Canadians know how to keep cosy in the cold

Nina Winham

Sub-zero temperatures. Snow. Yes, we’re getting a taste of real Canadian winter this year.

And we can take it. Our southern neighbours may flinch at the frost, but in Canada we know how to embrace the crisp challenge of our coldest season. We’re tough, we’re savvy, we know how to “do” winter up here in the Great White North. Right?
Okay, perhaps the cold has got you down and you’re not feeling intrepid at the thought of more. So we’ve collected a few tips for making the most of winter (and saving some power while you do). Here’s to Canadian pride.

Sexy sweaters, snuggly slippers

  • Turn down your thermostat during the day

With today’s tightly sealed (newer) houses, it’s true that you can cavort in just a T-shirt indoors when it’s frigid outside. But you’ll pay the price in heating bills. And where’s the fun in celebrating the arrival of summer if you’ve been wearing that Hawaiian shirt all year long?

Instead of cranking up the thermostat when you’re feeling chilly, pull out your coziest Canadian sweater and some cuddly slippers (try these at, made right here in B.C.). Turning the heat down  just two degrees can reduce your home heating costs by 5%. Make sure everyone in the family has a pair of slippers and an “indoor” sweater that they love, and you’re on your way to good northern style.

Snuggle with a loved one

  • Turn your thermostat down at night

It was Pierre Berton who said a true Canadian is someone who knows how to make love in a canoe without tipping. Well, canoes aren’t really a Power Smart specialty, so instead we’ll suggest that in winter time, true Canadians enjoy a good snuggle when the heat is turned down at night.

If you set back the temperature by five degrees for eight hours of every night, you’ll save approximately 10% on your heating bill. Install a programmable thermostat  to help you remember – over time it will pay for itself, and you can set the timer so the house is warm when you get up.

For even bigger savings, remember to set back the temperature when you’re away from home in the day. You can save energy, help the environment, and with a programmable thermostat, still return to a warm home.

Light a fire

  • Make sure your fireplace is efficient

It’s a primal appeal, that draw to the flickering flames and inviting warmth of a fire. But make sure your fireplace is as efficient as possible, or you may be robbing your home of heat.

An open fireplace will actually suck warm air up the chimney and pull cold air into your home through any unsealed gaps or openings around windows and doors. While you sit by the fire, your heating system has to work harder and longer just to maintain the temperature.

Check Hydro’s Power Smart guide to fireplace efficiency  to make sure your fireplace is helping heat your home, not cool it, and for tips about maintenance and best choices for upgrading. Then, light the fire and chase the winter away! (Don’t forget the hot chocolate.)

Hold a games night

  • Turn off the TV, computer and video games

Even better than a fire on a chilly night can be the warmth generated by gathering friends and family spending time together. For generations, people in cold, dark climates made it through winter by making their own entertainment, and building community at the same time. Now, we’re used to electronic toys – often enjoyed solo.

Try a weekly games night instead – when everything electronic is switched off and shared fun is the focus. (Did you know that turning off one TV, one video game console, and one computer for four hours a day could save more than $40 a year in energy costs?) Rejuvenate your rummy game. Better your bridge.  Or pull out the board games. See? It’s warming up already.

Upgrade your long johns and undertake adventure

  • Turn off lights when you leave the house

You can hide from the winter. Or you can dive in and enjoy it. Bundle up and go for a walk or get out to enjoy your favourite winter activity. A good Canadian has to take pride in being able to brave the elements, after all. And here’s a tip: did you know you can get long underwear made of silk or merino wool? Definitely a cut above that old-fangled long johns!

Just remember to set your thermostat down a few degrees when you leave the house (it will warm up quickly when you return) and turn off all lights to save energy. (If everyone in B.C. turned off one light bulb for four hours a day, the energy saved could power Whistler for 12 years).

If all else fails, get your gun (caulking gun, that is)

Draftproof your home

If the chilly air is really getting to you, put a stop to it once and for all by draftproofing your home.  Wherever you feel cold air coming in around a window or door, you have a leak – and that means warm air, and your heating dollars, are escaping through the same gap.

Sealing gaps and cracks with caulking and weather stripping can reduce heat loss by 5-10%, making it one of the most cost-effective steps you can take to keep the heat inside your home. If you don’t tackle the drafts, you may find yourself reaching for the thermostat – but this can actually make the drafts worse as the temperature difference between inside and out increases.

Get the right product for the job, use a smoking incense stick to identify leaks and take aim at winter with a good shot of caulk.

Last but not least…

Don’t forget to be ready  for winter power outages. And in keeping with the theme of taking winter in stride, make sure you have some fuel for your grill. Because what flaunts Canadian winter spirit better than a barbecue in the snow? Dinner by candlelight, anyone?

Nina Winham is a Vancouver-based freelance journalist and key contributor to BC Hydro Power Smart's Green Guides. She wrote last month on efficient, tasty cooking during the holiday season.

The views and recommendations in this piece are those of the writer’s and not necessarily those of BC Hydro Power Smart.

Source: BC Hydro News