5 facts you need to know about heating your home

As Canadians, we rely on heating systems more than most nations in the world. But our need doesn’t necessarily translate into knowledge. If you’re unhappy with the comfort or cost of keeping your home warm in winter, here are some things to consider.

Insulation is key

While the kind of energy source and heating equipment you have can affect annual costs a lot, don’t even think about upgrading your system until you’ve optimized insulation levels in your home. For most places in Canada, 22 inches of batt or loose-fill insulation in the attic makes sense. This is more than many homes have, but it pays to go beyond the basics when it comes to insulation.

Choose natural gas if you can

Natural gas is abundant in Canada and also burns cleanly in furnaces and boilers that operate at efficiencies greater than 95 per cent. Although prices fluctuate, natural gas always averages out to be the cheapest and most stable source of energy for home heating.

Consider heat pump technology

If you don’t have access to natural gas where you live, electric heat pumps make sense because they offer the next most economical source of heat. For every dollar you spend on electricity for a heat pump, the system delivers $2 to $3 worth of heat, compared with electric baseboard resistance heaters. Most heat pumps can also operate in reverse, cooling your home in summer.

Explore smart controls

We’ve had programmable thermostats for a long time, but the electronics that control heating systems are advancing beyond these basics. Wireless thermostats, for example, make it easy to control the temperature of different rooms independently. Why heat a room you won’t be using at certain times of the day? Today’s best control systems also deliver temperature levels that are more stable and consistent than ever, especially with hot water heating systems.

Hydronic heating conversion

“Hydronic” is a fancy word used to describe hot water heating systems. Hot water radiators and infloor heating provide some of the nicest and most even heat you’ll experience. Since there are no fans involved, there’s no moving air to kick up dust. Hydronic heating is also one of the best options for converting from electric baseboard heaters to natural gas.

Regardless of what insulation or heating system changes you want to make to your home, be sure to hire a qualified contractor to do the work. Home heating systems are not DIY projects — you need an expert who knows all the safety requirements. Electrical and gas contractors need to be licensed, so never hire someone who isn’t.

Plumbing For Health, Safety, And Sustainability

We don’t often give a second thought to plumbing (except when something breaks), but it is actually one of the most important technologies for modern life. Plumbing enables us to have constant access to clean, potable water for drinking and bathing, which is a pretty amazing thing that most people throughout history would never dream of having as part of their daily lives. Plumbing (and regular plumbing maintenance) is an important factor in maintaining the health, safety, and sustainability of your home on a day-to-day basis. Here’s why plumbing matters and how it protects you and your home.

Keep Bacteria Contained

Leaky pipes can mean disease-carrying bacteria from bathroom fixtures spreading around your home and causing health issues. Well maintained, secure pipes will prevent bacteria from contaminating your home and mitigate the potential health risks that come with the spread of bacteria.

Reduce Waste

A small leak under a sink can mean a big waste of water. Even if a minor leak is not causing damage to your home, it is still using a significant amount of unnecessary water. This is wasteful and costly since you have to pay for the amount of water you use! Prevent extra water costs and do the environment a favour by getting leaks dealt with right away.

More and more plumbing technologies are being invented with the environment in mind. Consider installing low-flow fixtures, pipes made from recycled materials, solar hot water tanks, and other green plumbing solutions to help decrease environmental impact.

Mold Prevention

Leaks can cause mildew and mold, which are serious health risks that can cause respiratory issues and life-threatening illness. Well-maintained plumbing in the home ensures that you don’t have excess moisture that can cause harmful mold to grow.

Avoid Structural Damage

Preventing and immediately fixing water leaks keeps your home safe from worse damage. Water leakage can cause wood to rot, which has the potential to negatively affect the structural soundness of a building and can be extremely time-consuming and costly to repair. Keeping an eye on your pipes for minor leaks and fixing them right away will save you a bundle of money and time in the future.

Ensure Non-Hazardous Materials

Up until quite recently, the hazards of lead contamination were not widely known and the vast majority of plumbing was done with lead pipes and solder. Some faucets and valves made of brass can also contain smaller amounts of lead. If you have an older home, you may still have potentially harmful lead materials in your plumbing system. A qualified plumber can inspect your pipes, valves, and faucets, tell you if you are in danger of lead contamination, and, if necessary, replace your old fixtures with new ones made of safe materials.