How Warm is Your Home?

It has been a colder winter this year. With the daytime average for January around -2°C, we've been on a streak of minus double digit temperatures.

Although today's high is -4°C, seems we're getting an arctic blast that will lower temperatures to around -20°C.


With that in mind, how warm is your house?

21°C? 22°C? 25°C?!

If you're like most people in Ontario, you have a natural gas furnace to heat your home. That means you use natural gas! I should be a detective.

After last year's ice storm and subsequent cold the followed, the natural gas company ran out of their winter stockpile. As a result, they had to buy natural gas from the open market. As natural gas was a hot commodity then, that meant prices were high. Now that everything has settled, the natural gas company asked permission to increase their rates to pass the cost onto us, the consumer. No surprise, their request was approved. This year, natural gas prices are 15% more expensive than last year.

Despite the increase in the gas rate, our natural gas bill for January 2015 was lower than the one in January 2014!

How is that possible?

Well, last year, my mother-in-law was staying at our house. As a result, during those cold winter days, she didn't go out. Frankly, it was dangerous as sidewalks were infrequently cleared. When sidewalks were cleared, it exposed some ice from the ice storm. We set the temperature in the house for a balmy 19°C. As she was home during the daytime, it was a constant 19°C.

This year, without her around, we set the temperature indoors for 18°C. Wifey would prefer to set the temperature higher, but any higher and I would start sweating. I'd wear shorts and a t-shirt if that was the case, but wifey would prefer I stick with winter gear indoors. However, with no one at home during the daytime, we set the temperature in the daytime to 15°C! Since most houses in Ontario are using the PeakSaver programmable thermostat, it's fairly easy to program the thermostat to make the changes in temperature based on a schedule. From 6:30am to 5:00pm, we have the temperature indoors for 15°C. Between 5:00pm and 6:30am, we have the temperature set for 18°C. I'm afraid of burst water pipes, so I do not dare set the indoor temperature lower than 15°C. On weekends, we have a consistent 18°C. When we go out for groceries, I try to turn down the temperature to 15°C... if I remember.

On average, the temperature in our house is 17°C. That's assuming I never remember to turn down the temperature on the weekends. That's two degrees lower than last year.

In January 2014, we paid $127.12 for natural gas. This January, we paid $107.79 for natural gas. Taking into account the 15% increase, adjusted for last year's cost, we paid $91.62 for gas. A two degree difference costs $35.50 less! At least in our case only.

If the average temperature in people's homes during the winter is around 21°C and we're about 4 degrees below the average, that means there are houses out there blasting away at a heat wave temperature of 25°C or more!

No wonder why some people have natural gas bills over $400 a month during the winter!

As it requires more natural gas to heat your home, and it's not a linear relationship between cost and degrees, there's no way for me to accurately determine how much people would save if they simply lowered their indoor temperature from 25°C to 21°C.

All I can say, is that these households are figuratively burning away their money.


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