Power Smart tips to keep you warm this winter

Image of BC Hydro rep, Bailey Bouwmen
Bailey Bouwman, a BC Hydro Outreach rep who spreads the conservation word in northern B.C., offers a variety of tips, from how to save big on heating your home to how to remain comfortable when the heat is turned down.

Managing home heating costs during cold weather can help you manage your bill

Posted by Bailey Bouwman

For many British Columbians, snow will soon be falling as the seasons fade from autumn to winter. Our wardrobes change with the seasons, and so does our energy bill as we turn up furnaces and baseboard heaters to fight off the winter chill.

But dealing with rising heating costs can be just as easy as switching your summer clothes for winter clothes. With a few do-it-yourself projects, and some easy behavioural changes, you can easily keep your winter heating costs in check.

Use your thermostat wisely

Whether you have electric baseboard heaters or a furnace, keeping your thermostat under control helps you get the most out of your home heating system, while keeping your heating bill down. It may seem easy to crank the thermostat to 27 degrees and hold onto our summer clothes, but choosing a lower temperature can result in big energy savings.

Most people are comfortable with the following temperatures at home:

  • 20°C (68°F) while doing housework, and moving around your house.
  • 21°C (70°F) C while staying stationary when reading or watching TV.
  • 16°C (61°F) while sleeping.

Find the temperature that's most comfortable for you, but remember that every degree above 20 degrees can increase your household heating costs by 5 per cent.

Turning the thermostat down sounds easy, but the temptation to crank the heat and warm the room can be hard to resist.

Before you turn the thermostat up, remember that it takes the same amount of time for the room to increase to 20°C whether you set the thermostat to 20°C or 30°C. Your thermostat doesn't tell the furnace or electric baseboard heaters how fast to heat your home, only when to stop.

Don't be hesitant to turn the heat down while you're away. With no one home, there's no reason to keep the house at 20 degrees. Instead, dial down to 16°C. If you have electric baseboard heaters, do the same with each unoccupied room.

See more tips for managing your baseboard heaters.

How high is your heat while you're out of the house?

Reducing the temperature while away can result in saving up upwards of 10 per cent off your heating costs.

Don't try to keep the temperature lower than 16 degrees, or you can risk freezing your pipes.

The best way to keep a comfortable temperature for when you arrive home or when you wake up is to install a programmable thermostat. You'll get the comfort and energy savings without making your furnace work any harder. Remember to set it for the times you are regularly asleep or away from home.

Beat the chill with simple changes

These small changes can help you warm up without increasing your heating costs:

  • Put on a sweater or socks, and if you're watching TV or reading a book, opt for a cozy blanket or shawl.
  • Manage cold feet by pulling on some socks or adding some warmth to your house with rugs for hardwood or tile floors. By keeping your feet warm, you can cut the temptation to turn up the heat.
  • Set ceiling fans to turn in a clockwise direction at low speed. This will force the warm air down into the room.
  • If the oven's on, turn the thermostat down. Ovens produce a significant amount of excess heat and can easily warm your house by several degrees. When finished, take advantage of a hot oven and leave the door open or ajar to warm the house (beware of small children and pets, and keep the door closed if this will cause a safety concern).

Use windows and heaters efficiently to prevent big bills

Use your windows to your advantage. Although windows can attribute up to 30 per cent of your home's heat loss, they can also be used to warm up your house.

On sunny days, if you have south facing windows, open the curtains or blinds. This will allow the sun to heat your home.

Keep window coverings closed at night and during cold dreary days to create a barricade between the cold air outside, and the warm air inside.

Window film provides a temporary and inexpensive means of keeping the cold air out and the hot air in by forming an insulating air space between the film and the window. Window film can be purchased in a variety of sizes and shapes to ensure every window and patio door is covered. Don't worry — window film is clear, and won't compromise style. And it's easily removed for the summer season.

If you have a furnace or electric baseboard heaters that don't distribute heat to every part of your home, portable electric space heaters can provide comfort and convenience. But most models use a lot of electricity, so they're best only used on occasion to supplement your home heating.

Use them in small enclosed spaces that need a little extra heat, and only when the room is occupied and the door is closed.

Plug them into a power strip (along with other electronics) with an occupancy sensor to ensure they are only on when the room is occupied.

Take care and ensure that your space heater is used safely:

  • Keep it away from other household items such as blankets, pillows and rugs.
  • Use the heater on a hard, flame-resistant surface.
  • Don't leave portable heaters unattended.
  • Remember to turn it off before falling asleep.

Bailey Bouwman is Community Outreach representative with BC Hydro who educates customers in northern B.C. about ways to save energy and money.