A Canadian's Guide to Winter Home Preparation

Canadian winters are internationally renowned for their unpleasantly string staying power. Canadians are often teased with beautiful sunny days in the late winter months, only to wake up the next morning to a snow storm that will eliminate any semblance of spring revival for several weeks. Much to the chagrin of most Canadians, this is not an unexpected occurrence, even in the midst of spring season when summer seems right around the corner. Even in some of the more southern regions of Canada, the seemingly never-ending winters can be comprised of up to 6 months of sub-zero temperatures. This extended cold period not only represents the social hibernation of many signature weather-dependent outdoor activities such as swimming in lakes, cycling, or just about anything requiring a field, but it also signifies that it’s time to prepare yourself for the harsh effect of frost.

Your home and property may not literally be longing for the return of summer’s consistent sunshine like you are, however they do require seasonal adjustments parallel to your changing wardrobe selection. Sub-zero degree (ºC) weather causes the increasing contraction of all objects in proximity (from a molecular perspective), while increasingly hot temperatures have the opposite effect of expansion. The slow, but inevitable damage caused by the Canadian seasonal temperature change is best illustrated by the ubiquitous road imperfections. To all homeowners, your property is no exception to this annual cycle of decay.

We will outline some of the measures you can take to protect your most valuable asset from the inevitable frost, but most of all save money by optimizing your energy consumption.

  1. Heating System Update: Hire an HVAC professional to inspect your furnace to either optimize it or tell you if you’re in need of a replacement. If you require a new furnace, ensure it is ‘Energy Efficient’ certified and you may be entitled to federal tax credits.

  2. Change Furnace Filters: It's critical to check furnace filters once a month during the heating season, to either clean or replace them. Unkept filters inhibit airflow and thus boost energy demand. Ensure you use a HEPA filter, and not a ‘HEPA-like’ filter.

  3. Water Heater Temperature: Lowering your water heater’s default installer temperature by 10 ºC can save you up to 10% of its monthly cost.

  4. Pipe Insulation: Insulate all plumbing pipes to avoid the nightmare of having either dirty or no running water due to your pipes freezing.

  5. Winterizing Air Conditioning: Drain pipes and A/C of any contained water. Always shut off the A/C water shutoff valve once the warm weather is no longer a concern.

  6. Caulking and Weather-stripping: Re-caulking every year can help eliminate unnecessary air leaks and compensate for mild building imperfections.

  7. Draft Proofing: Installing storm windows and doors can dramatically reduce unwanted air flow from the outside, as it seals off the two main sources of air leaks.

  8. Adding Insulation: Adding more layers of insulation behind your drywall will create a larger barrier between your home and the weather, thus saving energy and money. Also, the attic and basement ceiling are the most important areas of focus for insulation.

  9. Be Thermostat Conscious: According to EPCOR, setting your thermostat 3º lower when sleeping or at work can reduce your household greenhouse gas emissions by half a tonne. In those same instances, every degree less will reduce your heating bill by 2%.

  10. Reversing Fan Direction: If your ceiling fan has a counterclockwise rotation it provides cool breezes, while reversing the fan’s spinning direction to clockwise establishes a warmer atmosphere.

  11. Halogen Lightbulbs: Halogen lightbulbs use 40% less energy than traditional lightbulbs.

  12. Foundation Verification: The last blog entitled ‘Sign of a Damaged Home’ explains various structural issues affecting homes and ensure these issues have been addressed sufficiently before the first snowfall.

Thoroughly research your municipal, provincial and federal governments’ environmental subsidy programs to see if any of your green home improvements qualify for tax credits, grants and other financial benefits.

It would be optimal to conduct an annual home inspection, while some even suggest your home should be inspected twice a year. In addition, when selecting a contractor to follow through with some of the more technical inspector recommendations, you should not only be mindful of their reputation, but also insistent on knowing their subcontractors and their respective reputations prior to signing any agreements.

Following these home winterizing practices will allow you and your family to benefit from greater health, a cozier living area, greater environmental responsibility, as well as reaping the financial rewards of owning an energy efficient home such as the savings on your energy bill and the accompanying increase in the value of your home.