My friend Eduardo from Colombia recently asked me ‘When do you turn on the heating in your house?’ His question shocked me – not because of what he said, but when he said it. As I write this post in mid-November, the temperatures have been well-below zero degrees at night, and our house has been heated since mid-October. Eduardo was uncomfortably cold in his home, but he did not know when, or how, to turn on the heat.
We Canadians often take for granted that at the end of a winter afternoon spent outside in the snow, most of us return to cozy, well-heated homes. Heating in Canada is not only a luxury, it is a necessity – and waiting too long to turn on your heating can cause more problems than just discomfort. Here are some beginner tips for heating your home in Canada:
Types of heating:
The main types of heating in Canada’s cities are oil, natural gas, propane, electricity, and hot water.
Each type of heat has advantages and disadvantages. When looking for a new place to live (whether rental or purchase), one of the first things you should do is learn what type of heating the space uses.
Each type of heating has different maintenance requirements.
Generally, if you live in an apartment building you don’t need to be concerned with maintenance. However, if you live in a house, the furnace should be inspected and cleaned at least once a year (usually in the fall), and the furnace filter should be changed every few months. If you own your house, replacing the filter and arranging for a certified specialist to inspect your furnace are your responsibility. If you live in a rental house, you should clarify that your landlord is responsible for this. Whether you rent or own a house, if it is heated with oil or propane you will need to monitor the tank level and call a local oil/gas company to fill it up when it is low.
If you are able to control the temperature of your house or apartment, there will be a thermostat (a control panel) on one of the walls somewhere within your home. The thermostat allows you to adjust the temperature to your preference. Generally, 20 degrees Celsius within the home during the winter is comfortable.
Cost of heating:
The cost of heating a home in Canada can vary widely, depending on a number of factors:
If you are renting, you should ask whether the heating is included in the monthly rental fee. Generally, rental apartments in older buildings are heated with water, and this cost is included in the rental fee. In newer apartment buildings it is more likely that heating is electric and paid for by the tenant. Be sure to clarify these matters with your landlord before signing a lease. An apartment with a lower monthly rental fee could end up costing you more than the apartment with heating included.
Oil is the most expensive way to heat a home. If you are buying or renting a home with oil, be aware that in the cold winter months oil heating can costs as much as $300/month.
Minimizing the cost of heating:
Here are just a few ways that I manage the costs of heating my own home:
Keep closet doors closed (this ensures that you are only paying to heat your actual living spaces)
Turn your thermostat down a few degrees if you are away during the day, or if you leave your home for a weekend. CAUTION: Do NOT turn off your heat altogether-this may freeze your water pipes!
Ensure all heating vents are exposed, with no furniture blocking them.
Prevent cold air from entering the home through poorly sealed windows and doors. In the fall you can seal your windows with a plastic sheet from the hardware store, and place cloth under doors to keep the cool air out.
Do you have questions about renting or buying your first home in Canada? My Canada Plan can help you to make informed decisions about where to live. Please contact us for more information.