How to Protect Your Home from The Next Big Freeze

Last December ended with some of the coldest local temperatures on record and that trend carried right on into the new year. It was certainly the sort of weather that made you grateful for a warm and cozy home!

In case history repeats itself, here are a few preventative steps that will help protect your home from the next big freeze.

Book a Furnace Inspection

A furnace is the heart of your home heating system. If it goes down, you will certainly feel it this time of year. Preventative inspection and maintenance are the best way to avert that.

An experienced technician will put the unit through a complete operating cycle, checking such essentials as temperature levels across the air handler, the condition of the fan belt, and the thermostat. Other checks include making sure there are no blockages in the vent system, examining the fresh air intake grills and louvers, and looking for instances of corrosion and wear that could be problematic in future.

Just as your vehicle needs tune-ups to perform at its best, a furnace will last longer and provide better results with some periodic care. Comprehensive yearly maintenance packages are available at a low monthly cost.

Take Steps to Avoid Frozen Pipes

One of the first dangers brought about by a dead furnace is frozen pipes. This can be a particularly expensive problem to deal with as you face both plumbing repair costs and water damage.

If you have any sinks on an exterior wall, leave open both the hot and cold taps just enough for them to drip until the outside temperature warms up a bit. That can often be enough to prevent a frozen pipe. Applying pipe wrap insulation is another good preemptive measure. Ensure that you have easy access to your main water shut-off as time is of the essence if a break occurs.

For outside pipes, confirm the water is off and then drain the lines. Be sure to disconnect your garden hose and check that the hose bib insulation is still intact.

Inspect Both the Exterior and Interior

While you’re checking the exterior plumbing, take a close look at the outside of your house. Keep an eye out for cracks or holes where heat can escape and repair as necessary. Also, replace any old, failing weather stripping around doors and windows. Check the basement for drafts and correct as needed. Apply additional insulation should you find air leakage in the attic.

Clean Out Your Eavestroughs and Check Roof Tiles

Snow and ice formation on roofs can lead to leaks and structural harm, including a roof collapse. If your roof is too high to clean with a snow rake, there is not much you can do to stop accumulation during a storm.

Cleaning out your eavestroughs before winter sets in will help to limit the amount that can sit up there. Repairing and replacing roof tiles during the fall will also prevent winter water damage.
If you are concerned about whether your roof will make it until spring, contact a professional snow removal company to lessen the weight.

Keep Your Garage Door Closed

Keeping the garage closed as much as possible during winter is essential. This not only protects the contents, but also helps to prevent heat escaping and possible pipe freezing.

Image: Nobilor

What is a Heat Pump and How Can It Benefit My Home?

All homeowners strive to find the home comfort system that will best serve their needs year-round, while also fitting within their energy budget. Most Canadians rely on air conditioning during the warmer months and a furnace when it gets cold outside.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a device that does both?

Heat pumps offer just that.

What is a Heat Pump?

Heat pumps are not a new product.  The basic principle is it removes heat from the air and extracts it either internally or externally from your home. The unit’s compressor pumps refrigerant between a pair of heat exchange coils. The first coil causes the refrigerant to evaporate and absorb heat. While on-route to the second coil, the refrigerant compresses. Upon arrival, it condenses at high pressure, releasing any heat absorbed.

If that sounds like the opposite of what refrigerators and air conditioners do, you’re right. But this type of heat pump can also perform the reverse function, turning warm air into cool air. The switch happens via the unit’s reversing valve.

Indoor and Outdoor

Just as a furnace/air conditioner HVAC system has mechanisms on both the inside and outside of a home, heat pumps consist of indoor and outdoor components. In contrast, the heat pump’s two halves work together simultaneously.

These provide your living space with both warm or cold air when desired. Unlike a furnace, which is constantly generating heat, the heat pump is always moving existing warm air throughout the home. This makes for highly efficient distribution of heat.

The unit does not use fuel, like many furnaces, running instead on electricity. Like all electrical products sold in Canada, the Canadian Standards Association certifies heat pumps for electrical safety, so look for the CSA seal when shopping for one.

Your Furnace and Heat Pump Can Work Together

While it seems unlikely this time of year in Canada, it is always possible to extract some heat energy from even the most frigid air outside. The heat pump then does its magic and circulates this available heat throughout your home.

Heat pumps are a great choice, but they cannot replace a furnace in most parts of Canada. Most experts feel that once the temperature dips below -15°C in winter time, the warmth circulated by a heat pump is no longer enough. However, heat pumps can work quite well in conjunction with a furnace by acting as a back-up.

If you are looking to upgrade your old furnace and add a heat pump or just add a heat pump to your existing furnace, input from a home comfort expert is invaluable. They will take into consideration where you live, your home heating needs and, if you decide on a heat pump/furnace combination, which units would work best together.


Image: galinast

The Future of Heating Your Home

One inevitability in life is the continued advancement of technology.

So many of the things we take for granted every day would have seemed like science fiction at the turn of the century. These changes extend into almost every aspect of our lives, including our home comfort systems.

Here are some of the ways in which the future of heating your home could change in the next ten years.

Smart Thermostats

Yes, we already have these, but they will continue to become even more precise and useful. The programming possibilities of the current smart thermostats are already an immense help at reducing the cost of heating and cooling your home. The fact that you can do this while not even being on your property is a further convenience.

However, a new generation of models also allow you to remotely control other types of HVAC equipment in your home. Imagine also being able to operate your humidifier and dehumidifier using a smartphone? At the moment, you are not likely to find such extras on a mid-priced thermostat, but it is only a matter of time before that technology becomes standard. All-in-one control systems like Apple’s HomeKit are so tempting to high-end consumers, the push to expand the abilities of such products could soon result in further HVAC applications no one has considered possible yet.

Solar Power

Some of us already have solar panels installed on our roof, but experts agree that we are still in the early days of just what this energy source can do. Already companies are coming up with panels that are far less conspicuous and require much less room.

The quest for efficient “green buildings” has led to several exciting innovations. With the increasing ability to embed solar cells in unusual places (including windows!), that means an even greater way to generate power. Could you run a whole HVAC system using just the solar power your home collects? It could well be possible in the years to come.

Self-Cleaning Ducts

It is important to periodically have your ducts cleaned because blockages affect both air flow and quality. It’s not too difficult or expensive to have professionals perform this service, but wouldn’t it be great if the ducts just did it themselves? Self-cleaning ducts would be especially helpful in places like hospitals and seniors’ homes, which are not only concerned with environmental comfort, but also with preserving hygienic conditions and air quality.

Companies from Australia and Italy are collaborating on ducts that would use an antimicrobial duct solution with self-cleaning nanostructured coating. The inspiration for this comes from the self-cleaning lotus leaf, which always remains clean, no matter how dirty the environment. It is quite feasible to believe that should this technology prove successful, home applications could be right around the corner.

Other Possibilities

The thought behind the Internet of Things is that if something can be connected to the web, it will be. Many people will find this daunting, but once the savings and convenience become apparent, and the tech learning curve reduces, these worries will be forgotten. As with everything, early adopters pay more, but in nearly all cases, once a technology is established it soon leads to price reductions.

Wouldn’t it be great to not only control your furnace from afar, but also have it alert you when the filter needs changing? Or advise when a breakdown has occurred, thus allowing you to immediately book a service call? It’s exciting to think about what the future could hold for the average homeowner in the years to come.

Image: besjunior

5 Products to Turn Your Home Smart!

By now, you’ve probably heard the buzz about technology that can turn your home ‘smart’. But what is it that makes these devices so smart?

Man using a smart thermostat app on his mobile phone.

A smart home device is one you can control with a remote, smartphone, tablet or even your own voice. Wireless connectivity has become a feature in everything from appliances to home heating and cooling systems.

Need help getting started? These five easy-to-use products can turn your home smart — and save energy while they’re at it!

1. Smart Thermostat

Gone are the days when thermostats were only meant for turning the temperature up or down. Smart thermostats come with many cool and convenient features, along with user-friendly controls anyone can learn to use.

Like programmable thermostats, you can program a smart thermostat to adjust the temperature automatically at set times. However, with a smart thermostat, you can do it wirelessly using a smartphone or other device. This means you can adjust the temperature from anywhere in the home, while you’re at work or school, or even while on vacation!

Some high-tech models of smart thermostats can learn about your habits and adjust the temperature automatically. The popular ecobee3 smart WiFi thermostat, for example, uses wireless sensors to read the temperature in different rooms.

2. Smart Speakers / Smart Home Assistants

The latest crop of smart speakers do more than just play music. Smart speakers can serve as a central ‘hub’ for various smart devices, letting you control everything from thermostats to smart TVs with the sound of your voice. Products like the Amazon Echo and Google Home also come with a virtual assistant able to keep track of your schedule, shopping list, and other useful bits of information.

Manufacturers are increasingly designing smart home devices to work with smart speakers right out of the box. However, not all devices are compatible with the various smart speakers on the market, so it’s important to do your research before you invest in one. If you already own a smart home device, be sure to opt for a hub able to speak its language.

3. Smart Water Sensors

If you’ve ever had a pipe burst in the winter, you know how important it is to catch leaks early on. Trouble is, an old-fashioned leak detector is only useful if someone’s around to hear the alarm!

Fortunately, manufacturers have patched this flaw with smart water sensors. Smart home water sensors are battery-powered leak detectors that include wireless technology, allowing them to connect with smart speakers and other devices. If the sensor detects water, it can instantly send an alert to your computer or smartphone.

Like a smart thermostat, smart water sensors give homeowners more control over the home while they’re away. This peace of mind is more than worth the modest price tag!

4. Smart Shades and Blinds

You may not realize it, but windows have a big impact on the temperature inside your home. The sun’s rays bump up the temperature in the summer, and in the winter, warm air can escape through a poorly-sealed window.

A simple way to control the amount of heat entering or exiting through the windows is to install heavy curtains or blinds. Unfortunately, we tend to leave them in one position most of the time. This makes automated smart shades and blinds a great choice for energy-conscious homeowners. You can also combine smart shades and blinds with a smart thermostat for even bigger energy savings!

5. Smart Light Bulbs

Remember The Clapper? It seems we have always been looking for ways to control the lights without flicking a switch. Smart light bulbs are the next big leap in this technology, allowing you to turn the lights on or off from afar with the use of a smartphone or smart speaker.

Smart lights are more expensive than traditional bulbs, especially if you plan to convert the entire house, but they also use less energy and last longer than incandescent bulbs.


Image: Prykhodo