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Drastically cut your heating and cooling costs with these green upgrades

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No two cottagers are alike. Some of us like to sweat out the summer months, relying on the lake and frosty brews to keep us cool, and some of us like to spend chilly winters curled up by the fire wearing wool socks. For the summer cottager, a little AC goes a long way to help endure the stickiest summer days, and for the winter cottager, visiting the cottage wouldn’t be an option without gas heat.

But no matter which category you fall into, there’s plenty you can do to upgrade your cottage’s efficiency and spend all four of Canada’s diverse seasons immersed in nature. Here are a few of our favourite green upgrades to make your cottage or home more comfortable without breaking the bank.

Refresh your windows

Because cottaging is a family tradition, many cottages can be traced back to grandparents or great grandparents who built them with lots of love, limited budgets, and a stern idea of what “roughing it” really means. So if your cottage dates back a few generations, there’s a good chance your windows are letting in a lot more than a lovely view of the lake.

If you’re relying on more than the lake breeze to cool your cottage, a good portion of that energy will go to waste if your windows aren’t doing their job. And if you enjoy spending chilly falls and winters at the cottage, high-efficiency windows are an absolute must for keeping cozy and minimizing mould.

If your windows (including the frames) have seen better days, it’s time to replace them. Look to minimize heat gain and loss by choosing high-efficiency windows that have double or triple glazing, gas fills between the glazings, and low-emissivity coatings that will keep your cottage’s interior heat from passing through.

Or, to get the most out of your current windows, consider reglazing your window panels or adding interior storm windows during the colder months.

Mind the gaps

Installing high-efficiency windows will go a long way in reducing your heating and cooling costs and making your cottage/home more comfortable. However, their insulation value will be paddling upstream if you don’t reduce the air leakage with proper caulking and weather-stripping. Use an indoor-rated, paint-friendly caulk to seal cracks and openings around door and window frames, and use weather-stripping to seal the moving parts of all windows and doors.

As an added benefit, sealing air leaks will also combat moisture problems that can harm your health and cause long-term damage to your cottage.

Bring your own breeze

If your cottage is on a lake, you know that a good breeze makes all the difference during a hot summer—and how it can chill you to the bone during a cold Canadian winter. But even when there’s a strong summer breeze flowing through your screens, ceiling fans play a key role in distributing air in your cottage or home to stay comfortable and save energy—even in the winter.

During the summer, make sure your ceiling fan is set to push air downward in the centre of the room. This will likely mean the fan is turning counterclockwise, and you should feel its breeze when standing beneath it. This method will move the most air, which means it will help keep things cool. When winter rolls around, reverse the fan’s direction and run it at its lowest setting. This will help distribute heat and keep your room at a steadier temperature.

Cover up for comfort

While most cottagers crave an uninterrupted view of nature, window treatments are an important part of the equation when it comes to staying comfortable and saving energy. Sun reflector kits are transparent and can be temporarily applied to any window to reflect the sun’s heat, keeping your cottage interior at a comfortable temperature.

You can buy specially made draperies to keep the temperature stable in any season. However in winter, even conventional draperies can reduce heat loss by up to 10 percent, so long as you remember to close them at night. Blinds are another alternative and a cottager’s best friend during the sweltering summer, as they can be adjusted to curtail the sun’s heat while still keeping the air flowing. They’re the perfect solution, as they won’t obstruct your view.

Another way to keep an obstruction-free view is to install awnings, as they may be your best bet for staying cool in the summer. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, they can reduce solar heat gain by up to 65 percent on south-facing windows and 77 percent on windows that face west. If you are at your cottage in the winter, go with a roll-up awning to allow the sun’s heat to penetrate through your windows during the colder months.

Follow these simple tips to stay cool in the summer and cozy in the winter, and remember that saving energy goes much further than just enhancing your cottage experience. It ensures that your kids and grandkids will be able to bask in the same nature that you enjoyed every weekend spent at the lake.