Baby, it’s cold outside! It’s these frigid winter temperatures that separate the weak from the true Manitoban. But we can take it! Mostly. However, if you’re winter-averse like I am, the thought of going outside when the windchill is in the -40s isn’t a happy one.
Human instinct is to cocoon indoors, eat junk food and stay warm. Fun, yes, but not very healthy. So what is the best way to keep our homes toasty inside without sending our ever-rising bills soaring through the roof? Literally?
Insulate your attic
Start with your attic insulation. This is a fundamental tip. If your attic isn’t properly insulated you might as well just open a window during winter. It’s estimated that a properly insulated attic can shave 10 to 50 percent off your heating bill. If the level of your attic insulation is at or below your joists, you need to add more. The recommended level for most attics is to insulate to R-38 — or about 10 to 14 inches (25.5 to 35.5 cms) — depending on insulation type.
When I finally had the attic in my 65-year-old house insulated — I had the old vermiculite topped off with loose-fill insulation — not only did my heating bills drop, but the house was less drafty.
For optimal energy efficiency, your home should be properly insulated from the roof down to its foundation. This saves money not only when heating your home in winter, but also when cooling it in summer.
Upgrade windows and doors
Upgrading single-pane or mullioned older windows is a no-brainer. The same goes for old doors with single-pane windows in them. I was sad to see the charming 12-pane mullioned windows on my old house go, but they were replaced with energy-efficient Argon windows with new vinyl mullions set in between the panes of glass. Not only did this maintain the original character of the home, it substantially improved the efficiency and function of my windows. I was able to get a Manitoba Hydro loan to do this, which offered me the ability to easily pay the loan back each month on my bill.
If you can’t afford to replace old windows and doors, at least make sure that they’re properly sealed. This is the bare minimum required here in our cold climate. Caulk all your windows inside and out. If you have old multi-pane windows, you’ll probably need to re-putty around each pane because it dries out over time. Make sure you have proper weather-stripping around your doors. Adding storm doors to old wooden doors will bump up their efficiency.
Change furnace filters regularly
Remember that your furnace has to work much harder if the filter is dirty. If your bills seem unusually high, try changing your filter more often and/or getting your furnace serviced. Upgrading to an energy-efficient furnace will keep your home warmer while running less often. And because it will be heating your home more efficiently, your heating bill will go down. If your furnace is running but not heating your home very well, change the filter. If that doesn’t help, then your furnace may be on its way out. My old furnace was running almost constantly, but not heating my home very well. When I got it upgraded to a two-stage energy-efficient model, my heating bills dropped dramatically.
Use a programmable thermostat
We all know that turning down the heat at night when we’re sleeping or while we’re away at work all day can boost savings, but it’s inconvenient to constantly be making those adjustments manually, and easy to forget to do so. A programmable thermostat lets you set it to automatically turn up the heat before you wake up in the morning, so no more shivering in the shower until the steam heats up the room. These thermostats can even remotely manage your settings. As in, you can use an app to turn up your heat while driving home after work, or on your way back from the airport after being away on a trip. Or while binge-watching TV from the comfort of your couch. I mean, if your dog is sleeping on your legs, do you really want to bother your fur baby by getting up to change the thermostat?
Efficiency Manitoba programs
If you don’t know about Efficiency Manitoba, you need to! This initiative not only offers you many ways to make energy-efficient choices that will help reduce your energy bills while heating (and cooling) your home, it also offers rebates on everything from LED light bulbs to big insulation projects that could even qualify for 100% coverage of insulation materials used!
Did you know that Energy Star Certified appliances and thermostats qualify for rebates? There’s even a rebate up to $12,000 with the New Homes Program.And if you or someone you know is experiencing a significant reduction in income, the Income Qualified Program and Métis Energy Efficiency Offers are available. Households that qualify can get a free home energy check-up, free insulation, a low-cost natural gas or boiler upgrade and free energy-saving devices.
And since protecting the environment goes hand-in-hand with energy efficiency, it’s win win for everyone!