On the east coast we are used to dramatic temperature changes that occur throughout the year. It may feel like we are constantly changing our indoor temperature to keep our home comfortable. By understanding how the outside temperature affects the inside we can make decisions to ensure our homes are comfortable all year long.

The relationship between inside and outside temperatures

If it is hot outside, then it will be hot inside a typical home and the same applies for cold weather. If it is cold outside, it will typically be colder inside. Heat loss happens because heat moves to where it is cold. In the winter, the heated air in your home can escape to the outside, while cold wintry air can enter. In the summer, this movement of heat and air is reversed.

Understanding outdoor temperatures and how they affect indoor temperatures

Heat loss occurs from the difference in temperature between the outside and the inside of your home. Heat moves in any direction towards cooler spaces. During the winter, heated air inside your home moves towards the cooler air outside. This air leakage leads to heat loss. That is why proper insulation and air sealing are so important, especially if you want to save money on your energy bill. The Total Home Energy Savings Program can help you save money on your energy bill while improving the comfort in your home.

When most people consider insulation, they think about being comfortably warm during the winter months. But proper insulation and air sealing also makes your home comfortable in the summer by keeping the hot and humid air outside.

One energy saving tip is to lower your thermostat to 17°C while sleeping or away from home. When you are home, try keeping the inside temperature below 20°C and try not to open windows in the winter or let your house become overly hot in the summer. Closing your blinds or window coverings in the summer also helps to prevent rooms from overheating. These tips help your heating and/or cooling systems regulate the temperature more efficiently.

How these fluctuations affect your heating and cooling system

The best way to ensure that temperature fluctuations don't affect your heating and cooling system is to maintain it properly and use a programmable thermostat to control the temperature. Check the temperature and lower the thermostat accordingly instead of opening windows to cool down an overly warm home in the winter. Also, completely turning off the heat can cause problems by making the system work extra hard when it turns back on.

Another thing to consider is ensuring you have a properly sized heating and cooling system to prevent short cycling. Short cycling refers to your heating system switching on and off too frequently. The system is so big that too much heat is released in a short time; far away rooms or spaces don’t heat up by the time the furnace shuts off. Short cycling reduces the amount of air movement within the home. This can be a problem for those far away rooms that do not get enough hot air to warm to the desired temperature before the heating system turns off. If you do extensive energy renovations on your home, you might need a smaller heating or cooling system which is better for the comfort of your home and your bottom line.

An ENERGY STAR certified smart thermostat can help you regulate your home's temperature by adjusting it automatically with a set schedule. For every 3°C you lower the temperature, you could save 6% on your energy bill.

Outside temperatures affect your energy usage

We've discussed how the outside temperature affects the temperature inside your home and the effect it can have on your heating or cooling system. When the weather changes, keeping your thermostats at a consistent temperature helps reduce the impact of the outside temperature inside your home.

During the cold winter months, it takes more energy to heat your home. When the temperature dips below zero our heating system must work harder to keep our home comfortable. In fact, about 61% of the energy used in the average home goes to heating.

Other factors we need to be aware of are wind and humidity. Do you have a room in your home that is always chilly? On a windy day when the wind blows against your home it creates a high-pressure area and forces the chilly air inside leading to drafts and cold spots. By weatherstripping your doors and windows and having a continuous air barrier you can keep the cold air outside where it belongs.

Humidity can make a home feel damp and uncomfortable and over time can lead to bigger issues such as poor air quality and mould growth. Proper ventilation in homes can help control humidity. You can conquer humidity by considering a heat recovery ventilator if your house doesn’t have one, or upgrading yours to an ENERGY STAR model. Smaller steps could be using lids on stove pots when cooking, keeping showers short and using an ENERGY STAR certified dehumidifier to increase your home’s comfort.

If you want to learn more about energy efficient upgrades to help lower your energy use check out the Total Home Energy Savings Program. This can help you save money on energy saving upgrades around your home.

Hot summer temperatures can also affect your air conditioner

Hot weather can cause your air conditioner to work harder to maintain your thermostat's temperature. When your air conditioning is constantly running, the air filters can clog faster, the fans accumulate dust more quickly, and the system is under pressure to work harder.

To ensure your air conditioner continues to run smoothly throughout the summer, replace air filters frequently and brush off the fans when it is turned off. Also, make sure you replace any air conditioner that is over 10 years old with a new, energy efficient model and you can easily save up to 20% in energy used.

To learn more about saving energy in your home look at our series of helpful checklists with tips and advice for low-cost ways to save energy, no matter the temperature.