Eating & Drinking

URBAN HIPPIE: Envirocentre’s Greg Furlong shares his tips for keeping your house warm and energy efficient

As the weather cools down, it might be time to think about ways to make your house easier on Mother Nature — and your wallet.

Urban Hippie by Jen Lahey is published every second Tuesday at Follow Jen on Twitter ‏@Jen_Lahey.

Truth: it gets cold in Ottawa in the winter. If we had Boston accents, we might even characterize it as “wicked-cold.” And though it’s only October, there’s a chill in the air that hints of what’s in store in the coming months, and we’re thinking of how to stay toasty. But what about our houses? Keeping those warm takes a boatload of energy, and that costs money, not to mention the strain on Ma Nature.

The Urban Hippie decided to hit up Greg Furlong, the go-to guy for this topic, for some fresh ideas on conserving energy this winter. Furlong is the performance manager at the Envirocentre, a non-profit organization that reduces greenhouse gas emissions by delivering cost-effective, energy-efficienct goods and services. He also leads an activist choir and has 18 years in the conservation field. Herewith, three tips from Furlong on how save some dough and take a load off Mother Nature at the same time. (Sweet.)

1) Quit it with opening up windows on the top floors to get some “fresh air” at night. All that does is let the cozy hot air out and suck freezing air down to the thermostat — which sets it off and makes it ask for more heat — and into the basement, where your video-game-playing kids will freeze their hoodie-wearing buns off and demand that you crank the temperature up. Instead, make the house as airtight as possible, says Furlong, and use the furnace blower, fans, or a ventilation system to help even out the temperature.

2) Nix the electric resistance heaters. That 1500 W heater may have seemed like a great deal, but according to Furlong, you’ll be out about $750 if you leave it running continuously through one heating season. A better plan: adjust or extend the central heating system and work on improving your insulation, airsealing, and ventilation.

3) Yes, it’s a bit of a pain in the rump, but just do it: Remove the window AC in the winter. It’s not airtight (no matter how many quilts you stuff around the edges) and will just lower your quality of life for eight months of the year if you leave it in. Feel free to use its removal as an excuse to invite someone over for a bribery drink twice a year to help out.

A final word of wisdom from Furlong:

“Get an energy audit. If, in your quest for comfort, you’re wasting many hundreds of dollars on unnecessary heat loss, an inefficient heating system, and ineffective solutions, you can afford to spend a few hundred on an expert who will spend time measuring, testing, evaluating, and creating a full energy model of your house. Find an experienced adviser who is well recommended, asks questions about your situation, and seems prepared to help you make the right decisions about where to invest your resources for a comfier, healthier home.”