Question: I have electric baseboard heating and my utility bills are through the roof in the winter. I know that I should cover drafts from windows, but what else can I do?
Answer: A first step may be to inspect the amount of insulation you have in your home. Insufficient insulation is one of the biggest contributors to high heating bills and is not only important in the walls, but also in the attic and basement. You can lose up to 30 per cent of your space heat out of the basement.
You may also want to look into an energy audit to find any leaks in your house. Although you can find useful do-it-yourself home energy audit checklists online, a full energy assessment by a professional is a great way to get an idea on what upgrades make the most sense.
The blower door test is the best way to find and seal any air leakage (drafts). Leaks may be from a number of sources, including windows, doors, electrical outlets, oven vents and dryer vents.
Although 60 per cent of energy consumption is due to space heating and cooling, you can still save money through changes to your water heating, appliances and lighting as well.
Equal billing throughout the year may ease financial burdens in the winter and there several incentives to help people reduce their energy costs.
For example, Greater Sudbury Hydro residential customers with electric-heated homes can receive an incentive to retrofit their system with an Electric Thermal Storage (ETS) heating system. This incentive is equal to 75 per cent of the purchase price, up to a maximum of $2,500.
For more information, call Greater Sudbury Hydro at 705-675-0517. For more ideas, you may contact your utilities company or look under “Environmental Rebate Programs” on the EarthCare Sudbury’s website, greatersudbury.ca/earthcare.
Thank you to EarthCare Sudbury partners: the City of Greater Sudbury, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, CanSpec Inspection Services, reThink Green and Greater Sudbury Hydro for assistance in responding to this question.
Do you have a question about an environmental issue? Ask an EarthCare Expert. Submit your question online at greatersudbury.ca/earthcare, then watch for this column published in the Northern Life for an “expert” response. EarthCare Sudbury is a network of over 140 local businesses, organizations, and agencies committed to helping Greater Sudbury become greener, cleaner, healthier and more sustainable. Find out more about EarthCare Sudbury, our partners and how to get involved by visiting our website.
Behavioural changes or upgrades may be very effective for you and some are specific for baseboard heating:
Clean the radiators since dirt and dust can reduce efficiency;
Turn down the heat and close the doors in any room that is not used;
Limit how often you open your exterior door;
Use your drapes and blinds to keep out the cold at night;
Wear warm clothes indoors and use warm or flannel bedding.
Upgrades or investments
Add caulking and weather-stripping for typical leaks around doors and windows;
Upgrade or insulate hot water pipes and install a drain water heat recovery system. Savings for such upgrades depend on lifestyle and you can link to a helpful calculator from the Canadian Centre for Housing Technology at ccht-cctr.gc.ca;
Use programmable thermostats in every room and make sure the heat is turned down at night and when no one is home;
Use ENERGY STAR® labeling to help you decide which products are best for you when replacing old windows and doors.