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Photos: James Bombales

Canadian winters are long and hard on our homes and our pocketbooks. We all know that with dipping temperatures comes higher heating costs, so with several months of winter ahead of us, there’s no better time to ensure your home is in tip top shape and running at its most efficient.

For advice on how to increase your home’s efficiency while decreasing your monthly hydro bill, we turned to Paula Doyle, District Sales Manager at Enercare Inc. Here she shares her top 8 energy-saving tips.

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1. Use a programmable thermostat

Running your home’s heater all day is both inefficient and unnecessary. By using a programmable thermostat, homeowners can set the temperature for different times of the day to ensure that the heater isn’t operating while nobody’s home or while you’re asleep. Smart thermostats add the ability to control your home’s entire HVAC system right from the palm of your hands via a smartphone app.

“As the cold weather hits, homeowners naturally begin to turn on their furnaces, which becomes the top energy user in the home during winter months,” says Doyle. “A lower temperature at night and after you leave for work can save up to 10 percent on your heating bill.”

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2. Furnace maintenance saves energy

Ensuring your furnace is running at top efficiency can save you money on your next hydro bill. “A tune-up from a licensed technician can save you 3-10 percent in heating costs,” says Doyle. “Your furnace filter also affects the air quality of your home so a good rule of thumb is to clean or replace it every three months, all year-round.”

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3. Install a humidifier

One of the biggest benefits of proper humidification in the home is a financial one. Using a humidifier allows you to turn the thermostat down one or two degrees while still maintaining a comfortable feeling, thus lowering your heating bills.

“If the air inside your home contains the proper amount of moisture, you can comfortably turn the furnace down a notch without noticing,” explains Doyle. “As an added bonus, a humidifier helps eliminate dry air that can cause damage to your home and health.”

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4. Take advantage of free heat!

There are easy, low-budget ways homeowners can conserve energy without having to make any major modifications to their homes. “Open drapes during the day to let the sun’s rays warm your space,” says Doyle. Hosting family or friends for dinner? “When entertaining or when the house is full, turn down the thermostat as body heat will help warm the space.”

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5. Manage light usage

Remember when your parents would nag you to turn the lights off when leaving a room? They were onto something. “It costs about $2.55 per year to light one room for one hour,” says Doyle. “Switch off the lights when you leave a room and install automatic timers, motion sensors, dimmers and solar cells to help you conserve energy.”

Switching from traditional bulbs to energy efficient ones like LEDs can help you use up to 40 percent less energy indoors and out.

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6. Find and seal leaks

“Up to 30 percent of the heating and cooling costs in a home can be lost through poorly fitted windows and doors,” explains Doyle. “Caulking and weather stripping around existing openings or installing new energy-efficient windows can save home owners about $150 a year on their energy bills.”

How can you detect air leaks? “Place your hand against doors/windows from the inside. If it feels cooler than the inside walls, install a door/window that’s better insulated,” says Doyle.

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7. Use your ceiling fans year around

In the summertime your ceiling fan rotates in the counterclockwise direction pushing cool air down to help chill a room, but it can also be used in the winter. “Having your ceiling fan spin clockwise at a low speed will move air around to improve airflow but will not push cold air throughout the room,” says Doyle. “The gentle updraft created will bring warm air near the ceiling down into the room.”

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8. Don’t forget about the fireplace

If you have a fireplace there are several things you can do to ensure that it’s running efficiently whether it’s wood burning, gas or electric.

“Split wood into pieces that are 10-15cm (4-6 inches) in diameter so that it burns more cleanly due to the larger surface area exposed to the flame,” says Doyle. “Homeowners with a gas or electric fireplace should consider installing a fireplace thermostat to help control the room temperature.”

If you have a fireplace damper, make sure it remains closed when not in use and check that the seal on the flue damper is as snug as possible. Doyle also suggests to not use the fireplace when the outside temperature is below -7°C (19°F). “The cold air coming into your house through the open flue wastes more heat than is gained.”

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