Four Smart Ways to Stop Wasting Heat in the Winter

Energy efficiency is essential to environmental sustainability. In frosty weather, that means making the most of the heat we generate. 

Want to know the secret to keeping warm in the winter? Stay indoors. Fleece long-johns and down jackets have their place, but the real way to stay toasty is inside, with a furnace.

The trick is keeping the warmth in there with you. Heat has lots of sneaky ways of slipping out: doorframes, vents, windows, or poorly insulated walls. All that wasted heat takes its toll, not just on your wallet or your company’s bottom line, but on the environment too.

While the amount of energy wasted from heat loss is difficult to discern, Natural Resources Canada (NRC) estimates that nearly one quarter of energy consumption in residential homes and one third in offices is wasted every year. Greenhouse gas emissions emitted from buildings account for 17 per cent of Canada’s carbon pollution, according to a recent CBC report.

The situation is improving, however, as the price of energy efficient technologies drops, and researchers search for innovative ways to convert wasted energy from heat loss into alternative sources of fuel.

A report by Natural Resources Canada found that 45 percent of all commercial buildings and 62 percent of residential homes in Canada now feature at least one energy efficient feature or technology (EEFT) that helps limit energy waste.   

Here’s a look at the most popular processes to reduce wasted heat:

  1. Waste Heat Recovery Products

Waste Heat Recovery Products are part of the suite of energy management control systems that optimize energy usage for indoor systems like heating and ventilation. For example, the Quebec-based engineering firm EcoDrain makes heat recovery technologies for homeowners and big businesses. These products store heat from showers or large-scale commercial activities that use water—such as laundromats or hotels—and disperse it through pipes to heat buildings.

  1.  Energy efficient electronics

According to Zero Energy Project—a non-profit organization dedicated to helping homebuyers, builders and real estate agents reduce their carbon footprint—home appliances and phantom energy plugs account for up to 60 percent of wasted heat and energy use. Energy efficient appliances are an essential part of the solution. These devices find the optimal temperatures required to run and then shut down when the goal is reached.

  1. Energy efficient homes and buildings

One of the easiest ways to limit waste heat is to ensure that buildings are properly insulated and well-sealed. Natural Resources Canada suggests that building owners seek out consumer products, such as heat loss insulated pipes and walls, to help lower their impact on the environment.

  1. Cogeneration technologies

Cogeneration technologies take the excess energy—in the form of heat—from a natural gas-burning generator and apply it to a related purpose. For example, cogeneration systems in the oilsands provide electricity for operations, while the waste heat is used to create steam to heat the heavy oil. These technologies can more than double the energy efficiency of the natural gas they consume.

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