Winter lovers, rejoice!  The season has shown up early this year, bringing frigid temperatures and lots of snow for most of Southern Ontario (and Vancouver, too, for that matter…).

Avid skiers, hockey players, and other “true Canadians” are sure to have a full and happy season if this keeps up.  But if they are also home owners, they are going to have to figure out how to budget enough for home heating costs while funding their winter hobbies.

There are some simple, inexpensive ways to stop the cold from getting inside this season so that when you’re ready to come in and thaw out, it doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg.

1. REPLACE WORN WEATHERSTRIPPING     

weatherstripping

This simple step will help keep cold air on the right side of the door.  To check for air leaks, try this:  Close all doors and windows, and turn off fuel burning appliances.  Next, light a stick of incense, and hold it up to your door frame.  If the smoke wavers or is drawn in by the air that is entering through a gap in the door opening, you have identified an air leak!  Your neighbourhood hardware store will have what you need to install brand new weatherstripping for $30-40.

2. INSTALL DOORSWEEPS AT THE BASE OF ALL EXTERIOR DOORS

doorsweep

To complete the seal on your exterior doors, after weatherstripping all three sides of the jamb, add a doorsweep to prevent cold air from sneaking in at the threshold.  This final touch should cost no more than about $15-20.

3. SEAL ELECTRICAL OUTLETS ON EXTERIOR WALLS

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You might not think of your electrical outlets, but the boxes that your receptacles live in provide a perfect place for (unwanted) air flow.  You can get simple foam gaskets to place behind the switch plates for a simple barrier that will prevent cold air from coming in.  Other alternatives include expanding spray foam insulation and caulking to seal up the little spaces around the outlets.  Note:  Always be very careful when removing outlet covers that you do not touch the hot components of the receptacle.

4.  LIMIT USE OF YOUR WOOD-BURNING FIREPLACE

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It sounds counter-intuitive, but traditional wood burning fireplaces are actually very inefficient.  It’s hard to imagine when you’re sitting in front of a warm, toasty fire on a frigid day, but the heat that you are paying for is actually being pulled out the chimney, making the rest of the house colder.

Because you have to open the damper to let dangerous gases out, the chimney becomes the equivalent of a wide-open window.  To make matters worse, the flue is designed to have a vacuum effect to draw air up and out.

One way to enjoy your fireplace without losing precious indoor heat is to add an airtight tempered glass door.  It does reduce the rustic feel a little, but this compromise can be a money saver in the long run.

5.  DON’T BLOCK VENTS

vent

It’s a simple thing that doesn’t cost a penny.  Make sure that you haven’t inadvertently blocked air flow with poor furniture placement.   This will ensure that your HVAC system is able to maintain a comfortable room temperature and that air can circulate most efficiently.  The same applies to cold air return vents, which must take in air to be directed back to the furnace to be warmed.  (These will be located on interior walls.)

Here are a couple of bonus tips:  If you have ceiling fans, reverse them.  This will push warm air down into your living space and draw the cooler air up toward the ceiling.  And take advantage of the sunny days!  Open curtains and blinds wide to let the warmth from the sun in (yes, the sun is still warm, believe it or not!).  Then close them up at night time to hold that heat inside for as long as possible.  Finally, stock up on cozy blankets, hot toddies, good company, and great movies.  Long, cold winters go by much faster when you are enjoying your space with those most reliable of tools!