The REEP House for Sustainable Living in Kitchener. • Contributed

Green house effect

The REEP House for Sustainable Living in Kitchener. • Contributed
The REEP House for Sustainable Living in Kitchener. • Contributed

Tips for heating your home while maintaining a sustainable lifestyle

Justin Fauteux

As the cold of winter settles in, homeowners and tenants are faced with a classic dilemma; sleep with a sweater on, or see a spike in their utility bill.

However, according to local nonprofit, the Residential Energy Efficiency Project — commonly known as REEP Green Solutions — it is possible to reduce your energy consumption and save money while still keeping your home comfortable.

“There are a lot of simple things you can do to improve the comfort level in your home,” said Julian van Mossel, REEP’s communications manager. According to van Mossel, one of the best energy-saving tactics is to install a programmable thermostat. Homeowners can set a programmable thermostat to an optimal temperature and then let the house cool by a few degrees when they are away or asleep.

Most homes in Waterloo Region have high-efficiency natural gas furnaces that, van Mossel said, are actually quite energy efficient. However, he added that many people let their furnace fans run all the time, which uses hundreds of watts of energy. Switching the furnace fan to the auto setting, which means it will only run when needed, is another way average homeowners can save some energy.

However, it’s not what you’re using to heat your home that plays the biggest role in energy efficiency; it’s how you keep the heat inside.

“Think about how well-insulated your home is,” said van Mossel. “For example, a lot of people don’t have insulated basements and you can actually lose up to 20 per cent of the heat in your home through your basement.”

Improved insulation can drastically reduce the amount of energy it takes to heat a house. van Mossel encourages people to seek out drafts in their home and seal them. Drafts commonly occur around pipes and vents that lead outside and, of course, around windows and doors. They can easily be sealed using weather stripping.

REEP set up their House for Sustainable Living in Kitchener to demonstrate how proper insulation can improve a home’s efficiency. The facility is located at 20 Mill Street in a 100-year-old home that the organization had completely renovated to be more sustainable.

The project was completed in 2009 and, as a result, they decreased energy use of the home by 86 per cent, which resulted in savings of nearly $2,000 per year.

“The REEP house is what we see as taking it as close as we can to being a net-zero energy home as possible,” said van Mossel. “It’s great to have some real-life examples of those things.”

The REEP house, which is open to the public, showcases several options for people looking to make their homes more energy-efficient.

REEP House is open for drop-in tours every Saturday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m..