Winter in Canada can be intense, snowy and freezing. Pretty much everywhere. Some provinces experience temperatures below -30 degrees Celsius during their coldest part of the year, so it makes sense to think of better ways to save energy and conserve heat in the winter. Some of these ways require renovations, and fall is the best time to start your home renos, with kids back to school and the summer heat behind you. Then you’ll enjoy the warmth of energy savings during the cold clutches of winter.
Here are some fall renovations ideas to help make your winter cozier and utility bills a little lower.
Radiant floors have become a very popular home trend, especially for new construction. Under-floor heating provides an even heat across the floor without stirring up dust like traditional furnaces. The installation can take some time as you have to remove current flooring to install the radiant heat pad. When first launched, heated floors were designed for tiles only, but now companies have been able to produce a heated floor product able to go underneath hardwood, laminate and even carpet!
Rain chains are a wonderful idea that has been around for centuries, originating in Japan and called “Kusari-Doi”, which means chain gutter. These were used in Japan for two reasons: rainwater collection for household use as well as in temples to provide water music, or tranquility. These chains attach to a standard gutter, where your downspout would commonly be. In the winter, these chains have an advantage over a typical downspout. Downspouts can freeze solid in the winter and possibly cause damage. Chain gutters accumulate water, but it can easily melt on a sunny day.
With advancing technology, smart thermostats are allowing you to control your home temperatures by smart phone, tablets and even voice command. Your classic thermostat must be set, programmed or adjusted constantly to keep in the right temperature range. But why waste your time? Smart thermostats learn your habits, such as when you leave for and arrive back home from work, and use that data to plan a heating and cooling schedule. These thermostats are so advanced that some of them are now rated ENERGY STAR.
If you have a wood burning fireplace, you will want to switch it out. And fast! Not only do wood burning fireplaces create more pollutants, they also lose more heat than today’s common gas or electric fireplaces. There has been a debate on gas versus electric fireplaces in homes and what is more energy efficient, and the winner is electric!
The electric fireplace is not only more energy efficient, it also doesn’t require as much maintenance over time. A wood burning fireplace needs annual chimney cleaning and maintenance to prevent build up and reduce fire risk. Gas fireplaces also need a good annual maintenance to ensure all wearable parts are in good condition and there are no gas leaks. Electric fireplaces need a lightbulb changed every 2-3 years but otherwise are maintenance free! (Don’t forget some electric fireplaces come with a remote, and you may also need to replace the battery.)
Furnace heating is an area where most home owners know to clean air filters annually and vacuum out ducts. But is your furnace the most energy efficient? Most homes still have a mid-efficiency furnace, which is defined as an annual efficiency of 78-82%. Newer high-efficiency condensing furnaces offer an annual efficiency of 90-98%! This makes a huge difference when adding up how much you spend to heat your home in those cold, cold months of winter.
Insulation is one of the costliest items to upgrade in your home as installation could require removing and replacing your home’s drywall. Fiberglass batts were the most commonly used insulation for many years, but the most energy efficient way to insulate your home nowadays is spray foam insulation or expanding polystyrene.
Insulation is measured in R-Value (thermal resistance) with a higher number being better. Fiberglass ranges at 3.5-3.7 whereas expanding polystyrene has almost double the R-value of 6.5! Fiberglass batts are not as energy efficient and they can be hazardous to you. If you are handling fiberglass batts you can expect itchiness, rashes and irritation – or worse if ingested or inhaled.
Whether it’s a complete re-install of insulation, flooring or furnace, or a less extensive (and less expensive) project like upgrading your thermostat or downspouts, fall is the time to start home renovations. Upgrades will leave you cozier and saving money this winter when the snow falls and temperatures drop.