Each year as fall arrives, we put away our summer patio furniture and close up the pool in preparation for winter. While we can’t predict with great certainty exactly when the blustery weather will arrive, we know it’s not far away. So, as you begin turning on your furnace to take the “chill off,” remember larger home heating bills are also on the way.
You may be worrying that those bills will be higher than last year and that there’s not much you can do about it if they are. Surprisingly, you have more control than you think. Here’s a list of the top ways you can reduce your heating bill this winter:
Sign Up for Fixed Rate Service
Manitoba Hydro is offering a limited number of 1, 3 or 5-year fixed rate service for Primary Natural Gas customers. While your total bill will still fluctuate based on your gas usage, your rate will be locked in for the entire length of your agreement. No more surprising rate hikes during the coldest months of the year when the volume is at its highest.
Enrolment is going on now through December 9th, and if you’re accepted, will be reflected on your February 1, 2017, bill. This will give you more control over your home heating bills and your budget.
Note: Do a little research to see where rates are right now: You’ll be locked in, and if the gas rates were to go down, you would not benefit from the drop. If you find that current rates are already low, and you feel they may go up soon, lock in.
Reduce Heat Loss
You wouldn’t leave your windows open in the winter when your heat is on, but if you don’t seal up gaps where air leakage occurs, you’re basically doing the same thing. Seal, caulk, and weather-strip these common problem areas:
- Windows and doors—caulk gaps around exterior windows, add weatherstripping and a door sweep to exterior doors. Very drafty windows can also be sealed with clear polyethylene film.
- Under baseboards—air often leaks through the basement header space.
- Electrical outlets—pull covers off and add insulation to any open area around the box.
- Exterior gaps—caulk around or seal up around pipes, wiring, dryer vents, fans, and cables.
- Exhaust fans—turn off kitchen and bath fans right after use. You can also install a timer on your bathroom fan to reduce the amount of heat lost out your roof.
- Wood fireplace—keep your flue damper and doors closed when not in use.
With a goal of reducing your home heating bills this winter, you’ll want to concentrate on improving the efficiency of products and equipment throughout your home. As an extra incentive, Manitoba Hydro’s Power Smart Home Insulation Program provides rebates and low-cost improvement loans for insulation and equipment upgrades.
- Insulation ranks at the top of the list as one of the simplest and most cost-effective methods to reduce your home heating bills.
- To achieve an R-value of 24, add 4 inches of spray foam to un-insulated areas such as your basement and improve efficiency by as much as 25 percent.
- Increase insulation in your attic to reduce heating bills by 10 percent or more. Insulation settles between ceiling joists and allows air to escape through gaps in the attic floor. To keep the main living space warm and comfortable, seal gaps around ducts, lights and fans, and use loose fill insulation to reach the optimum value of R-50.
- Purchase a programmable thermostat to automatically adjust the temperature inside your home when you’re not home or at night while you’re sleeping. Over an 8-hour period, for every 8°C, you lower the normal setting, you’ll reduce natural gas consumption by 1 percent.
- Consider upgrading your old furnace with a high-efficient model. Older, conventional furnaces were typically about 60 percent efficient. There are several types of heating systems used in Manitoba that significantly more cost-effective including natural gas, electric, geothermal, propane, oil, and wood. If this fuel source is available in your area, natural gas, high-efficiency furnaces can achieve a 92 percent efficiency rating and are very effective in saving energy and money. Consult the Manitoba Hydro website for eligibility requirements for earning equipment rebates.
Windows and Doors
While you may have only considered replacing your windows and doors to improve your home’s curb appeal or add value for a future sale, you should also consider it as a way to reduce your home heating bills this winter.
Energy efficient windows are available in a variety of styles, shapes, sizes, and utilize different technologies:
- Double and triple pane windows—provide high insulation value to reduce condensation and improve comfort.
- LoE coated glass—blocks heat loss and harmful UV rays while allowing warming sunlight inside.
- Argon and Krypton gas—achieves best results when combined with triple pane technology. Reduces heat conductivity, heat loss, condensation and saves energy.
- Glass spacers—used to separate, seal and insulate the layers of glass to reduce cold transfer.
A new exterior door can also provide energy- and money-saving features. There are hundreds of styles available but fibreglass, wood and steel are the best material options. Consider these factors before selecting a door:
- Meets Energy Star® qualifications for energy efficiency.
- Is NFRC certified to reduce energy costs and protect the environment.
- Has high insulating R-Value (thermal resistance.) The higher the number, the higher the efficiency rating.
Use Sun Power
Solar energy could be the most efficient means of heating your home if you invest in new technology. Manitoba Hydro’s Solar Energy Program is helping residential customers reduce their home heating bills by using renewable energy sources such as solar power. With lower equipment costs and over 2,300 hours of sunshine recorded annually, now is the perfect time for Winnipeg’s residents to make the switch to solar.
Incentives are available throughout the province for installing solar photovoltaic cells (PV) that convert sunlight into electricity, solar thermal systems that utilize passive and active methods to directly produce heat from sunlight, and concentrated solar thermal systems (CSP) that converts solar radiation into electricity. The goal of the program is to encourage homeowners to reduce their environmental footprint by using renewable energy sources and ultimately provide electrical power back to the grid.
Don’t let high winter electricity bills sneak up on you. By taking a proactive approach and implementing some of these cost-saving strategies now, you’ll be back in charge of your own expenses. With all the extra money you’ll have each month, you might actually be able to enjoy some fun winter activities this year.
Guest Post by Serge Bojinski
Blogger & contributor. Home improvement enthusiast. Editor & writer behind RenoHood.com. Half marathon runner. Dreamer and doer. You can connect with him on Twitter @SBojinski