Q How do I stop junk mail from being dumped on my doorstep?
A To earth-conscious peeps, junk mail is a small plague on the planet. Trees are axed, petrochemical dyes are spilled, all to print ads that not everyone wants to read (hey, local takeout menus can be pretty handy). The kind that come bundled in an unrecyclable plastic bag, like Loblaws sends out, are even more aggravating. And Canadians got 3 million of those bags in 2005.
First off, feel free to call the major companies flyering you to berate them for their wasteful practice. But if you really want it to end, your options are fairly limited. Contacting the Canadian Marketing Association and signing up for its free “Do not contact” service should at least halt the mad mail you get from its 700 members.
You can also stop many companies from sending you totally unnecessary hard copies of your bills by signing up for e-billing. Canada Post’s epost.ca is a simple centralized system that delivers many of your bills (phone, credit card, hydro) to one secure location. They just e-mail you when you get a new bill in the your virtual mailbox.
Over 200 institutions have signed up so far, including Rogers, Toronto Hydro, even places like Leon’s. Others, like BMO, you still have to contact directly.
Frustratingly, none of this stops unaddressed mail (aka flyers), the stuff our own Crown corporation, Canada Post, makes a pretty penny delivering. Reps say letter carriers are told to respect “No Junk Mail” signs - but that won’t stop private carriers from dumping on your door. Sorry.
Q My apartment has baseboard heaters that don’t warm things up no matter how high I crank them. What should I do?
A Like rain on your wedding day, Alanis Morissette should be crooning about the ironies of electric baseboard heaters. Namely, that they’re so damn cheap to install but so bloody pricey to run (not to mention useless).
Their rock-bottom price tag makes them extra-appealing to landlords, especially those who make you pay for your own heating bills. But what ends up happening in most homes with baseboard heaters is just what you’re suffering through: you can crank the bleep out those babies and still shiver till you’re blue in the face.
Interestingly, the problem isn’t that baseboard heaters are “inefficient,” as you’d assume. They’re actually 100 per cent efficient at making heat from electricity, but they suck at getting that heat out into a room, and barely counteract the drafts coming through the windows they sit under.
If your heaters don’t have fans built in (or their cheapy internal blowers are just too noisy), try placing a 6-inch fan nearby to help circulate warm air. (I hate to point out the obvious here, but make sure not to let electrical cords come in contact with your heaters.)
Got a ceiling fan gathering dust overhead? It ain’t just for sweaty summer nights. Run it on low but in the opposite direction so it pushes down heat that’s risen and hovering near the ceiling. Another easy-peasy tip your grandma could teach is to close doors to cooler rooms you seldom use (like a spare room) and to rooms you want to keep warmer (like your boudoir).
Those maniacs still thinking of buying new baseboard heaters, know that cheaper models are noisy (if they have a fan) and offer crappy temperature control. Better ones have wall-mounted thermostats and quieter fans.
Convectair makes larger (and notably pricier) recessed heaters that come with Energy Star-certified programmable thermostats so you can automatically lower the temp when you’re at work or asleep.
If yours don’t already have programmable features, you should definitely buy some low-voltage programmable thermostats made especially for baseboard heaters. You’ll save up to 10 per cent on heating costs. If cash is tight, start by putting them in your living room and main bedroom.
I’m just going to assume you’ve followed previous Ecoholic tips and already weatherstripped and caulked your pad. Now, if you actually owned those digs, I’d tell you to add more insulation first off, and invest in new windows as soon as budget permits.
Since you can’t install a whole new heating system, some of you might be resorting to space heaters. Warning: these can be serious energy hogs (Energy Star refuses to certify them), but if used right (like, say, pointed at your feet), they can keep you from cranking up thermostats throughout a house filled with crappy baseboard heaters, potentially saving energy.
Electric radiant types are more energy-efficient, fume-free and better at warming the person they’re pointed at versus the whole room.
Check for space heaters that come with thermostats and multiple temperature settings. The Portable Furnace is supposed to heat up 800 square feet. It uses infrared light energy (and fans) to quietly toast up your environs (without the fire hazard risks of other space heaters) and uses 35 per cent less energy than a baseboard heater. Is it worth the $700 price tag? Not so sure. But Portable Furnace has one of those slick 30-day free trial things if you’re curious.
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