• Save money on your energy bills with these 6 tips

    Save money on your energy bills with these 6 tips

    One of the best ways to save money at home is by cutting down how much you spend on your energy bills each month. This means finding ways to use less electricity, gas and water without compromising comfort. Below are six ways you can make your home run cheaper.

    Add more insulation to your home

    Not running your furnace or air conditioner constantly without feeling cold in the winter or hot in the summer requires your home to be properly insulated. Insulation works by keeping outdoor air from getting inside your home and conditioned indoor air from escaping. Adding the right amount of insulation to your attic and unfinished basement should be top priority, followed by exterior and interior walls, floors and around windows and doors.

    “Ensuring that you have an insulation that has a tight fit is key when insulating your home,” says Kim Friedrich, product specialist at insulation manufacturer Roxul.

    Insulation is rated based on a measurement of resistance the material has to the movement of heat. This is most commonly referred to as an R-value. The higher the R-value the more effective the insulation is.

    “With regards to your attic, we would recommend an R-60. For the basement it would be around an R-20,” Friedrich said.

    Caulking around the outside of windows and doors and insulating light switches and receptacles on exterior walls with special foam inserts is also a good idea. Wrapping hot water pipes with pipe foam will help lower the cost of heating water and will also prevent the possibility of pipes freezing in the winter.

    There are many other factors when adding insulation to your home and your savings will depend on where you add it and what type of insulation you use.

    Use a programmable thermostat

    Using a programmable thermostat helps keep your heating and cooling system on a schedule so that your furnace is not struggling to raise the temperature in your home in the winter and that your air conditioner is not running all day when you’re at work. Smart thermostats, like the Nest Learning Thermostat or ecobee3, give you even more capabilities to monitor and control your usage, and offer incentives to use less energy.

    Programming your thermostat between 21C and 23C in the winter is the most efficient and, according to Direct Energy, you can save up to four per cent on your heating bill in the winter by adjusting your thermostat to the lower temperature at night and during the day when you’re at work.

    Before purchasing a programmable thermostat, check with your local utility company to see if you’re eligible for a free or discounted unit.

  • Smart Energy Choices to Stretch Your Reno Dollars

    Smart Energy Choices to Stretch Your Reno Dollars

    That’s going to be how much!?”

    Renovation decisions can often cause pocketbook stress, but incorporating these energy-efficient ideas can actually improve your bottom line in the long run. That goes for new-construction as well.

    SOS for homeowners

    Have you heard of the saveONenergy New Home Construction program? Local electric utilities are working with trades to ensure that new homes are built or renovated with energy efficiency in mind. Other programs such as the saveONenergy Heating & Cooling Incentive can put money back in your purse with up to $650* in incentives.

    Shop smart for appliances

    Size and model count! Larger fridges suck more energy, so consider the number of people in the house. A couple only needs a fridge that’s 12 cubic feet, while three or four people require a unit that’s 14 to 17 cubic feet. The rule of thumb is to add 2 cubic feet per person. Additionally, look for the ENERGY STAR® symbol and the EnerGuide rating that identifies the amount of energy an appliance consumes in a year.

    Choose energy-efficient windows and doors

    Panes can be a pain. Drafty windows and doors are tremendous sources of air leakage that end up costing you in the long run. High-performance windows are built to retain heat in the winter.

  • Spring Cleanup List Begins with HVAC

    Spring Cleanup List Begins with HVAC

    Spring cleaning is a tradition, but there are some other chores that should be part of your springtime routine, too. Most of them take only a few minutes, so get started!

    1. Check your air-conditioning and heating equipment before the beginning of a new season.
    2. Check and replace your furnace and air-conditioning filters every month. There are several types from which to choose, depending on your needs. Fiberglass filters last only one month, while the filters typically last three to four months. HEPA filters last up to six months and can be cleaned with a vacuum nozzle.
    3. Most air conditioners have a drainage hole on the base of the cabinet, beneath the evaporator fins. This hole needs to be kept clear in order for the air conditioner to work properly. It's a good idea each spring to use a paper clip or wire to poke through the hole and clear it.
    4. To keep a dehumidifier working properly, remove its housing and let the unit dry completely. Vacuum every accessible surface and crevice.
    5. Clean your bathroom fans once a year. Take the cover off, wash it in soapy water and clean dirt off the fan blades with a toothbrush. Be sure the power is off when you do this!
  • The Attraction of Owning a Gas Fireplace

     The Attraction of Owning a Gas Fireplace

    Gas fireplaces have increased in popularity over the past few years. For many homeowners, the attraction of owning a gas fireplace lies in the following:

    • The convenience of an on/off switch and an ever-present fuel supply

    •  The cleanliness factor (gas fireplaces generate no mess in terms of ashes, wood chips, bark, etc.)

    •  The elimination of chimney cleaning

    • The safety of sealed combustion units, which offer little chance for toxic combustion gases to spill into the room

    • The environmental benefits as compared with those of a conventional wood fireplace

    Although gas fireplaces have been around for a few years, many homeowners disliked their “fake-looking,” uninteresting flames. To counteract this negative perception of gas fireplaces, manufacturers have devoted much effort to producing a yellow flame that more closely resembles the flame of a wood-burning fireplace, yet is still clean-burning. As well, other aesthetic improvements have made gas fireplaces much more appealing to homeowners.

  • Tips for Repairing an Air Conditioner Leak

    Tips for Repairing an Air Conditioner Leak

    The drip, drip, drip of water from your Air Conditioner can be a reassuring site as you survey your gardens outside knowing that a cool oasis awaits inside. A large part of the air conditioner's job is to remove moisture from the air. The less humid the air, the cooler you will feel. The air conditioner is designed to do this through a series of coils and hoses. However, you do not want to have the dripping occur inside the home. Luckily, there are some common sense measures which can be applied to alleviate the problem.

    Tip 1 Make Gravity Work for You

    The air conditioner should be installed so that it leans slightly downward toward the outside, to encourage the water to flow outward. If this is not the case, you will need to shim up the bottom of the air conditioner on the inside of the house. This is why it is important for the outside of the framework be fully sealed to protect the framework from the winter elements which could compromise the shape of the frame.

    Tip 2 - Check the Drain Hole

    Make sure the drain hole is not blocked. If it is, unblock it. Do not drill any holes in the air conditioner, that could damage the unit.

  • What you need to know about furnace filters

    What you need to know about furnace filters

    If you’re like most people, you probably don’t give your furnace much thought as long as it’s keeping you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. But in order to keep it working to its optimal performance — and help prevent a possible malfunction — you need to either change or clean your furnace filter on a regular basis.

    Sounds simple, but in reality there are so many options for furnace filters that choosing the wrong one can do more damage to your furnace than good and could potentially cause your furnace to break down.

    How a furnace works

    A traditional forced-air furnace draws air in via return ducts, warms it over a heat exchanger then, with the help of a blower fan, pushes the heated air through a series of ducts that branch off into rooms throughout your home. The furnace runs until the temperature inside reaches your desired thermostat setting. (If you have whole home air conditioning the process is similar with the air being cooled in the summer by an outdoor compressor unit and a series of coils inside your furnace).

    What a furnace filter does

    The main purpose of a furnace filter is to protect the blower fan from all the dust, hair and other gunk the return duct pulls in. While it will also help the quality of your inside air (as it is removing contaminants from being recirculated), its job is not to actually clean your air as many people believe.

    How filters are rated

    Furnace filters are rated using the minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV). MERV ratings range from 1 to 16. The higher the rating the more particles the filter can remove.  Higher rated filters allow less air to flow through though and can force your furnace to work harder and possibly malfunction. A MERV rating between eight and 11 is adequate for most homes. To be safe, you should check if your furnace manufacturer has a maximum MERV rating your model of furnace can use.

    Some home improvement centres, such as Home Depot, use their own rating system on products sold in their stores. These ratings are similar to the MERV scale but do vary slightly. It’s best to confirm what their rating converts to on the MERV scale to ensure you’re using a filter safe for your furnace.

  • What you need to know about home insulation

    What you need to know about home insulation

    While most homeowners don’t give much thought to what’s behind their walls, proper insulation is of key importance to having a comfortable, healthy home. Besides keeping your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer, insulation can help lower your energy bills, prevent mold growth and also keep unwanted noise out.

    What insulation does

    Insulation helps keep outdoor air from getting inside your home and conditioned indoor air from escaping. This is achieved by trapping pockets of air and slowing down the in/out process.

    “In winter, heat flows directly from all heated living spaces to adjacent unheated attics, garages, basements, and even to the outdoors,” the U.S. Department of Energy states on its website. “Heat flow can also move indirectly through interior ceilings, walls, and floors — wherever there is a difference in temperature. During the cooling season, heat flows from the outdoors to the interior of a house.”

    The Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation (CMHC) compares a properly insulated house to dressing for the weather.

    “A wool sweater will keep you warm if the wind is not blowing and it is not raining. On a windy, rainy day, wearing a nylon shell over your wool sweater helps keep you reasonably dry and warm. A house is similar,” the CMHC website says. “On the outside, underneath the brick or siding, there is an air barrier that does the same thing as the nylon — it keeps the wind from blowing through. Then there is the insulation (like your sweater) and a vapour barrier, which helps keep moisture away from the house structure where it can do damage.”

    How insulation is rated

    Insulation is rated based on a measurement of resistance the material has to the movement of heat. This is most commonly referred to as an R-value. The higher the R-value the more effective the insulation is. Local building codes list recommended R-values for each area of your house (these R-values are required for new construction). Improper installation of insulation can lower the R-value of the material you are using so it’s a good idea to follow the manufacturer’s instructions or hire a professional to do the installation.

  • Winter Energy-Saving Tips

    Winter Energy-Saving Tips

    It’s about to get cold and snowy outside, but we’ve got some useful tips and suggestions to keep you warm during the winter, and make your home more energy efficient.

    • Seal your windows! Weather stripping around doors and windows can reduce energy needs by up to 25%.
    • Use an energy-efficient portable humidifier during winter months to increase comfort.
    • Let the sun shine in! Keep your curtains and shades open during the day so the sun can naturally warm up your home.
    • Wood-burning fireplaces may look cozy, but they actually pull heat up the chimney and let cold in. Keep the flue shut tight when you’re not relaxing by the fire.
    • LED holiday lights can reduce your electricity use by as much as 75-80% compared to incandescent bulbs, and they last longer.
    • Unplug your household electronics. Keeping them in standby mode waste about 10% of residential electricity load.
    • Using the cold water setting on your washing machine can reduce energy use by as much as 90%. Energy Star washers save water and energy.
    • Clean the burners on your gas stove to improve efficiency and use a medium flame to conserve gas.
    • Using a 6” pot on an 8” burner can waste more than 40% of the burner’s heat. Use the right size pot with the right size burner.
    • Slow cookers are a great way to cook. A typical meal costs an average of 17 cents of energy usage for a family.
    • Need to reheat leftovers? Use the microwave! Microwaves use up to 75% less electricity than stoves.