by Angus MacCaull

Even with the thermostat set at twenty, the house felt cool. I’d also started sneezing—a lot. “Sounds like you need a dehumidifier,” my friend said. Not long after I plugged in a new unit from Canadian Tire, the air quality in the house got dramatically better. I had thought the problems were unrelated, perhaps due to an old furnace and a new allergy. It didn’t occur to me that the root of everything was high humidity.

How to keep our houses warm is a perennial topic for Maritimers. From dealing with dehumidifiers and different kinds of space heaters to deciding when to replace whole HVAC systems, lots of us have questions. And while my friend doesn’t do general home consultations, there is a province-wide program that does!

The program is called HomeWarming and is run through the Clean Foundation along with Efficiency Nova Scotia. Low income families can receive home inspections for free. Technicians will do blower door tests, inspect your insulation, and analyze your heating sources and expenses. Then they will actually install high priority upgrades—at no cost to you.

According to one active community member familiar with the program, HomeWarming is good when it works for people, though the application process can be hard to navigate. You might want to ask for tips from someone who has completed the program.

The same consultations are also available to all homeowners who pay a fee for the initial assessment. Rebates are then available on specific upgrades. If you are planning your own upgrades, it may be a worthwhile exercise. “Look what your heating costs are before you start spending money trying to save,” says Barry Walker, a Community Outreach Coordinator for Efficiency Nova Scotia. Sometimes you might be able to save money in unexpected ways.

Poorly designed dryer vents are one of Walker’s pet peeves. Having a vent stuck open means you have a six inch hole in the side of your house. Spending a few extra dollars on a weighted vent that closes every time is great first step toward household heating efficiency.

While most of the efficiency upgrades are for those who own their homes, there is one program that is available to everyone, including renters. At absolutely no cost to you, one of Efficiency Nova Scotia’s partners will install certain energy efficient products in your home, including water saving shower heads, water aerators, electric hot water tank wrap, and LED light bulbs.

The Clean Foundation and Efficiency Nova Scotia do information sessions for community groups around the province. There may be local group in your community willing to host, such as Responsible Energy Action where I live in Antigonish.

Just as a single match can start a cozy fire, sometimes a single piece of home advice can make the days and nights a whole lot more comfortable.

Barry Walker (Efficiency Nova Scotia) and Zenon Pilipowicz (Clean Foundation) at the People's Place in Antigonish
Barry Walker (Efficiency Nova Scotia) and Zenon Pilipowicz (Clean Foundation) at the People’s Place in Antigonish