Well, it’s happened again. As much as we spend summer and fall thinking it won’t happen, it does every year. It has turned to winter. So, what do we need to change? What do we need to remember/ learn / re-learn about how to be energy efficient in the winter?
The toughest thing for me each fall is the first few nights that I can’t sleep with the window open. But, yes, now that it’s cold out we need to keep windows and doors closed as much as reasonable. Those long conversations on the doorstep with canvassers, friends and the pizza guy should be done with the door closed.
If you didn’t get around to it this summer or fall, this would be a good time to check for drafts. To find the drafts, take a burning stick of incense, or a piece of toilet paper taped to a pencil, or anything that will react to a subtle breeze. This works best on a cold or windy day. Hold your draft detector near plugs, windows, baseboards, attic hatch, light fixtures, mail chutes, and fireplaces etc. to see where the leaks are. There can be leaks on interior walls as well. Once you find the cracks and holes, fill them with caulking or weatherstripping.
Also, make sure your thermostat is programmed to turn down overnight when you are in bed, and during the day when you are out at work or school. When you are home, try 20oC (or lower if you are tough). At night, try 15oC.
As soon as it turns cool, we suddenly think our car needs to be plugged in all night, and needs to idle before we drive. Wrong. The reason for plugging in our vehicle is to warm the oil, so the engine will start easily, and reduce engine wear. Under the worst conditions, vehicles only need to be plugged in for up to 4 hours. A timer can help you reduce the electricity you use for your block heater. In Saskatchewan, we could save 45 million kilowatt hours if everyone plugged in their block heater for only four hours (SaskPower). As for idling: our vehicles really only need to run for about 30 seconds before driving. In that time, the oil will have circulated through the engine and the engine will be ready to go. The transmission, wheels and interior really won’t warm up until the car starts to move. Driving gently for the first few blocks is the best thing you can do to warm up your vehicle. Just be sure that your windows are clear.
If you have outdoor play clothes (and a bike), you likely have the gear you need to keep cycling through the winter. Warm gloves and boots are a must, as is a winter helmet, or toque under your helmet. A studded front tire will keep you upright on most terrain. A studded rear tire is an additional benefit. The biggest change in winter biking is route planning. Both bikes and vehicles slip and slide more in winter; you will likely be riding slower; and roads may be narrowed due to snow. Be safe and choose routes with minimal traffic.
Walking is one of the best ways to get around in the winter; often warmer than sitting in a cold car. If you are afraid of slipping, get some grippy boots, or some ice grips to put over your shoes. Walking offers fresh air, vitamin D and exercise.
Angie manages energy conservation projects for the Saskatchewan Environmental Society, and is an active member of McClure United Church in Saskatoon. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about the work of the Saskatchewan Environmental Society, go to www.environmentalsociety.ca.
The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and all who live in it. (Psalm 24:1)