Oh the weather outside is frightful,
but the furnace’s heat’s delightful.
You’re travelling and on the go,
so let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.
They might not be the original lyrics, but for many Calgarians, it’s their furnaces rather than a fireplace keeping their homes snuggly warm all winter long. Which is why we have so many Calgary homeowners asking us every year what they should be doing with their furnace while they’re travelling and visiting family over the holidays. That’s a great question!
Turn Down the Heat.
Even if you’re only going to be out of the house for a few days, it’s a good idea to turn the heat down. In fact, we recommend all Albertans invest $20-$30 for a basic 5/2 programmable thermostat. Lowering the thermostat for a few hours while everyone is away at work or sleeping is a great way to save money and energy!
But Not Too Low.
With every degree you drop the temperature, you’ll save money on your power bill, but turning the heat off entirely is simply not an option. Even if you don’t have house plants or pets staying home, you do have plumbing, and the last thing any homeowner wants are burst pipes. Set your thermostat for a minimum of 12-15°C (41-53°F). This should be warm enough that even in the cold spots in your house, nothing freezes. If you do have pets staying behind, keep them in mind when selecting the temperature. Most short hair dogs prefer a temperature of at least 16°C, and short hair cats are more comfortable at 18°C.
What About the Hot Water Tank?
Unlike the furnace, we wouldn’t bother turning off the water heater if you’re only leaving for a few days. This is because water is great at holding heat — which is why many people use it to heat their homes. However, being good at holding heat means it also takes a lot of energy to heat water even one degree (over 4 joules of energy per degree if you’re interested).
So, because water always wants to stay the same temperature, it may actually take more energy to reheat cold water than to just keep the hot water warm if you’re only away a couple days. However, if you will be away for 2 or more weeks, then turning your hot water tank onto vacation mode may be useful! Remember, your tank will take 1-5 hours (depending on heating method, efficiency, capacity, etc, etc) to reach temperature after you turn it back on.
Regardless of whether you decide to turn the tank off, we recommend all Calgarians shut off the cold water supply to the water heater in case there’s a leak while you’re away.
Here at the Plumbing Paramedics, we’re all looking forward to spending some extra time with our families. But, if in the days leading up to your celebrations, you find yourself in need of a friendly, Calgary plumber, we’ll be here to serve. Call Plumbing Paramedics to schedule work or for help with an emergency at (403) 452-2911.