“The Icebox” – AKA the Room Over the Garage

Staying warm at home.

As things get colder, yet again, we start to hibernate in our homes even more. Sure, we usually all congregate in obvious places like the kitchen or the TV room, but what isn’t always obvious is the rooms that we avoid and why we avoid them.

Ok, sure, if you have a storage room you’re not going to be spending a lot of time there. Nor are you going to be in that unfinished basement a lot either. But what about your bedrooms? Adults usually don’t spend a lot of time in their bedroom outside of sleeping and getting ready in the morning, but children can spend hours in their rooms playing. If they aren’t doing that, why not? Could it be because their room is too cold and they just don’t want to spend any time there?

There are a few reasons for a bedroom to be cold. Let’s go through a quick list so that you can see for yourself where the drafts or coldness might be coming from.

  1. Venting – The quickest and easiest thing to do is to see if there is a return air vent in the room. The furnace can push as much air as it wants, but if there is nowhere for it to go, then no air is going to enter the room. Plus, there is no way for the cold air to be pulled out of it either.
  2. The window! – Usually this is a great culprit for letting in the cold air. Carefully take a lit candle and see if you’re getting any air leaking from around the edges. The direction of the flame flickering and how much it flickers will tell you how much of a draft you have. Wood frames tend to warp and shrink, the insulation around the frame may not be stopping all of the air flow coming in. Plus, if the windows themselves are older the crank may not be keeping a good seal either.
  3. Cold from below – Building codes are pretty strict these days with respect to garages. There must be separation both for fire and for CO exhaust from cars and trying to prevent both of those from entering the house. However, older homes might not be up to the same standards as new ones. The ceiling of the garage/floor of the bedroom should be treated as if it was an exterior wall. This includes proper insulation and vapour barrier. If the floor is cold, this is a good indication that this is your problem area. This is especially true if the air vents run through the floor, and all you’re getting out of the floor vent is cold air as it is getting chilled prior to arriving in the room.
  4. The ceiling – Heat always rises, and just like we have hair and hats to keep our heads warm, insulation keeps the heat in your house. If your attic has not been properly insulated then heat is escaping out through the roof. If you can’t climb into the attic to look (or aren’t sure what to look for) have a look at the snow on the roof outside. If you have a lot of ice under the snow, then it is melting from the heat loss. If you have way less snow on your roof than your neighbours, then this is also a good indication of poor insulation.

We pay a lot for our homes and our interior spaces are too precious to simply not use them due to temperature discomfort. There are things you can do, and no reason why you shouldn’t do them. Even if you have to spend a little bit on a fix now, it will quickly add up on heating savings both now and over the long term.

2 thoughts on ““The Icebox” – AKA the Room Over the Garage

  1. The house that uses the best materials and most eificfent appliances is more energy eificfent. If your builder will build with the proper R-Value insulation in all outer facing walls, ceilings, and attic spaces, the house will lose less heat in the winter (and gain less in the summer). Build with windows that are energy star qualified, preferably with double paned, argon filled (or another inert gas). Make sure the house orientation is such that surrounding trees block solar radiation in the summer months from reaching the house. Lastly, use a high efficiency furnace (>92 AFUE), and energy star qualified appliances (including a setback programmable thermostat.) In a newer more energy eificfent home, 1 or 2 story really shouldn’t matter all that much. The key is how its built, and how you use the energy in the home.

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