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Tech tricks to stay warm and save energy

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by Christine Rowlands
November 1, 2017

Energy efficiency



Greetings to heating season! Did you know that about half of the energy you use in your home goes toward keeping you warm? Having a high-efficiency heating system can help reduce the amount of energy you use, but savings depend very much on how you use it. That is, the more you can turn your thermostat down, the less energy you need to use and the more you can save.

Let’s look at three ways technology can help us control that thermostat, without losing any comfort.

Zone heating hacks

In my house, during the winter we tend to gravitate to the natural gas fireplace. It heats up quickly when we turn it on after coming home and keeps the living room cosy and warm. And because it’s a high-efficiency EnerChoice® unit, it has its own thermostat that turns down the fireplace once our set temperature is reached, so the room doesn’t get too hot.

Plus, we can turn down the thermostat in the rest of the house and save energy by not heating areas that no one is using.

For electric baseboard heaters that are linked to thermostats in each room, you can turn them off almost like a light switch when you leave the room or install programmable thermostats designed for baseboards to do the job for you.

Thermostats: the next generation

Programmable thermostats are nifty devices that help you to set times to turn down the heat automatically, like when you’re out, at work or asleep in your warm, comfy bed. They won’t forget to turn down the temperature to 17 °C when you leave, and you can keep the temperature at a cosy and energy-saving 20 °C when you’re awake and at home.

It’s not hard to learn how to program your thermostat. But now, a new generation of Internet-connected thermostats, also called smart thermostats, use sensors and analytics to learn your schedule and temperature preferences and then automatically adjust the heat for you. Smart thermostats can be paired with your smartphone and controlled with an app. Depending on the model, you can adjust the temperature in your house remotely even before you head for home (please don’t use your device while driving!) or monitor your furnace’s energy use history to help you make choices to save more.

For customers in Kelowna, FortisBC is currently offering a pilot program to study if smart thermostats can help save more energy than other thermostats. If you have lived in your home (single family house, duplex or townhouse) for more than 12 months, have a furnace or heat pump and meet other eligibility criteria, you could participate in our smart thermostat pilot and get up to a $100 rebate. See details and apply by December 31, 2017.

An invention that’s nothing to be sheepish about

You might think I’m joking about calling a sweater “technology”—but think about what went into figuring out where to get wool and how to clean it, spin it into long and pliable fibres, knot it with sticks or weave it together into a fabric and then assemble it into a cosy, fitting garment. If that’s not human innovation born of the necessity of staying warm in alpine climates and wintry weather, I don’t know what is. Even with today’s knitting machines and synthetic fibres, those beautiful cables and colour patterns don’t just knit themselves.

So show off what your Grandma made you to stay warm and stylin’. If you’re still cold, blankets and socks are also fantastic yet readily available inventions to insulate you against the chill, and make it less tempting to crank up the heat in your house.

You can also think of insulation and draftproofing as a sweater for your house—the more you can keep drafts out and heated air in, the less energy is needed to keep your space warm. Look for rebates on insulation or watch our how-to videos on how even insulating an electrical outlet can save energy.