As the mercury continues to drop, families across the GTA begin to haul the heavy coats, mitts, toques and scarves out of storage. Preparing our bodies for the harsh Canadian is always a tedious task and a sad reminder of the cold months that lay ahead.
Just like our bodies, our houses need special attention during cold winter months. We all know that heating costs go up this time of year; however, there are steps we can take to save money as well as make our homes more energy efficient. Toronto Property Managers and Landlords, in particular, are faced with challenges, as we might have multiple properties to care for as well as tenants that need to comply with our energy saving initiative.
Some ways to save on energy costs in the winter are simple and require minor changes to habits while others may involve the purchase and installation of energy efficient units.
In Toronto, heating can account for up to 60 per cent of your electricity bill.
The following tips can help save you a lot of money, while not compromising the comfort level in your home.
- Replace your old thermostat with a programmable one to manage your heating automatically. Energy savings will quickly pay for the cost of the thermostat in the first year.
- When we’re sleeping or not home, a lot of energy goes into heating rooms that are not occupied. By setting the thermostat to 18°C when you’re asleep and –20°C when you’re not home, you can reduce heating costs by up to 10 per cent.
- How long have you had your furnace? Take a look at the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating. The higher the rating, the more efficient the model. If it’s not up to snuff, replace it. You can receive a $250 credit from the Save ONenergy HEATING & COOLING INCENTIVE.
- Once you have an efficient furnace, make sure to maintain it properly. Furnaces that are well-maintained run at full efficiency take less energy to run and can save you heaps on your energy bill. Clean or replace the filter monthly and have it serviced by a licenced HVAC professional once a year.
- Draft space? Air leakage can account for as much as 25 per cent of your total heating costs. By caulking and weatherstripping windows, doors, dryers and other vents, you can decrease air leakage significantly. Even little things like installing insulated plates on electrical outlets can make a big difference.
- Up to 25 per cent of heat loss is through windows. Older houses were with single pane windows, which are ineffective in keeping the warmth in and the cold out. As a temporary solution, plastic window covers can help reduce drafts and can be purchased at most hardware stores. You can replace the windows altogether with Low-E double paned windows. These windows contain argon gas between the panes which acts as a great insulator in both the winter and summer months. Although they can be pricey, they’re worth the investment in the long run.
- Don’t waste heat. Close doors and shut off heat registers when you’re not in the room.
- When you turn on your furnace, do not switch your thermostat to a hotter setting than you need. It will not heat the room any faster.
Increase the amount of insulation in your home to keep it warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. The attic and basement represent as much as 15 – 30 per cent of your home’s overall heating and cooling losses. Make sure you add attic vents so hot air can escape.
- Let the sun shine in. During the day, keep your curtains open to heat your home naturally.
Whether you’re looking to cut costs in your home or rental property, sharing the vision with your family or tenants can be helpful. Setting habits that fall into your kids daily routine can be fun and will give them a sense of responsibility. As for your tenants, engage in conversation with them through letters, emails, or direct calls. Be sure to ask for their feedback as this will build a stronger relationship with your tenants, and will allow for higher buy-ins in future initiatives.
With energy costs on the rise, several Canadian homeowners are looking more cost effective methods to heat and cool their homes. Heat pumps use compressors to transfer heat from one space to another. During the cooler months, they warm your home by drawing heat from the outside environment indoors and in the warmer months, they cool your home by pushing the warm air from the inside environment out. Because heat pumps work by transferring heat instead of generating it, they are an energy efficient alternative to furnaces air conditioners, and operate at a fraction of the cost of conventional HVAC appliances.
Source: Natural Resources Canada, 2014
In cities where seasons go from one extreme to another, heat pumps offer a multitude of benefits. The majority of condominiums in Toronto use electric heating systems. Because heat pumps can reduce the amount of electricity for heating by as much as 30% to 50%, they are possibly the best HVAC option terms of energy efficiency and ease of comfort. In fact, many newer condos come equipped with heat pumps, as they create comfortable environments by maintaining a regulated temperature within the unit throughout the year while minimizing the building’s overall carbon footprint.
Whether you’re a homeowner who is looking for more cost effective ways to heat or cool your home, or a property manager of a rental or a condominium corporation, you can take control of electricity costs by upgrading your building’s HVAC equipment, learning about when and how to use electricity (peak times of the day), and streamlining operating processes.
There are programs available through the Government of Canada that benefit both homeowners and property managers by offering financial incentives for energy efficient projects. These can be used with all types and sizes of electricity saving projects including lighting system upgrades, installing new equipment controls for further savings. They can also assist you with training tools and resources for tenants. By taking control of your electricity use, owners and property managers can:
- reduce electricity consumption
- manage when and how to use electricity
- increase property and resale values
- reduce greenhouse-gas emissions
- reduce operation costs while keeping tenants happy and comfortable
To find out more information on heat pumps and their benefits, consult a government certified Red Seal HVAC technician, or visit the Government of Canada Natural Resources website.
Contrary to what our weather might suggest, spring is only three weeks away. While many of us prepare our spring-cleaning checklist, we tend to overlook our home’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system.
An HVAC system plays a vital role in indoor air quality and essentially, our health. As Canadians, we spend the majority of the winter indoors and can generate a great deal of air pollutants just by occupying our home. Furnace filters can prevent contaminants such as dust, pet hair, dander, and chemicals from entering the ducts and circulating back into our living space. Over time, these contaminants build up, which not only reduces the filter’s effectiveness, but also forces the heating system to work harder to warm your home.
Changing furnace filters regularly can significantly reduce the amount of harmful VOCs, mold and allergens that get released into our homes. In addition to the health benefits, there are financial benefits that come with the regular replacement of filters.
Here are just three examples of how a clean furnace filter can save you money:
- Clean filters allow air to flow through the ducts of your HVAC system efficiently. Over time, debris accumulates on the filters and in the ducts, which reduces airflow. To compensate, your system must run longer to heat or cool your home, resulting in high utility bills.
- By regularly changing your filters, you reduce the risk of an overheated furnace, which can lead to system damage and costly repairs.
- Air filters can cost anywhere from $15–$30 and take minutes to replace. New furnaces on the other hand, are a bit on the pricey side—ranging from $5,000–$10,000 with installation.
- If you are planning on changing your furnace filter yourself, take down its measurements before you head to the store—this will save you time and stress.
- Another good idea is to keep track of the date you change the filter. Generally, filters should be changed every 60 days, but this can vary depending on your lifestyle.