If you have lived in a house, you probably know all about cold weather preparation for your home, things like getting out the snow shovel and checking the seals on your windows or shutting off the water to your hose bibs. If you live in a high-rise condominium, your list is quite a bit easier but there are still some things you should plan for during the winter months to maintain your home and protect your investment. Here are some of the tips that will keep you and your home comfortable and protected during our Canadian winters.
1. Monitor humidity levels in your suite. This is the big one. Some humidity is necessary for comfort but too much or too little will cause problems in your home. Too much humidity leads to condensation and usually shows up on your windows first. Excessive condensation will eventually result in damage to your windows, drywall and flooring. Simple ways to reduce your humidity levels are to turn on your fans – the exhaust fan over your stove, in your bathroom – or, if you have an ERV, set it to maximum until you have removed the excess humidity from your home. Too little humidity brings it’s own concerns, such as causing wood to shrink. Even if you don’t have wood flooring, it’s a good bet that you do have some wood in your suite – kitchen cabinetry, doorframes, baseboards, furniture – any of these items react to too little humidity by shrinking and separating. Since humidity levels will change depending on the outside temperature relative to the inside temperature, its hard to give a concise recommendation but as a guideline, the chart below is a general outline to prevent condensation. The most reliable indicator, though, is your own home.
Outside Air Temperature Desirable Maximum Inside
Degrees Celsius Relative Humidity (%) Indoor Temperature of 21° C
-30 and colder not over 15%
-30 to -25 not over 20%
-24 to -19 not over 25%
-12 to -7 not over 30%
-6 to 0 not over 35%
2. Do not turn your fancoil or heat pump off. Some of us are tempted to conserve energy by turning our heat off during the day or if we’re going away. Unfortunately, this can lead to problems. Operating your heating system, even at a minimum level, will keep the components inside active and working and prevent sticking or jamming when the unit is turned back on. An operating heating unit will also help protect your home’s environment for your return. Rule of thumb – it takes about 1 hour to raise the temperature 1 degree. If you turn your heating unit off during the day, you’ll be sleeping in a very chilly home until your heating unit gets to a comfortable temperature.
3. Do NOT turn off your Energy Recovery Ventilator & let it Defrost properly. Many new Tridel homes are equipped with Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERV’s). During very cold weather, the recovery of heat creates frost in the ERV core. To maintain it’s proper operation, the ERV is programmed to defrost the recovery core. Many ERV systems work on a cycle, defrosting for approximately 7-10 minutes and then resuming normal operation for 20-25 minutes. While defrosting, the frequency the ERV operates on will vary according to the outside temperature, as well as the make/model of ERV. During the defrost cycle, your ERV will over-ride the existing settings and will shift into maximum speed. The dampers will also close. After defrosting, the unit will resume normal operation and return to the setting you have selected.
4. Program your thermostat. Most programmable thermostats have pre-programmed temperature settings for your weekday and weekend use. During weekdays, your temperature will decrease while you’re away from home and will slowly rise again in the evenings so you’re comfortable when you’re home at night. It’s energy efficient and easy. A “set and forget” solution.
5. Check your fancoil or heat pump filters. If your filter is dirty and clogged, you won’t get proper air flow and that will reduce the amount of heat you actually get in your home. It also makes the motor in your fancoil or heat pump work harder and can reduce the life span of your unit.