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For Canadians, heating our homes and workplaces is a basic need in winter. We also heat water on a daily basis. For the average person, using heat is the second highest source of greenhouse gasses that cause climate change. Here are some tips to get you started with green heating. To understand more about why this is the second highest prioirty, see our How To Go Green - Heating page.

Impact

Solution

Lifestyle Change

Health

Financial

Large

Have an Energy Audit

One-Time

-

$

Large

Install a Programmable Thermostat

One-Time

-

$

Large

Improve Furnace Efficiency

One-Time

-

-

Large

Understand Heat Sources for New Construction

One-Time

-

$

Large

Upgrading Insulation

One-Time

-

-

Large

Seal Out the Cold

One-Time

-

-

Large

Upgrading Windows

One-Time

-

$

Medium

Understand Water Heating Options

One-Time

-

$

Medium

Free Heat - Passive Solar

Habit

-

$

Small

Turn Off Heat In Summer

Habit

-

$

Small

Cooler Roof

One-Time

-

$

Small

Plant Some Trees

One-Time

-

$

Small

Install Ceiling Fans

One-Time

-

-

Small

Maintain Your Heating Appliances

Habit

-

-

Small

Insulate Hot Water Pipes

One-Time

-

$

Small

Take Showers

Habit

-

$

Small

Wash Cloths in Cold Water

Habit

-

$

Have an Energy Audit

For buildings more than 25 years old, an energy audit & improvement typically yield a 20-35% reduction in energy use. There used to be Federal government grants available to aid in funding the improvements, but they have since been discontinued. Check with your provincial (or state) government for grants or tax breaks.

Install a Programmable Thermostat

For every 1 degree Celsius (2F) you lower your thermostat, you save 2% of energy use. Reducing the room temperature in the evening and when the building is vacant can have a large impact on your heating costs. A programmable thermostat allows you to determine when your heating system can reduce temperature. There are many options available, some include several time periods per day, for each day of the week. There are also a few electricity utilities will even give you a free programmable thermostat if you sign up for an energy demand program. Check with your local utility. For the ultimate efficiency, try a learning thermostat like Nest.

Improve Furnace Efficiency

If you can upgrade your furnace, Install an energy-efficient furnace. It can save you up to 25% of your home heating costs, and depending on your existing furnace, could pay for the higher initial cost in about seven years.

Understand Heat Sources for New Construction

There are a number of heat sources available that have a much lower impact on the environment than gas, oil, or electricity. The most basic form of heating using nature is allowing sunlight through windows to act like a greenhouse. A house that is oriented to face South with properly designed window sizes and roof overhangs (for shade in the summer) requires less heating than a home that is not designed to take advantage of passive solar heating. Geothermal heating is another option where a network of pipes are buried in the ground to extract the constant temperature found below ground. It can be used for both heating and cooling. Another option is radiant floor heating augmented with solar panels to provide some of the heat. While these could be installed in an existing home, it is less costly when installed while a home is being constructed versus an existing home.

Upgrading Insulation

Upgrade insulation in the walls, basement, and attic. In an older home, insulating your basement walls and attic can reduce your energy bill by as much as 25%.

Seal Out the Cold

Reduce the heat lost from your home or workplace by getting rid of drafts around windows, doors, baseboards, and outside wall openings. This could save you up to 15% of your heating costs. Use caulking, expanding foam, and weather stripping to seal air leaks. Seal electrical outlets and switches on outside walls with foam gaskets. If you have a window air conditioner, remove it for the winter or seal it so it is air tight.

Upgrading Windows

Windows can account for a large part of heat loss in a building. For example, a newly built home likely has walls insulated with an R27 insulation, and the roof insulated with R50 insulation (insulation is measured by the resistance to heat or cold, also known as the R-value). In general, a window is only R2. Look for ENERGY STAR label on windows, which identify energy-efficient products. Visit www.energystar.gc.ca for more information.

Understand Water Heating Options

Consider your options before replacing your existing hot water system. An on demand water heater system provides hot water only when needed, but doesn`t use energy to keep water hot in a tank. These systems have been used extensively in Europe and can save up to 30% in energy costs. Solar water heater systems are a great green heating source that pre-heat water for the existing hot water system, therefore reducing the energy needs by an average of 50% over the four seasons. Read about our interview with a solar water heating installer.

Free Heat - Passive Solar

In the winter time, the sun can provide some help heating your home or workplace. It's as simple as opening the blinds to let all the sunshine in. This is referred to as passive solar energy, a great form of green heating. Depending on number of windows on the south side of the building, this can save you up to 5% on heating. Remember though to keep the blinds closed at night, to help keep the heat in.

Turn Off Heat Sources In Summer

Shut off the pilot light in your furnace and fireplace in the summer.

Cooler Roof

A roof can heat up a house in the summer by filling the attic with hot air, which increases the demand for air conditioning. The lighter the colour of roofing, the less the roof heat up. You can replace your roof with a roofing material that reflects more energy. For example, a white roof absorbs less energy than a black roof. Look for a product with a low solar reflectance (known as SR) as rated by the Cool Roof Rating Council Standard. You can refer to a professional contractor like Orlando Group Roofing for advice on what's best for your home.

Plant Some Trees

Plant evergreen trees on the north side of buildings to act as a wind break. Wind can rob a structure of heat, therefore using the natural protection of trees is an excellent way to help retain the heat in our homes and workplaces.

Install Ceiling Fans

Install ceiling fans to circulate heat in cathedral ceilings or high ceilings. Heat naturally rises, therefore circulating the air from the ceiling to the floor will help keep the lower portions of the room warmer.

Maintain Your Heating Appliances

Periodically clean and service your heating system to maintain its efficiency. If your water heater has a tank, drain a bucket of water out of the bottom of the tank once or twice a year to remove sediment, which will help maintain its efficiency. In addition, you can insulate the tank with a hot water insulation kit to help improve the efficiency and help you to go green.

Insulate Hot Water Pipes

Insulating the first 10-15 feet of hot water pipes coming from your hot water heater will save you money as the water in the pipes stays hot. This is a simple project that will generally cost less than $5.00.

Take Showers

For the average person, taking a shower rather than a bath uses about half as much hot water. To improve hot water conservation, install a low-flow showerhead. Don't be fooled if you tried one of these several years ago. Newer showerheads use advanced technology to add air to the water, making the water volume feel similar to a traditional showerhead.

Wash Cloths in Cold Water

Washing your clothes in cold water saves energy required to heat the water. It's easy to go green now that there are many laundry detergents available specifically for use with cold water.

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