Sunday, October 28, 2012


 Courtesy Direct Energy

According to a recent survey, 96 per cent of Albertans say that energy efficiency is important to them and as winter approaches there are many simple steps that homeowners can be taking to ensure they keep warm. With a plethora of Frankenstorms, cold snaps and freezing temperatures forecasted for this fall and winter, City Style and Living (CSL) asked Direct Energy’s Director of Home Ideas, Dave Walton for his ideas about how homeowners can reduce their energy bill.

CSL: What are the top 5 actions homeowners can take to reduce their energy bill?

1) Keep your furnace in tip-top shape. If you haven't done so already, arrange to have a furnace maintenance done, so that you don't wake up to any surprises when the really cold weather hits. A properly maintained furnace will ensure you and your family remain warm and comfortable all winter long. If your furnace is more than 18 years old, you may want to consider replacing it with a newer, more energy efficient model. An older, "conventional burning" furnace operates at 60% efficiency, meaning that for every dollar you spend on heating your home, 40 cents of it is wasted right up the chimney. A new high-efficiency furnace wastes less than 10 cents of every dollar.

2) Change that filter! One of the most important things you can do as a homeowner is ensure your furnace filter is either cleaned or replaced a minimum of every 90 days throughout the entire year. Keeping that filter clean ensures proper airflow to the furnace, which in turn helps the furnace work more efficiently. A more efficient furnace uses less fuel and minimizes the risk of premature failure of the equipment, especially on the coldest day of the year. Like changing the oil in your car, keeping your furnace filter clean is an important task to complete on a regular basis.  

3) Install a programmable thermo-stat. If you don't already have one, consider replacing your old, mercury filled t-stat with a new, digital one. Not only is the new t-stat more accurate but it also provides each individual household more flexibility in how and when they warm up or cool down their home. For example, a family that is out of the house all day from 8 am until 5 pm, can set their t-stat to drop two degrees from 8:30 am until 4:30 pm. With the t-stat programmed to warm the house back-up at 4:30 pm, everyone will be comfortable when they arrive home. Once again at bed-time, have the t-stat drop a couple degrees from 10 pm to 6 am. For every two to three degrees Celsius you lower your t-stat over an eight-hour period, you can save as much as 2% on your heating bill.

4) Caulk and weather strip windows and doors. The average Canadian home has a hole in it the size of a basketball. When you add up all the typical air leaks and gaps in a home, it can add up quite substantially. Think about sitting at your kitchen table with a small window open all winter long - that can get pretty cold! Simply replacing old and cracking caulking and replacing worn or brittle weather stripping could save as much as 30% on your annual energy bills (helps lower your central AC cooling costs too). Using window film to seal up older windows is a temporary, but effective way of reducing drafts in your home during the winter months. Another tip is to get down on your hands and knees at each of your doors and see if you can see daylight. Adding a new doorsweep to the bottom of doors can dramatically reduce cold air drafts. If you already have a door sweep, check it for brittleness and replace it if there is cracking or tears in it.

5) Insulate that Attic. Have you poked your head inside your attic recently? Do you know how much insulation you have in your attic? Check that you have adequate insulation to help further minimize heat loss from your home. As a good rule of thumb, you should have at least 12 inches of insulation in your attic. If you have less than that, having it topped up could save you as much as $100 a year in energy costs. Warm air rises and is drawn towards cold air. If your attic is not properly insulated, that warm air permeates the attic space and effectively "warms" your attic (your attic should only ever be a degree or two different from the outdoor temperature, regardless of the time of year). Another good reason to check the attic is for moisture damage. Insulation loses effectiveness whenever it is wet or compressed.

CSL: Is energy efficiency directly related to lowering home heating bills?

Lowering a home’s heating bill is directly related to the overall efficiency, or comfort level of the home. Improperly sealed windows and doors, inadequate insulation and missed areas of caulking around window trim can all contribute to homeowners feeling “a draft”. A drafty house typically leads to discomfort, which often results in constantly adjusting the thermostat. The consistent, warm air temperature your furnace is trying to maintain is consistently being drawn right to the outdoors, thereby causing the furnace to run longer and use more fuel. Using more fuel increases the cost of your heating bills. Warm air is attracted to cold air, therefore the more leaks and cracks your home has, the more opportunity there is for the warm air in the home to escape to the outdoors.

CSL: Our weather in Alberta is unique - how do we tailor our actions to our environment here?

In addition to all the winter energy saving tips mentioned above, Albertans can also help make their homes more comfortable by addressing dry winter air. The installation of a humidifier onto the furnace ductwork can regulate the right amount of moisture in your home during the winter which can actually make you more comfortable at lower thermostat settings. Simply put, when humidity levels drop in the winter months, the ambient air feels cooler and we turn up the heat to compensate for the cooler feeling. Another reason to consider humidifying your home is to decrease the static electricity, which will minimize dry, itchy noses and dry, itchy skin. Your home will thank you with decreased shrinking of hardwood floors and other wood items like furniture cracking and failed glue joints. In-home humidity levels should be around 45%. Anything under 30% is too dry and more than 50% is too high.

For more information on:

Energy efficiency tips and hints to reduce your energy usage and your energy bill:

Direct Energy Furnace Maintenance Service

Receive up to $1,500 in Prepaid MasterCard® cards with the purchase of a Furnace, Air Conditioner & Rinnai Tankless Water Heater from Direct Energy

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