A survey conducted by Environics Research found that 78% of Canadians are looking for ways to boost energy efficiency in their homes. As the temperatures plummet in winter, home heating costs can rise. Here are a few ways to stay nice and cozy with your home, energy bill and environmental footprint:
Winterizing your home on the outside
It may seem counterintuitive that what’s going outside of your home affects what happens with your energy efficiency inside your home, but little things on the outside can make a big difference to managing indoor comfort and energy costs.
Check the frames around exterior windows and doors (including your garage door). If you see cracks or gaps, seal them up with acrylic, latex or rubber caulking (avoid fast drying varieties for outside) or weather stripping (standard or tape format).
If you have storm windows, change the screens. And if you have siding on your home, check to see if it’s in good condition with no cracks or gaps. Any small leaks will cause you to lose heat from your home. These little leaks will make your furnace work harder and drive up your winter heating bill.
One more place to check — your gutters or eavestrough as we like to call it in Canada. Leaves, dirt and debris from shingles can clog gutters. In winter this can lead to ice jams that have the potential to damage your roof. Not only is this an expensive repair, a gap in your roof can also be a heat leak.
Home energy savings tips for inside
Inside your home, check the windows and doors for gaps, using caulking or weatherstripping to fill any spaces you find. If you have a drafty window, install blinds or heavy curtains. Conversely, take advantage of direct sunlight to get an energy and mood boost from Mother Nature.
Ideal indoor temperatures for Canadian homes in the winter
Another way to save money on home heating during the winter is to set your thermostat to the ideal temperature. If you’re home during the day, the ideal temperature is 20 to 22°C. When you’re away or asleep, the ideal range is 17 to 19°F.
If you can hack it, put on a sweater and turn down the heat another degree or two during the day. Every degree you can lower the heat during the day or night will help you lower your home heating costs.
A digital or smart thermostat also lets you set daytime and nighttime programs to control the temperature in your home.
More ways to boost the energy efficiency of your furnace
Before winter’s freezing temperatures arrive to stay, schedule a winter check-up for your furnace. This will ensure that your furnace won’t fail during when the mercury drops and that your furnace is working at peak performance. Changing your filter on a regular basis also helps maintain the efficiency of your furnace.
If you’re planning to replace your furnace, newer furnaces are more energy efficient. Furnace efficiency is measured by something called Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE). The higher the AFUE, the more efficient the furnace. Furnaces with an AFUE rating of 95% or higher are considered Energy Star certified.
Advanced features, like variable speed and multi-stage blower motors also boost energy efficiency.
Warm up to saving energy
While winter’s already begun, there’s still time to have your furnace serviced or find out more about replacing an older furnace. Contact Afterglow for your winterizing needs! You can count on us for honest, professional service to keep your home comfortable and a low-pressure sales team to answer all your questions. For service emergencies, call 519-747-7732 for a guaranteed response time of four hours or less.
Lights, gatherings, celebrations — the holidays bring a lot of joy and a lot of preparation and planning. Here are a few simple home safety tips you can use so that you can spend more time in the moment and avoid crisis mode altogether.
1. Keep it Light
Regardless of how you celebrate if you’ve got indoor or outdoor holiday lights, one of the main holiday safety tips to follow is to make sure that all the wiring is in good condition. Watch for frayed cords or broken connections. Replacing a broken string of lights is much more cost effective than the alternative of replacing your home and contents.
When purchasing lights or any electrical products for your home, look for the following symbols. Below is a list of the symbols used in Ontario, courtesy of the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA).
2. Maintain an Air of Comfort
With the furnace running and the windows closed, conversations aren’t the only things that can get a little dry. This is why maintaining indoor air quality and proper humidity levels are so important during the holidays and throughout the winter heating season.
Ideal home humidity levels in winter are 30-40% at 19-23°C. Air that’s too dry can irritate nasal passages and worsen dry skin. In addition to physical discomfort, overly dry indoor air can also dry out woodwork and hardwood floors, cause your fresh tree to get parched more easily and damage sensitive musical instruments and electronics.
Note: If you see condensation on your windows, this is a sign that your humidity is too high and need to be lowered. As a benchmark, humidity levels shouldn’t be any higher than 45%.
3. Avoid Shocking Situations
During the holidays, the only electricity in the air should be the anticipation of time spent with family and friends. Keep everyone safe in your home by:
- Replacing missing or broken plate covers.
- Using safety covers to protect younger children from exposed outlets.
- Keeping all loose cords out of reach when younger children (especially the orally fixated ones) are about.
- Teaching older children how to use plugs and outlets correctly.
- Using surge protectors for indoor lights and Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) for outdoor lights or if electronics are anywhere near water (think kitchen and bathroom) and don’t overload outlets (no more than three strings of lights at a time)
4. Prevent Slip-ups
Treat icy porches, steps, and walkways with de-icer. If you want to avoid the heavy use of salt and chemicals, there are many eco-friendly options now on the market. In a pinch, you can also use cat litter or sandbox sand.
Inside your home wipe up any spills or inadvertently placed wet footprints. Be mindful of hard surfaces like tile and hardwood floors that can be more slippery when wet. (Yes, the Bon Jovi reference is deliberate.)
5. Stay On-Point
Poinsettias add a festive pop of red or white. However, they also have a bit of a bad reputation in terms of holiday safety. The truth is while they can cause a child or pet to be sick from sampling these savories, a 50-pound child or pet would have to eat more than 500 leaves to reach toxic levels. In other words, there’s no need to skip the poinsettias — just keep an eye on them when children or pets are in the mix.
Bonus Tip: Don’t let pets drink from the Christmas tree water. Tree preservatives contain compounds and chemicals that can cause an upset tummy.
Stay safe and cozy this holiday season. There’s still time to schedule routine service check of your furnace to ensure you’re not feeling any unwanted chills. Of course, emergency service is also available for any holiday surprises. Want to learn more about home humidity levels? We can help you with that too. All you have to do is contact Afterglow.
As winter approaches, it’s important to not only prepare yourself for the cold weather but your home as well. If your home is not properly winterized, it will leak both warm air and money. Here are some helpful tips to avoid winter complications!
Run Fans In Reverse
Many ceiling fans come with a switch allowing the blades to reverse their direction. By switching the blades from counterclockwise to clockwise, the breeze becomes warmer which helps heat your home! This small but effective tip is often overlooked yet it can make a difference in your home (and bills) over the winter months.
Air leakage is very common in homes and cool drafts can increase the cost of heating your home. According to Union Gas, 30-40% of heat loss is due to air leakage. Here are some effective ways to protect your home from air leakage:
- Add draft snakes along the bottom of drafty doors to eliminate breezes that sweep under doorways.
- Install plastic window seals to stop drafts. These kits can be found anywhere, including the dollar store and require little to no labour.
- Caulk gaps to effectively seal off air leakage for a more permanent solution.
- Install storm windows and doors to stop the cold winter winds. Government incentives are often available if you choose to install storm windows and doors.
Change Furnace Filters
It’s important to remember to change your furnace filter every 2-3 months (depending on your model) in order to ensure your furnace runs effectively and efficiently.
Permanent filters are also a great, environmentally friendly option that will save you the trouble of having to remember to change your filters as often. Remember that you can always call on Afterglow for help getting your furnace ready for the wintry days ahead.
Trim Back Your Trees
The arrival of changing temperatures and winter storms can often mean trees get a heavy coating of ice which can cause breakage. It’s crucial to trim back the branches near your driveway, roof or windows to avoid the risk of damage or injury.
Clean Your Gutters
Clogged gutters can cause water to pool and freeze creating ice dams, jamming the flow of water. This can cause damage not only to your gutters, but also cause leaks inside your home. When your gutters are clogged, the melted snow from the roof pools up, eventually seeping into the house. To prevent this issue, make sure all leaves and other debris are cleared from the gutter before winter.
You can prepare your home for winter by ensuring each of these areas receives attention before it develops into a larger problem. But if you are worried about whether your HVAC is prepped for winter, contact us to check that your major systems are ready.
Buying a house can be stressful. With so many things to consider, it’s hard to know what to prioritize. Aesthetics are important, but don’t let the look of your prospective home overshadow the more vital structural elements. Faulty or outdated electrical components can quickly turn your new home into a headache as you try and bring it up to code and make it safe.
Do you know what to look for when prospecting? Here is a handy list of the top 5 HVAC-related things to look for when buying a home.
The electrical panel is one of the most integral parts of the home. It’s important to thoroughly check the electrical panel before buying a home to avoid paying thousands of dollars in unexpected costs.
Many older homes have undersized electrical panels, meaning that the number of amps is too low to accommodate modern demands. The electrical current should be between 100-200 amps in order to heat the home properly and for a home to be considered safe.
Make sure to inspect inside the electrical panel as well before taking the leap into home ownership. It’s a key safety feature when it comes to the electrical current running through your home, so you want to be sure it’s up to the job. Newer homes generally have a circuit breaker installed, but some older homes may still use a fuse box. A circuit breaker is the preferred option as circuits can be reset if they trip because too much current passes through them. But if a fuse blows in a furnace’s fuse box, the fuse will have to be replaced each time and could leave you without heat at an inopportune time. An outdated or faulty fuse box will need to be replaced before it begins to cause you problems.
Proximity to Hospitals
When it comes to the electricity that is supplied to a house, location is everything. Living in close proximity to a hospital is not just beneficial during a health emergency, it is also helpful in the event of an electrical scare as well. When power outages occur, emergency services such as hospitals are the first to get their power back, followed by surrounding areas. For those of you who desperately rely on power, living close to a hospital can help ensure that you are next in line to get your power restored and your HVAC systems back online.
Ground fault circuit interrupter outlets (GFCI) protect people against electrical shocks produced from an electrical system. These are used where water and high concentrations of electricity are present (primarily kitchens, bathrooms and occasionally outdoors). It is important to ensure these outlets are used in these areas of your home to ensure you and your family are safe. If GFCIs are not properly installed, it may be a good indication that there are other electrical or HVAC violations within the home.
Number of Outlets and Extension Cord Use
Placement of electrical outlets is something to consider when looking to buy a home. Outlets are one of the most overlooked features in a home, yet one of the most important. You may be sketching out your dream floor plan only to realize outlets aren’t properly placed to execute your vision. Skip the headache — remember to look at the location and number of outlets before making an offer. Otherwise, you may end up with extension cords snaking around your home to make things work.
Under no circumstances should you connect extension cords to air conditioner units or heaters with fans! Doing so can easily cause the HVAC units to overheat, leading to a hazardous fire.
You should also take note of whether the outlets are two-pronged or three-pronged. While most homes now have the three-prong outlet needed to power up your many devices and appliances, older homes may still have two-prong outlets. These will need to be upgraded to accommodate increased power requirements.
Wiring is another large component (and potentially expensive upgrade) of any home. If it’s not up to code it is potentially dangerous. Look out for knob-and-tube wiring when prospecting a home. Usually visible within the basement, knob-and-tube wiring runs through porcelain tubes designed to keep the wires secure. You will also notice that unlike today’s plastic insulated wiring, knob-and-tube wiring is insulated with rubber.
This kind of wiring doesn’t have a ground wire, so is often indicated by two-prong outlets throughout the home. Why does grounding matter? It protects your home and everyone in it from surges of electricity, decreasing the risk of experiencing an electrical shock or fire. If the power were to surge at your home for whatever reason, a non-grounded system cannot handle this increase in voltage and may cause harm.
When looking at a potential home, it’s important to keep an eye out for any of the key issues outlined above. If you do encounter one or more of these problem points, see if you can negotiate and come up with a mutually beneficial solution.
Finding a professional inspector to accurately identify any issues present is key! If you would like to know more about electrical safety, visit Electrical Safety Authority. For all other HVAC related issues — or if you’d like to maintain the services in your new home — contact us!
As the calendar begins to transition from the months of summer to fall, weather follows suit. Gone, for the most part, are the hot, clear days. We are left to face colder temperatures and spurts of rain and wind. Sometimes it is nice to have a break from the scorching heat, but what if it’s more than we bargained for? Fall may bring severe changes in weather that can cause damage to our properties and/or HVAC units.
While summer is behind us, we do still see some occasional warm and humid days. During these moments of heat, homeowners are tempted to drastically lower their air conditioner temperatures to escape the less-than-optimal outdoor weather. Doing so can often cause your unit to work harder than it needs to. To avoid unnecessary wear and tear on your air conditioner, raise your thermostat to 78 degrees Fahrenheit to keep you cool.
Our clients often ask us, “should we cover our air-conditioner to protect it from rain?” The answer is no, not really. Air-conditioners are designed and constructed with weather in mind. They are made to withstand rain, hail, and even snow.
Covering them can often cause more damage than having no protection at all. Tarp coverings (especially ones made out of plastic) can cut off air circulation to the unit, causing moisture to form on the underside of the casing. This moisture can rot and rust the metal exterior, wiring components, and even rubber within the air-conditioner. Over time, this will render your unit inoperable. If you wish to cover it, opt for commercially available covers with proper ventilation.
The only time you should really worry about water damaging your AC is during periods of severe flooding. If water levels reach or exceed 15 inches in depth, you should consult a technician before restarting your air conditioner.
Thunderous Power Surges
Thunderstorms can damage your unit in two ways. First, the high winds often associated with storms can send objects like leaves and branches flying into your air conditioner’s condenser fan grille. This blockage can prevent it from running properly. Second, if lightning strikes your air conditioner, power surges often incur.
To complicate matters, the severity of those surges is not often seen right away. You may not know your unit has been struck! But over the course of a few months, homeowners begin to notice that their air conditioner is not working as well as it was before.
The most common cause of air conditioner damage after a lightning strike is damage to the capacitor. If not taken care of immediately, this can lead to a compressor failure, which is a much more expensive repair. To limit the impact of a lightning strike, invest in some high-quality outlet surge suppressors!
Do you have more questions about how changes in weather can affect your HVAC units? Contact us! Our knowledgeable and friendly service technicians at Afterglow Ltd. would be happy to help!