With winter heading our way, the days are getting colder, darkness arrives earlier, and our hydro bills can increase over the season as we keep our homes warm and comfortable.

According to Hydro Ottawa, heating our homes accounts for up to 60 per cent of the typical family’s energy use. So it makes sense to do as much as you can to keep those bills under control.

To help reduce your energy consumption at this chilly time of year, Ottawa Hydro offers its customers some good tips on its website.

Here are a few simple things you can do to keep your home comfortable while also reducing your energy use:

Regular Maintenance of Your Furnace

Hydro Ottawa recommends having your furnace inspected and serviced once a year by a licensed professional to ensure the furnace is operating at peak efficiency.  This can help improve the unit’s efficiency by up to 20 per cent.

Proper maintenance also includes checking your furnace’s filter once a month.  Replace or clean the filter if it’s dirty, or as often as recommended by the manufacturer.

Install a Programmable Thermostat

You can reduce your heating expenses by up to 10 per cent if you install a programmable thermostat. It’s recommended you set the thermostat to 20 degrees C when you’re home during the day, and reducing it to 17 degrees overnight or when you are out of the house.

Install the thermostat in an area where there are no drafts, and do not place it near a heat source, such as a fireplace, which can throw off the temperature monitor.

Consider a Ceiling Fan

A ceiling fan can help with temperature control in summer and winter. In the winter, set the fan to run clockwise. This will cause the warm air near the ceiling to flow downwards and help keep the room comfortable.

Electric Baseboard Heaters

If you have electric baseboard heaters, Hydro Ottawa recommends installing programmable thermostats for them, especially in your main rooms. These thermostats are more accurate than manual thermostats and do a better job of maintaining the room temperature you want.

Keep any heavy or large pieces of furniture away from the baseboard heaters, to avoid blocking the warm air.

To help the baseboard heaters to supply maximum heat, vacuum the dust from them as thoroughly as possible, at least once a year. A good time to do so is in the fall, before the heating season begins.

If you have curtains above the heaters, make sure the bottom of the curtains is at least 10 cm (4 inches) above the top of the heaters.

Fireplaces

If you have a traditional wood-burning fireplace, install a cover or door to help prevent the loss of warm air up the chimney. Having your chimney and fireplace regularly cleaned and inspected can also help prevent heat loss.

Water Heaters

If you have an older water heater, Hydro Ottawa says an insulation blanket can reduce your energy loss by up to 40 per cent.

Weather Stripping and Caulking

Hydro Ottawa recommends running your hands around door frames and window frames to feel for cool drafts. Even narrow gaps can lead to heat loss. Install weather stripping around your doors and windows. Consider adding caulking to stop leaks around your window frames and around pipes or vents.

Window Curtains

On warmer winter days and when sunlight is pouring through the windows, open curtains to allow the sun to help warm up a room. On colder days and at night, keep the drapery closed to help keep out cool air. Windows can account for up to 25 per cent of a house’s heat loss, so don’t leave windows bare.

Attic Insulation

If your upper floors feel cold and drafty in the winter or hot in the summer, or if you notice icicles hanging from your roof, it could be a sign that you could benefit from additional insulation in your attic.

Hydro Ottawa says that of all the areas of your home, the attic is usually the most cost-effective area to add insulation. Because upgraded insulation will help your home feel warmer in winter and cooler in summer, it can help reduce your energy use by between 20 and 60 %.

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You can have a look at my site, at www.nancybenson.com, where you can read about me, see my current listings and read testimonials from clients. Feel free to give me a call, at 613-747-4747.

For more ideas on saving energy year-round, click on the “Save Energy” tab on Hydro Ottawa’s website, at www.hydroottawa.com