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Winter House Comfort

Winter house comfort is composed of the right mixture of temperature, humidity, reducing or minimizing air pollutants and enhancing air movement inside your house.

How you and your family live indoors in winter also has a big impact too. For example, instead of cranking up the thermostat, just wear some extra clothing rather than turning up the heat. This will have an impact on what you pay each month. Increasing the temperature will certainly increase your heating bill.

Your main goal is to:

Reduce the cold air and drafts from coming inside your house, which leads to... reducing your heating costs.

Room comfort:

Programmable Thermostats

In these budge-conscious and increasingly "green" times, installing a programmable thermostat is a smart lifestyle choice. It's also one of the best winter house comforts you can have in your house. You can program it to best suit your lifestyle. In doing so, you'll save on your heating bills provided that you program your thermostat in a sensible i.e. an economical way.

There are different types of programmable thermostats such as a five or seven-day programmable thermostat. Any home renovation retail chain store has a variety to choose from so read the product description carefully to make sure it's going to meet your needs.

For example, here's how I set my programmable thermostat for a 7-day cycle. We tend to keep our temperature lower when we are home but works perfectly for us and our winter home comfort.

  • Daily 11p.m. to 6.a.m - Lower temperatures from bedtime to getting up next morning
  • Monday to Friday: 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. - Comfortably warm (average is 19 degrees Celsius to 22 degrees Celsius or 66.2 degrees Fahrenheit to 71.6 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Monday to Friday: 8 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. - Lower temperatures during the day because no one is home
  • Monday to Friday 4.30 p.m. to 11 p.m. - Comfortably warm (as above)
  • Saturday and Sunday - almost comfortably warm all day and set back (turned down) at night.

By installing a thermostat and programming it to suit your winter house comfort needs, there will be a definite cost saving to you. Your results will not be the same as ours but we've saved between $80 and $100 per season based on the previous winter's heating bills. As we improve the weatherproofing on our building as well, we expect to save even more in future winters.

Air comfort:

Inside air vents

For those with central fan-forced heating, you'll have floor or wall vents as part of the air circulation system in your house. You'll be able to control the heated airflow in your house by opening, partially closing, or fully closing these vents, as you want or need. You can benefit from closing vents in rooms that you don't use regularly like a guest bedroom. This will help reduce the amount of heat and therefore the cost of your heating bill too.

For a time, houses were built with ceiling vents as well as floor vents but it's now fallen out of favour. If you have an older house like this, closing any vents near the ceiling while making sure the floor vents are open will help improve the heat circulation. Heat rises so if the ceiling vents remain open, hot air escapes through the ceiling and roof area leaving the room and floor area cooler than you'd like. Your heating system will be working overtime to try to heat the same space over and over again and this heat loss just costs you more money. 

Winter house comfort  - Ceiling fans

As heat naturally rises, there's a simple strategy you can do to circulate heated air - again and again without the furnace working overtime. The interesting thing to know about ceiling fans is that by reversing the direction of the fan, it will pull down warm air towards the floor again. Hopefully, you'll have a very slow speed on your ceiling fan to do this as you don't want to create too much of an air flow that will make you feel colder instead.

Winter house comfort - Humidifier

Dry air is a fact of life in a cold winter climate where there's uncomfortable static electricity in the air so touching anything (including someone else's hands) can give you a small nasty "shock". Having a humidifier going throughout the winter helps to lessen this impact. Why? Because it adds moisture to the dry air. This is crucial and I think, absolutely essential for winter home comfort.

Most homes with central fan-forced heating have an automatic humidifier attached to the furnace. 

Remember to get this appliance checked when you have your heating system inspected, which should be every year in the fall season - well before you need the heat on.

However, if you don't have this type of heating system, then you can easily buy a portable compact unit instead. A good strategy is to have a large one in the living area and another one in the hallway near the bedrooms. You need to add water to the tank/s every day during winter.

Winter house comfort - Air purification

The key to your best winter house comfort is having an air purification system in your house either as part of your heating system (if you have the right type) or a standalone unit.

The purpose of an air purification system is to move whatever pollutants (cooking, animal dander etc) your home has acquired out the door as it were, leaving you with cleaner air to better maintain a clean, comfortable space for you and your family. Improving indoor air quality is important in winter, as you'll not be opening any doors or windows until the weather is much warmer.

There are three options to consider for improving the indoor air quality in your house. These are:

  • If you have fan-forced heating system in your house then go to Option 1.
  • If you have another type of heating system in your house then go to Option 2.
  • Whatever heating system you have in your house then go to Option 3.

Option 1: Fan-forced heating systems with an air cleaner or air exchange unit

Some air cleaners or air exchangers can be part of your heating system. Because the most common type of heating is the fan-forced air heating system, an air purification unit is easy to add to this system. These heating systems can also have an electrostatic air cleaner attached to the fan-forced furnace. If you have this type of heating system, the filters need to be cleaned or changed regularly during winter. If your furnace does not have one at the moment, these air cleaner units can be installed.

A more expensive option is adding a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) or an energy recovery ventilator (ERV) to the furnace. These units also help maintain the correct humidity level too.

The advantage of both the electrostatic air cleaner and the EVR system is that it does double-duty for both winter heating and summer air conditioning. Cleaning or replacing the filters then becomes a year round maintenance activity for you to do.

Option 2: Indoor air exchanger

Keeping the air circulating from outside to inside your house helps to clean the air. Even though houses are built to keep the cold and wind out, there will still be some natural ventilation coming into your house but it may not be enough to clear the air. 

You can also buy a separate air exchanger unit to do the same job of cleaning the indoor air if you don't have a fan-forced heating system. These stand-alone units can be expensive, starting around $1000 per unit. This system can be even more expensive if additional ducting to several rooms is required which is generally the case.

Option 3: Stand-alone Indoor Air Cleaner

Regardless of the type of heating system you have (hot water gas, electric, fan-forced air heating), you can buy portable stand-alone fan units to circulate the air. These are not as effective as a whole house system (like Option 1 above) but it works and is a less expensive option to consider.

Cost per unit starts around $100 to $300. An ideal place to keep one of these moveable compact units is in the living/dining/kitchen area to capture some of the airborne pollutants that come from cooking or using a gas appliance.

You can buy these units with or without a fan. A no-fan unit may be cheaper but are far less effective because the air isn't being circulated. The whole point of getting an indoor air cleaner is to improve the indoor air quality so buy a unit with a fan in it. Seems kind of silly to buy an indoor air cleaner that doesn't circulate the air!

The more you know...

Understanding what's available and how it might work for your house is crucial to being happy and satisfied in your choice. This goes for anything of significant value like buying/replacing heating systems, windows, appliances etc.

Don't rely completely on those that are selling you something to make that choice for you. They want to make the sale but does it properly match your needs? Make sure you understand what you need, do some research, and ask questions to educate yourself first before making a decision that involves a significant cost.

More on winter house comfort .... indoor air quality

For another way to help improve your overall winter house comfort is to keep the air cleaner inside your house. Not only in winter but all year round is to have particular types of plants placed strategically around your home. Over time, these plants will improve the air quality by helping to reduce the air pollutants that come from from paint, furniture, animals, appliances etc.

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