It doesn’t matter how great your heating system is if your building envelope is like swiss cheese.
Your building envelope is the outside structure of your home that is made up of windows, doors and insulation. If any of those are leaking air, you’re wasting fuel and likely have an uncomfortable, drafty home. All types of heating systems – oil, gas, or heat pumps – are calculated based on heat loss through the building envelope, so the amount of heat loss present in your home will have a significant effect on which heating source will work for you. If your home is under-insulated and leaks worse than your rec league goaltender, then you will need a heating system capable of producing a large number of BTUs per hour to maintain comfort. A large amount of heat loss will also limit your options to larger, more robust systems, which cost more to run. To fix this, we recommend booking a professional energy audit. For a full list visit www.efficiencyns.ca/energuide
Not all fuel is created equal.
The cost of fuel is a critical consideration for homeowners. Should you use oil? wood? pellet? propane? natural gas? To help homeowners make an informed decision, Efficiency Nova Scotia provides a comprehensive Space Heating Comparison Chart, which is updated regularly, on our website . Also consider the amount of work and space involved in each fuel source and any effects it may have on your home insurance.
Not all fuel is available.
In Nova Scotia we are generally restricted to oil, electricity, wood, pellet and propane (natu- ral gas is available in only a few communities). There is also solar, although using solar as a heat source in many Nova Scotian homes may not be a practical option, and is based on important factors like the slope of your roof, the direction your house faces, and total hours of sun annually.
Some heating systems are easier to get rid of than others.
If you have a system that uses ducts, like an oil fired forced hot air system, you can simply replace it with a newer, higher efficiency oil furnace, upgrade to a gas fired system (where available), or use the duct work together with either a ground source or air-to-air heat pump. A hot water system can also be adapted to wood but is not easily adaptable to heat pumps. Electric baseboards are troublesome for conversions as they have no heat distribution system (ducts).
Make the right choice, and the Earth will thank you.
Did you know that in Nova Scotia a typical home that heats with electric generates far more greenhouse gas than even an oil heated home? This is due to the significant amount of electricity we get by burning coal. The cheapest and most environmentally friendly energy is the energy you don’t use. So first, ensure that you have done all you can to insulate and air seal your home envelope to reduce heat loss. Then take a few extra steps like:
a. Open curtains on the south side of your home during the day to take advantage of passive solar heat. Be sure to close them once the sun sets.
b. Regardless of your type of heating system, set back you thermostat when you are sleeping or when the house is empty. Install a programmable thermostat so this can be done automatically.
c. Plant hardwood trees on the south side of your home. They will shade the house and keep it cool in the summer but allow the sun to shine through in the winter. Plant evergreens along the north and west side of the house to act as a wind break from the cold winter winds.
d. If you have electric baseboards, turn the heat down and close off rooms you don’t use during the coldest months.
e. If you heat with oil or gas, have your system cleaned and tuned every year.
f. If you heat with wood, purchase and prepare your wood supply in the spring to ensure it is dry by the heating season.
Always rob Peter to pay Paul.
Get at least two quotes from reputable heating contractors. Don’t be shy about asking lots of questions about heat loss, appropriate sizing of equipment, and maintenance. Also ask about the firm’s licensing and insurance. Finally, ask for references and be sure to insist that your quote is in writing and itemized. If you are planning on taking advantage of rebates, then be sure that any equipment on which you are receiving quotations meets minimum energy efficiency levels required to qualify.
And, when in doubt or if you have any questions along the way, contact our energy advisors at 1-877-999-6035.