those who want to see exactly how much they will save by investing in a smart device can visit the sites of various providers and enter in determining factors on savings such as the size of your home and the type of heating to see how much money can be saved each year. A calculator of brand Nest found that those owning a 500 to 1,000 square foot home in North York could enjoy a savings of around $35 to $94 each year, which may not seem worth the investment for those who want a quick financial fix, since the current cost of a smart thermostat at Home Depot ranges in price from around $80 for the cheapest make on the market to $330.

Long term benefits of using Smart Thermostats are how they provide user-friendly control for those who want to set their preferences and forget about it, with some models detecting when you’ve left for the day and adjusting accordingly, or even allowing you to control the thermostat remotely. Some smart thermostats will even email you warnings when the temperature of your home drops or rises outside of your pre-set preferences to help keep you apprised of any potential issues with your heating system, or even power outages in your area. Others will provide a monthly report so you can better monitor your energy use.

Energy Efficient Tips to Set your Thermostat for Smart & Manual Models:

  • A simple rule of heat the humans first and then the house should apply here. Do you really need to be wearing a tank top in December? Put on another layer, cozy socks and slippers, and watch TV in the evening with a blanked on to allow you to comfortably turn the thermostat down to 20 degrees.
  • Never heat an empty house; even your pets have fur coats and will love to burrow in a pillow or blanket, so they won’t mind a temperature drop of a few degrees while you’re at work.
  • Set the thermostat for a lower temperature while you’re in bed, in fact most sleep studies say to set your thermostat for between 16 to 18.5 degrees while you’re sleeping at night to ensure a good night’s sleep (and saved energy). 

Canadian Living offers both cooking and heating tips to save you money and add to your winter comfort suggesting:

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.

Fan Your Flames

Most of us think of fans on hot summer days, but they can also help keep your home warm in the winter. Ceiling fans can be used to help push the warm air down to the floor to heat the people instead of the roof of your home as it properly circulates the heat. According to an article on saving money published in The Reader’s Digest you can save money with fans by:

Have fans spin clockwise at a low speed to circulate warm air downward in the winter. In the summer, turn up the thermostat by a degree or two and switch to counter-clockwise to whisk hot air up.

A Space with a View (Or Not)

Closing the curtains or blinds on your windows at night in colder months keeps heat in. Opening the same area during the day allows for the sun (particularly on southern facing windows) to provide some needed light to help collect heat at no cost care of mother nature (and the sun).

Insulation Inspection

Look around your home to see where you’re losing heat. Drafty corner? Odds are there is something cost effective you can do to keep the draft out and your bills lower. Inspect doorways and windows for drafts. Repairing common drafts can be as simple as installing weather stripping or using clear plastic sheeting over windows (that you can often install using a hairdryer) to keep heat from escaping. Drafty door? Buy or make a door stopper craft to help keep the heat in when the winter winds begin blowing.

Other tips include: ensuring the flue is closed when your wood-burning fireplace is not being used, as well as having your roof inspected to see if it holds the snow (which is said to be a sign of a roof with strong insulation). More serious insulation issues can be costly. According to Knight Plumbing, it could cost between $2000 to $3000 to fix insulation issues in a poorly insulated house.

Turn it Down (or Off)

Want to save some money that doesn’t have to do with heating? Remember when your mom told you to shut off the lights when you left the room? She was right. Get into the habit of shutting off the lights when you leave the room and unplugging electronics when you aren’t using them. People who live in condos are often afforded a fantastic view thanks to their large windows. This also means there is little to no need to turn on the lights during the day from May through October.

Ecobee4 Smart Thermostat

Get Audited

According to Knight Plumbing an energy audit of your home will cost anywhere from $300 to $500 but could save you up to 30 per cent or more each year if you act on their recommendations.

Furnace & Furniture Inspection

A well-running furnace will save you money, even though you’ll be paying regular maintenance costs. Some people find it saves them money to purchase a service plan they can work into their regular budget to make sure that everything is running well and clean. It’s recommended that you change the filter in your furnace every season, so mark it in your calendar or have your email send you a reminder to help keep it a part of your seasonal routine. Before the cold hits, walk around your home and make sure none of your furniture is blocking vents, as this makes it hard and more expensive to heat your home.

Patience Is A Virtue

Getting home from the cold is not the time to crank your heat like you’re entering a tropical destination. Many of us will set our thermostat higher than we normally set it to heat our home quickly, but it doesn’t speed things up, it will just keep the heater fan running longer, using more energy. Instead invest in adding an energy efficient humidifier (generally costs anywhere from $350 to $500) to your heating system to keep a humidity level of around 30 to 40 per cent as moist air keeps in heat better than dry air, making you more comfortable at a lower temperature. It’s also a good way to avoid those cold weather nose bleeds some of us are prone to.

Getting an Upgrade

If your old furnace is running out of steam, it never hurts to research energy programs, which sometimes offer grants to help you make your home more energy efficient. Many talk about the benefits of gas heat as the most cost effective (especially if you’re relying on expensive base-board heat) and will opt for a gas. The installation of a gas room-heater and fireplace will generally start for as low as $2,000, but this improvement could save you anywhere from $130 to $175 a year on your energy bill (roughly six per cent).


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