Home Conservation Tips - Heating and Cooling
How to make your home more environmentally friendly
Tips and Suggestions from Union Gas Limited  

Simple ways to cut down heating costs

Furnace Maintenance
If your furnace is operating at peak efficiency, it will use less energy and cost less to operate. You should have a heating contractor perform a yearly maintenance check on your furnace, venting, and cooling system to ensure that they are operating at peak efficiency. In between those visits, there are some simple do-it-yourself tasks to help keep your system working efficiently.


  • Change or clean your filter frequently (i.e. every one to two months) during the heating and air conditioning seasons. A dirty air filter reduces the air flow to the operating equipment and forces it to run longer to heat and cool the house. Electronic air cleaner filters should also be cleaned regularly (every one to two months).
  • Keep return air grills, hot air registers, radiators, and space heaters/baseboards clear of furniture, rugs, and drapes to allow free movement of air.
  • You can ensure more heated or cooled air reaches its destination by sealing the accessible furnace duct seams with duct tape.
  • Insulate all ducts in unheated or cooler spaces with commercial duct insulation -- or make your own! Simply wrap the ducts with glass fibre batts, secure lightly with string, cover insulation with oplastic, and tap all edges.

Have a service representative:
Check and inspect your heating system components including:

· Test for carbon monoxide · Thermostat · Fan/motor
· Bearings, belts · Burner/pilot · Furnace controls
· Pilot safety system · Venting · Chimney
· Visible gas piping · Pumps · Air filter
· Heat rise · Flame pattern · Electronic air cleaner

Note: Your service representative will clean the furnace components as necessary for proper operation.

A standard woodburning fireplace may be romantic, but it is not very energy efficient! In fact, it removes more heated air up the chimney than it provides.

One of the best ways to improve the energy efficiency of a woodburning fireplace is to replace it with a natural gas fireplace. Natural gas fireplaces are very energy efficient, convenient to operate -- and romantic!

When replacing your woodburning fireplace isn't an option, here are some tips to minimize your heat loss:

  • Provide outside air for combustion. It may be as simple as opening a window in the room or installing a fresh air vent for the fireplace. Contact your local fireplace specialty store for further advice and options.
  • Install tight-fitting glass doors and keep them closed when the fireplace is not in use to prevent the home's warm air from escaping up the chimney.
  • Close the damper once the fire has completely died out to prevent warm air in the house from escaping up the chimney.
  • Seal off an unused fireplace with a home-made insulated plug. Simply cut a piece of polystyrene to fit snugly in the front opening and decorate the plug with either wallpaper or paint.

your home

The Attic
Though it has a relatively low heat loss, 10 to 15%, the attic is the first place to consider adding more insulation. It is generally the easiest and least expensive area to insulate. It is especially important to add more insulation if there is less than 10 inches (approximately R-30).

The Basement
Since an unfinished basement has a high heat loss, 20 to 25%, adding exterior or interior insulation is a major opportunity to improve your home's thermal efficiency. Basement insulation is most cost-effective when done in conjunction with finishing the basement as living space, or when digging up the exterior to repair foundation wall drainage. While renovating, if you enclose a natural gas or oil furnace and a natrual gas water heater, you must allow for combustion air supply to the equipment. The air supply may be from outside, or in some cases, from inside your house. a trained heating/ventilation contractor can help you determine the combustion air requirements for your natural gas equipment.

The Windows and Doors
Windows and doors represent about 15 to 20% of your home's heat loss. Remember, this is the heat loss through the glass, wood, and framing materials; not heat loss from air leakage. Depending on the age, operation, and design of your windows and doors, you may want to consider replacing them. Windows and doors should be replaced if they do not operate easily, are in poor condition, or are difficult to weatherstrip.

The Walls

Adding insulation to walls is worthwhile if done in coordination with renovating the interior walls or residing - this can reduce heat loss by 10 to 20%.

Water Heating, Appliances and Air Conditioning

Controlling hot water use
After space heating, your water heater is the second largest user of energy in your home. It pays to use hot water wisely! Here are some simple tips on how to use hot water more efficiently without affecting comfort, cleanliness, or safety:

  • Insulate, at least the first 2 metres (6 feet) of the hot water pipe and the first metre (3 feet) of the cold water pipe running from the tank, to save approximately 2% on your natural gas bill and reduce pipe 'sweating' problems in the summer. For safety reasons, do not place any pipe wrap insulation within 15 cm (6 inches) of the exhaust vent at the top of the water heater. The two basic types of pipe insulation are wrap-around or slip-on, pre-formed foam. Both are easy to install and are available at building supply stores.
  • Operating your water heater at unecessarily high temperatures increases energy consumption and shortens tank life. It also increases the likelihood of scalds; this is of particular concern for young children and seniors. In fact, building codes suggest that the supply of domestic hot water be no more than 60° C (140° F]. You can test your water temperature with a cooking thermometer held under a running tap. While dishwashers may require 60° C (140° F) water, for general household use you should set your water heater to 54° C (130° F).
  • Install a low-flow showerhead (less than 11 litres/minute or 2.5 gallons/minute.) which can reduce the amount of water you use for showers by up to 50%. You'll use less water and energy and still enjoy hot, skin-tingling showers!
  • Fix dripping taps immediately. Replacing a worn washer (just pennies in cost) can save you up to 800 litres (175 gallons) monthly, at one drop of water per second.
  • One-quarter of your hot water use is for laundry. You can reduce that by washing clothes in warm or cold water and always rinsing in cold. Use the water level controls, if your washing machine has them.

Making the most of air conditioning
To provide comfortable conditions during hot, humid weather you must not only cool your home, but also reduce the humidity levels
. If you operate them properly, central air conditioning systems will cool and dehumidify the whole house, and room air conditioners will cool and dehumidify individual rooms.

Room air conditioners
Refer to these tips when you're shopping for and operating room air conditioners:

  • When buying, you'll need information; exact room dimensions and room details (i.e., is the room closed off or are there open passages to other rooms); size and type of windows and room location. Does it get morning or afternoon sun? Is there outside shading! What power supply is available in the room?
  • Like appliances, room air conditioners are also rated for their efficiency. The Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) is on an EnerGuide Label and is normally stamped on the nameplate affixed to the outer casing of the unit. The higher the EER, the less electricity the unit uses to do the same job. (Note: room air conditioner EnerGuide Labels work in the reverse to white goods EnerGuide Labels discussed previously.) Although there may be a higher price tag for a more efficient unit, the energy savings over the life of the unit should more than offset the difference in purchase price.
  • An air conditioner's abilily to cool is rated in British Thermal Units (Btu/hr) and/or tons. About 18 Btu/hr are required to cool and dehumidify one square foot of floor space in the average house or apartment. For example, a 20' x 25' (500 sq. ft.) room would require approximately a 9,000 Btu/hr unit.
  • If the unit is too large, it may lower the room temperature quicker, but it will not be on long enough to remove excess humidity. Cool, humid air is not comfortable.
  • Operate room air conditioners on timers. They only require about 30 minutes to cool and dehumidify a room, so there is no need to leave them on if there's no one home during the day.
  • If possible, remove window air conditioners for the winter. If they must stay in place, seal around them with caulking or tape and cover the unit with a bought or homemade airtight, insulated jacket.

How your energy dollar is spent    Based on an average of the 3 main fuels over a year.
    Water Heating 20%
    Space Heating & Cooling 60%
    Appliances 14%
    Lighting 6%


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