Ten Winter Tips for Baseboard Heater Owners

By | Canada, Electric, Electrician, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Residential Electric, Tips | No Comments

With the first dusting of snow landing in Halifax this morning, it appears that fall has finally caught up with us. Winter won’t be far behind. Now is the season to start thinking about winter heat. Here in Nova Scotia, most of us rely on oil, gas, wood or electricity to keep our homes cozy during the winter months. Heat pumps are becoming more prevalent in our province as well, but with our extreme temperature range, they can fail when needed the most. Most heat pumps are secondary sources here.

Today we’re going to focus on electricity. Let’s talk about how to cut costs by using your baseboard heaters efficiently. Baseboard heaters rely on electricity, and can make up nearly 45% of your electric bill in the colder winter months. Make sure yours are operating efficiently and in good working order in order to keep those costs down!

Here are TEN things you should know about your baseboard heaters:

  • Baseboard heaters are usually situated under windows because it’s most efficient that way. Windows are colder than the rest of the room, and can create unpleasant drafts, making you cold and uncomfortable. Dense cold air near the window sinks to the floor, but heat from a baseboard heater under the window will rise, counteracting the falling cool air. If you have efficient windows, you may not notice these effects as substantially. Reducing drafts from your windows with window film and coverings such as blinds and curtains can also help.
  • Heat rises… and so do your costs – for every single degree above 68°F. Heating costs rise about 5% for every degree above 20°C (68°F) that you set your thermostats. If you are comfortable at cooler temperatures (especially if you’re cooking or puttering around the house), you’ll be able to save!
  • Contrary to popular belief, cranking up that thermostat will not warm up the room any faster. If you’ve ever returned home to a room that feels like an igloo, it’s pretty tempting to crank the thermostat up four or five degrees past where you normally set it. It will still take the same length of time to warm up, and you’ll just use more energy, because it keeps heating the room after you’ve passed your regular comfortable temperature.
  • Thick carpet or rugs can get in the way. Carpets and rugs can warm up a room and help keep your feet warm – as long as they’re not making your baseboard heaters inefficient. Although it looks like warm air is only coming out of the front of your heaters, the air is actually circulating all around the room. Your baseboard heaters should sit at least two centimetres above the floor or carpet to allow the cooler air on the floor to flow under and through the electrical element… if your carpet is too thick, trim it down around the base of your heaters!
  • Window coverings keep cool air out but can aslo block your baseboard heaters! The bottom of your drapes should end at least four inches above your heaters or, if your drapes run floor-to-ceiling, at least one inch above the floor. Make sure you have at least two inches between the back of the drapes and the front of your heaters. It’s all about airflow — don’t let flooring or window coverings block airflow anywhere around your baseboard heaters.
  • Baseboard heaters don’t circulate air very well. They do a great job of heating in “zones” – that is, heating the spaces that you need, compared to heating your entire home all the time. But since they don’t have a forced air or fan system, don’t rely on baseboard heating in one room to heat hallways or adjacent spaces, such as by leaving doors open. Instead, heat the space you need when you’re using it.
  • If it’s dusty, it’s not working efficiently. An electric baseboard heater has an electrical heating element inside a metal pipe. When the heater is turned on, an electric current flows through the heating element. Although baseboard heaters will always turn electricity used into heat, dust and dirt on your heating system can block that heat from being distributed effectively in your space. You can end up running heaters longer because it’s more difficult to release the heat that’s generated, through dirty fins, into the room. At least once a year (usually in the fall, before using them for the first time), wipe down the surface of your heaters and vacuum the fins and housing to remove as much dust as possible. A brush attachment for your vacuum can work well if you have one.
  • Sixteen is golden… keep it at 16 degrees to maximize your savings. 16°C (61°F) is too cold for most of us to stay comfortable when we’re home, but what about when you’re asleep and covered in blankets? Setting your baseboards to 16°C at night and when you’re away can help you save up to 10% on your energy bills.
  • Baseboard heaters are one of the safest heating options available since they can’t tip over and catch fire. Dust and lint on the unit aren’t likely to pose a safety risk, but regular cleaning (vacuuming) won’t hurt and can minimize the risks even further. Unlike portable space heaters (which can tip over very easily), baseboard heaters are safer for children and pets. However, be sure to keep them away from the unit and the interior fins – which can be warm to the touch.
  • Programmable thermostats are much more precise than the manual ones located on your heater. Most heaters are controlled by a wall-mounted dial thermostat or a dial on the side of the baseboard itself. But they’re less precise and harder to control than a programmable or digital model. Thermostats mounted directly on the heaters can be slower to respond to changes in room temperature, so for rooms where you’re spending a lot of time (such as your living room), you should consider replacing that thermostat with a wall-mounted model. For accurate readings, never install a thermostat directly above a baseboard heater, near a refrigerator or other large appliance, or where it will be in direct sunlight.

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The Flinn Electric Energy Cost Calculator!

By | Canada, Commercial Electric, Electric, Electrician, Halifax, Industrial Electric, Nova Scotia, Residential Electric, Tips | No Comments

Here at Flinn Electric, we are often asked how much it costs to run certain appliances, lighting and other electrical devices. Which is why we went ahead and developed a handy electrical cost calculator! Wondering how much your old fridge costs to run? Want to compare your LED bulbs vs. the old incandescent ones? Now you can! Just pick an appliance or enter the electrical details, and let us calculate the cost for you!

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Extension Cord Safety Tips and Tricks

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Sometimes you need power and there are no outlets nearby. This is where the mighty EXTENSION CORD shines! However, beware that all extension cords are not created equally. Do not assume it is a heavy-duty cord just because it is orange or yellow!

Each cord has an amperage rating, which should be checked before using it on a high-amperage appliance. And some things aren’t meant for extension cords at all. For instance, an air-compressor should be plugged directly into an outlet, and more air hose added to get the length you need — not more cord.

Cords come in all lengths and gauges. The 3-foot ‘indoor only’ extension cord you pick up at the local Dollar Store is not in the same league as the heavy-duty indoor/outdoor cords from the hardware store. How to tell them apart? Well, most are labeled – but there are other indicators as well. Heavy duty cords are THICK and hearty. This sets them apart from those flimsy thin cords.

Another thing to keep an eye on is the condition of your cord. If the insulation has become damaged, or there are rips or cracks in the cording, THROW IT AWAY. Trying to repair the cord isn’t worth the risk of electrical fire. If the cord is crackling when plugged in, or melted around the outlet, THROW IT AWAY. I’ve had several cords over the years that have given up – it happens. Like most things, cords do have a lifespan. And things like poor weather conditions, and wear and tear over time can compromise the integrity of the cord. When using an extension cord, feel the plug every now and then. If the plug feels warm, stop using the cord immediately. Know when to replace, and stay safe!

In conclusion, you should use common sense when using extension cords. Read the label before plugging them in, and be sure to check them periodically for wear.

Energy Saving Tips for Fall and Winter

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BRRR!! Now that the cold is starting to descend upon us Atlantic Canadians, it is time to think about bundling up battening down for the Winter. Save energy (and money) this fall by taking a few simple and inexpensive steps around the home! A number simple strategies can save you money across the entire cold season. Take a look below, and see if you could be doing more to save energy in your home this fall and winter!

Get an energy audit

Getting an energy audit will let you know where you stand in terms of efficiency. And it will give you a base comparison for any work you put into making your home more efficient. Also, here in Canada, the government often offers grants and cashback for increasing you efficiency numbers!

Cover drafty windows

If you have old aluminum frame or even wooden frame windows, you should cover them with a thin plastic film for the cold season. Most hardware stores sell kits, which will eliminate drafts, and in turn make your home warmer (and cheaper to heat) this winter.

Find leaks and seal them

Go around the house and feel for drafts, and seal them up! Some people will light a stick of incense on a windy day, and check around windows and doorways. Your best weapon against these will be caulking for windows, and weather striping for the doors. Also check around your chimney and even electric outlets! There are plenty of products on the market to address even these areas.

Adjust the temperature

Get yourself a modern programmable digital thermostat, and set it to keep the house cooler when you are at work. Here at Casa-de-Flinn, the heat kicks on a half an hour before the morning alarm goes off, and tones down at the end of the day for overnight.

Use the heat from the sun

The sun is a tremendous source of heat and energy and can help keep your home warm in the winter. Leave those blinds open on sunny days, and let the sunshine beam into your home. By doing so, you can easily add a few degrees of warmth to your home at absolutely no cost to you at all!

Keep your furnace maintained

A well-maintained furnace is much more efficient than one that is not. New filters, nozzles, and other wear-parts need to be replaced frequently. It may cost a little to have the experts come in and set it straight – but it will more than pay for itself over the course of the cold season.

Lower your Christmas lighting cost

Still using those old strings of Christmas lights? The modern LED lights will save you a bundle if you choose to upgrade – and they look better too!

Have any other tips for us? Be sure to join us on social media and share them with us!

Helpful Tips – All about GFCI outlets

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Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters or GFCIs are special electrical outlets designed to protect you. You’ll often find them close to water – in the bathroom, by the kitchen sink, in the garage or on the exterior of your home. GFCIs are specifically designed to for use in wet environments. This has to do with it’s design. A GFCI outlet constantly measures the current in both the black and white wires, and compares them. Any shift in either, and the outlet shuts off, protecting you from a porentially lethal electric shock. If you run over the electric lawn mower cord with the mower, or mistakenly drop a hairdryer in the sink, a GFCI will come to the rescue!

Here’s where you come into play. Every GFCI receptacle has two buttons on it – test and reset. You should be using these once a month to test the integrity of the outlet. It has moving metal parts, and is often in a wet environment, so it has potential for failure. To test it, just press the TEST button. The button will pop out and the circuit will shut off. Press RESET to turn the power back on. If the button isn’t working like it should, the unit should be replaced. Never replace a GFCI outlet with a regular one – always replace with another GFCI outlet.

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Fall Electrical Safety Tips

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As the temperature begins to drop this autumn, people start readying themselves for the upcoming winter here in Eastern Canada. Away goes the lawnmower and whipper snipper, and out come the electrical heaters and blankets. We’ve put together some great tips to help you prepare for the colder months.

  • When raking the yard, be sure to keep piles of leaves away from any outdoor outlets, lighting or power cords
  • Check the condition of all summer equipment you are storing away for the colder months (lawnmower, trimmer, clippers) AND the tools you are pulling from storage (leaf blower, snow blower). Pay particular attention to power cords looking for frays, rips or unusual wear and tear. Replace cords as required.
  • Disconnect and safely store any and all batteries that won’t be in use until spring. Trickle chargers and battery tenders are great for keeping them in prime shape until they are required again.
  • Inspect your outdoor outlets and upgrade them to GFCI outlets as necessary. Also install covers on them to protect them from moisture and corrosion.
  • Ensure all electrical blankets are in good condition, and are safety-certified by CSA, UL or ETL. Inspect cords for any frays, cracks or cuts.
  • Never put anything on top of your electric blanket (such as other comforters, duvets or beadspreads) while in use.
  • Never tuck in an electric blanket – under your mattress or your children.
  • Never allow pets to sleep on an electric blanket.
  • Consider layers of clothing for warmth, rather than an electric blanket. By layering up, you can keep heating costs down.

Helpful Tips – Label your Circuits!

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Whether you are a homeowner or just renting, you should always take the time to label your home’s circuits upon moving in. Then when the power suddenly cuts out, or you need to cut specific power for a project, you’ll be prepared! I even have a crude map taped to the inside of my fusebox, to show me where each area is. Room names change over the years – what was a rec room is now a bedroom, and the storage room is now an office!

Look around and locate that grey metal box – and if you have access, get in there and get labeling! To start just flip a switch, and see what went out. Chart lights, as well as outlets. When I used to do my outlets, I’d simply walk around with a small lamp. Nowadays, I own more gear, so I usually use one of the cool toys pictured. They test for live current and light up when they find it. You simply pop them into the outlet or a slot, and see. These are relatively inexpensive, and can be found at local retailers like Canadian Tire and Princess Auto.

Now that you’ve got your system labeled, it makes it easier the next time a storm rolls in and the power cuts out… or you put two 1500W heaters on the same circuit…. don’t ask. It also makes it easier for your favorite electrician, when you need to call in the pros to help you out.