Is winter weather wasting your cold hard cash? How to conserve heat, energy and your paycheck when things get chilly

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As the weather gets colder, thermostats are seeing a little bit more love than during the other half of the year. Heating costs are skyrocketing and energy is being wasted by the boatload as we try to stay warm during the winter. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you conserve energy during the chilly seasons and help you to keep a little extra change in your pockets when it comes time to pay the bills. The best part is that most of these are free or cost very little (especially when compared to your regular bill!).

According to the New Brunswick (NB) Power website, heating “typically accounts for 60 per cent of an average family’s annual energy bill.” One of the best ways to keep your costs down is to set your thermostat as low as possible. The higher the heat, the higher the cost, so when you’re not at home or have gone to bed for the night, keep the temperature down at least five degrees lower than you would if you were hanging out in the house. NB Power recommends setting thermostats to 15 degrees Celsius while you’re in bed or out of the house and 20 degrees when you’re at home. Sweaters, slippers and a heavy quilt cost less than what you would pay monthly for heat, so investing in a set of these babies will help you stay warm and will allow you to turn that dial a little more to the left than you usually would.

“Another option is a timer for your thermostat–-they’re pretty inexpensive and you can program your heat to be lower in the day when [you’re] not home, [and] a little warmer in the evening,” says Lisa Armstrong, an executive member of UNBSJ’s Green Society.

Now, we’ve heard it all before–-keeping your thermostat at the same level all the time is more energy efficient, right? Not exactly. It would be more efficient to leave it at the same level if you’re only leaving home for a short amount of time, but believe it or not, turning down your heat when you go to bed, and back up again in the morning is going to help you conserve energy and cash.

Another way to save money on top of adjusting your heat level is to use what we’ve already got—Mother Nature. What better way to get a little extra heat for free than to take advantage of the power of the sun? By opening your curtains when it’s sunny outside, you’re heating up your room. The same thing can be said for closing the blinds at night, which keeps heat from escaping. Window coverings aren’t just good for aesthetics, you know.

Next on the list is something you would be more likely to hear from a firefighter than someone who knows a lot about energy conservation, but it is a very effective way to get the most out of the heat in your house and squash all potential fire hazards. NB Power says to keep furniture and other things large enough to block heat flow away from baseboards, portable heaters and heating ducts. This way heat can flow freely and it spreads out better. You should also vacuum the insides of your baseboards, too; dust accumulation can block the heat.

If you find yourself willing to spend a little bit more money now to save it later, you can purchase a caulking gun and weather-stripping to seal doors and windows that may be letting in a draft, or hire a professional to do it for you. “When we had an energy audit done on our house (and we have a house that’s over a hundred years old), the number one heat loss was from air leaks,” says Armstrong, “and it was a simple fix—we caulked around the crown mouldings and baseboards, and around the window [and] door frames, and that took care of a lot of the heat loss problems [that] we had.”  You can also consult a professional’s expertise to ensure that your furnace or heat pump is in good shape and not needlessly wasting energy.

At the end of the winter when you don’t need to heat your house any more, turning the thermostat all the way down to zero doesn’t mean it’s actually off. By turning all of your heating devices off in your home’s circuit breaker, you can ensure that you aren’t using any electric heat unintentionally, rising costs without your knowledge.

It’s just not just about saving heat, either. By conserving energy, you’re helping the Earth. Armstrong says, “Saving money is certainly an incentive in our home; but we also [should be] concerned that we don’t contribute to global warming any more than we have to.  We need to leave this planet in a habitable condition for the generations to come.”
For additional information, or to find out how to save energy in many more areas year round, visit NB Power’s website at nbpower.com.