Home heating


Heating makes up half the energy bill in most Nova Scotian homes, making it the single largest use of energy for most of us. But we can all find ways to heat our homes more efficiently.


  • Better insulation and draft proofing will make your home more comfortable and energy efficient by helping to keep your valuable heat inside.
  • A regular tune-up of your furnace and boiler will ensure they operate at peak efficiency. Keep your furnace filter clean. A dirty one delivers less air.
  • Avoid heating spaces in your home that are not insulated like garbage areas, crawl spaces, attics or storage sheds.
  • Avoid heating unused rooms by closing doors.
  • Turn down the heat when you’re sleeping or away from home.
  • When installing new windows or replacing old ones, consider installing energy-efficient windows (Energy Star Windows), which reduce heat loss and are of higher quality than standard code windows.
  • Close fireplace chimney dampers between fires to keep warm air in during the winter and out during the summer.
  • Open curtains during the day to let the warmth of the sun in, and close the curtains at night to help keep the heat in.


Managing your thermostat is one of the easiest and most economical ways to control your energy costs. The lower the temperature is set for heating and the higher for cooling, the more energy you save and the lower your costs. Try these tips to create a comfortable environment in your home and reduce your energy costs:

  • Set your thermostats at 21° C (70° F) (for heating) and 26° C (78° F) (for cooling) — these are the optimal temperatures for comfort and energy efficiency.
  • Set your thermostats back for heating or up for cooling overnight or when you’re not home. It doesn’t take more money to heat your home back up and you can save as much as 10 per cent on your annual energy bill.
  • If you don’t want to remember to raise or lower your thermostats, try a setback or programmable thermostat — it will do the work for you automatically.
  • Check, clean and calibrate your thermostat periodically to ensure it is accurate and working well.


Water heating uses the second-largest amount of energy in the average home. Choosing energy efficient water heating devices, increasing the efficiency of your water heater and using less hot water can each have a big impact on your home energy costs.

One of the easiest ways to cut your water heating costs is to use less hot water. Try these tips:

  • Use the lowest temperature wash and rinse settings on your washing machine.
  • Try a front-loading washing machine. They use nearly 40 per cent less water.
  • Install low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators.
  • Take showers instead of baths. With a low-flow showerhead installed, showering uses only one-third the hot water of a bath.
  • Operate clothes washers and dishwashers only when full.
  • Fix any leaks in pipes or faucets. A leaky faucet can waste 11,350 litres (2,500 gallons) or more every year.
  • Turn off the hot water while washing or shaving.


There’s nothing quite like sitting down in front of a roaring fire. But many old-fashioned fireplaces aren’t energy efficient. Fireplaces draw warm air up the chimney and pull cold outside air into your home. This can cause your main heating system to work harder and longer. Fortunately, there are a few ways you can improve the energy efficiency of your fireplace:

  • Keep the damper closed when your fireplace isn’t in use.
  • Install glass doors. They’ll allow less warm air to be drawn up the chimney and won’t let cold outside air into the house.
  • Use an outside combustion air vent to improve fireplace efficiency. They bring the air needed to keep the fire lit in from outside, not from inside the heated room. This greatly reduces how much warm air is drawn up the chimney and the amount of cold outside air that filters into the room.
  • Fireplace inserts improve fireplace efficiency by blowing heat from the fire into the room and by limiting the amount of heat lost up the chimney.


Today’s heating systems are significantly more efficient. While older equipment can waste up to 50 per cent of the energy used, newer models have reduced that figure to as little as six per cent. But if a new system is not on the horizon, helping your existing system stay in tip-top shape can help.

Your furnace or boiler needs periodic tune-ups. A regular maintenance program is relatively inexpensive. It can extend the life of your heating equipment and help it operate at maximum efficiency.

While there are differences in the design and operation of different gas boilers and furnaces, the following should be included in a routine tune-up:

  • Clean the burner, combustion chamber, and heat exchange surfaces.
  • Check the colour of flame. It should be blue. A yellow or orange flame indicates that the gas is not burning properly, and the equipment should be adjusted by a professional.
  • Check fan belts and blowers and adjust loose belts.
  • Check safety controls.
  • Check the barometric damper operation.
  • Check thermostat operation and location.
  • Check the thermocouple.
  • Check the chimney base and flue pipe.
  • Adjust pilot and burner (if applicable).
  • Inspect and replace all filters.
  • Lubricate all motors.
  • Check the vent terminals for blockage.

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