A guide to household heating

What are your options when your heating system calls it quits?

By Allan Britnell

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The bill

The final option comes when choosing how to pay for your new system. Since most of us don’t have several thousand spare dollars lying around, utilities typically offer installment payment plans as part of your monthly bill. You should also inquire at your local government and utilities, and visit the Natural Resources Canada Energy Star website for information on energy-efficiency rebate programs.

Furnace upgrades

  • Maintaining a humidity level of 35 to 45 per cent inside your home reduces static buildup, moderates shrinking and swelling of wood floors and furniture, and prevents dry skin and scratchy throats. Whole-house humidifiers that are mounted on a furnace can be either passive, where the air passes through a water-filled filter, or active, where a fan forces air through a water-saturated bed. Both styles require occasional cleaning and annual replacement of the evaporator pad.
  • Forced-air furnaces come equipped with a one-inch air filter. For optimal air quality (and to protect the secondary heat exchanger on condensing furnaces), upgrade to a mechanical or electronic air cleaner.
  • Unlike their drafty, elderly neighbours, new energy-efficient (R-2000) homes require a mechanical ventilation system that exchanges stale air for fresh. A heat recovery ventilator (HRV) recycles heat from the exhaust air to warm the incoming fresh air, reducing the overall energy demand.
  • Setback thermostats can be programmed to lower the temperature while you’re asleep or at work and raise it back up to your comfort level before you get out of bed or back home. Natural Resources Canada estimates a two per cent savings on your heating bill for every degree you lower the heat.
  • For maximum heating efficiency, break your home into separate zones. This can be done manually by closing registers or shutting off radiators/baseboard heaters or even the doors to little-used rooms, or by installing multiple thermostats and dampers in the ductwork.
  • You’ve heard it before but it bears repeating: one piece of equipment you should have with any gas, oil or wood-based heating system is a carbon monoxide detector. How many other $50 items can save your life?

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