This Week’s Energy Diet Challenge- Winterize The Home

Is your weather-stripping cracked or missing pieces? Do you have older drafty windows that need plastic film? Does it seem like you have a strong draft coming from your wood-burning fireplace? Did you mean to get all of this in order last year but got caught by winter and vowed to make sure it happened this year? Welcome to the club! Consider this your friendly reminder that now is the time to winterize your home.

The Challenge

This week the Energy Diet Challenge participants are weatherproofing and preparing their homes to heat more efficiently as we head for the cold Canadian temperatures. They might do things like:

• Apply removable plastic film around drafty windows to double their R-value ( a measure of a window, or roof’s, resistance to heat flow).

• Caulk (foam or rope) around window panes.

• Investigate the weather-stripping around doors and the door sweep (at the bottom) and replace if needed.

• Change furnace filters every two to three months to maintain the efficiency level of the furnace (good for indoor air quality too!).

• Insulate indoor light switches/outlets on exterior walls (average 2-3% heat loss).

• Consider a removable fireplace balloon- they make an incredible seal when the wood-burning fireplace is not in use.

• Think about how they use their home. Do they spend all night in one room? Space heating rather than whole-house heating when applicable is often a great energy saver.

• Install programmable thermostats. Turning down a thermostat by one degree over an eight-hour period will save 2% on heating bills.

• Consider if the average temperature of their home can come down even further? It’s recommended to keep thermostats at 21 degrees while at home, and 16 degrees at night and when no one is home.

• Look for milk doors and older features like them. They are often not insulated and are similar to having a giant hole in your house. Insulate them!

• Install heavy curtains on windows and even over older doors and close at night to keep heat in.

According to BC Hydro, heating accounts for the biggest amount of energy used in most homes. “Since heating is the largest energy user in most homes, wasted heat means a lot of wasted energy. In many homes, 20% of all heat loss is through leaks and poor ventilation. Wasted hydroelectric energy increases the demand for more energy infrastructure. Wasted gas, coal, oil, or wood can increase CO2 emissions. If 10,000 B.C. households with gas heating were draft-proofed to cut gas consumption an average of 5%, it could save a kilotonne (1,000 tonnes) of CO2 emissions annually.” Visit the website for more.

Much of what we can do to better seal our homes and make them more efficient in the winter (and in the summer for cooling), is simple and can be done by anyone, whether they are handy or not. For individuals that want to go further and consider some of the big-ticket items, like high-efficiency furnaces or upgraded insulation, I would highly recommend having a professional energy audit. This in-depth service, performed with heavy-duty equipment, such as blower door tests, gives homeowners a great baseline understanding of their home and where the biggest gains in efficiency can be made. An energy audit is a valuable tool to inform choices and invest money wisely in the home. Many provinces also have rebate programs for the audits themselves.