How to keep your house warm in winter (minus the massive power bill)

Although the coming winter is expected to be warmer and wetter than usual (according to BOM), it also started early and is expected to finish late. This is bad news for your power bills, because it’s extra time spent heating up your home. Heating your home all winter long can add up fast, and the extra time spent at home at the moment will only add to the heater bill. With many out of a job due to COVID-19 (or at the very least seeing significantly reduced hours), cutting costs is more important than ever. However, staying warm and healthy is equally important during this health crisis.

Therefore, as the temperature gauge starts to creep downwards and the sun spends less time in the sky, it’s a good time to look at the small ways to decrease your heater usage (and save yourself some money).

Insulate

insulation
Installing insulation will be one of the best decisions you ever make for your home

In winter, 25–35% of an uninsulated home’s warmth is lost through the roof. Insulation will keep your house warm in winter, but it’ll also keep your home cool in summer, so it’s worth the investment. Average households that install wall, floor and ceiling insulation can save hundreds of dollars on energy bills each year.

Insulation is best installed when building or renovating, but can be retrofitted to an existing home. This is best done by professionals, though ceiling and underfloor insulation can often be done by a capable home handyperson.

To keep the heat in, ceiling insulation in particular is a no-brainer. You can DIY it, but there are some things you need to know before you have a crack at it. DIY insulation is a messy, hot and uncomfortable job but you can save a lot of money by doing it yourself. You need to be very careful if you DIY this because you need to leave clearances for light fittings and take electrical wiring into account. Remember that there have been a few deaths and fires as a result of work by unqualified installers, so there are some not insignificant risks associated with it. We recommend shelling out for a professional to come in and do the work. You could split the insulation jobs over a few years (ie. insulate your bedroom this year, the living room next year, and so on) to save extra money as well.

Close any cracks in your window frames

window
Plugging any gaps in your windows will let you enjoy the view for longer

Even a tiny crack can allow a ton of heat to escape and for chilly winds to come in. The easiest way to check for cracks is to take a torch (at night), and have someone stand on the other side of the window. As you run your torch around the edge, have them mark places where they can see the light creeping through (other than the glass, obviously).

Sealing your windows can be done a number of ways: you might decide to permanently seal the window if you never open it, or you may decide to use self-adhesive rubber seals so you can continue opening and closing them throughout the rest of the year. Other sealing options include weather seal tape, roller door seals, or, if you’re feeling handy, then you could easily whip up your own draught excluder, sausage-dog style!

Invest in good quality bedding

cosy bed
Good, quality bedding might make getting out of bed a little harder because you’ll be so comfy

Let’s be honest: we all try to spend just a little bit longer in bed during winter. If you’re going to be spending extra time in bed, it’s worth investing in good quality sheets, pillows, throw blankets, etc. This may be a no-brainer, but putting a little extra money towards the place where you spend nearly half your life will be worth it in the end.

 To stay warm while you sleep (but keep your heat down to save money), make sure your bedding is up to scratch. Grab the winter bedding, even if you don’t need it all straight away. Swapping over to a thicker duvet might be a good place to start as well, because you can always leave it off if you get too hot. An electric blanket does the trick too (just don’t leave it on all night). These are also all things you can use year after year, so you’ll get your money’s worth out of them if you invest in high-quality goods now.

Curtains, curtains, curtains

curtains
Keep your curtains open during the day and begin closing them as the sun goes down

Up to 40% of heating energy can be lost through windows, so pull the drapes closed to keep the warmth in. For maximum insulation, adding a pelmet will stop the warm air escaping through the top of the windows.

When the sun is out, keep your curtains open so the warmth can shine onto the glass and filter through to your home, but as soon as the sun goes down, close them right up to add an extra layer of insulation. You might even decide to swap in some thicker curtains if you really want to keep the bills down. The benefit of this is that you can swap them out again come spring, and it’ll feel like you’ve instantly updated you bedroom/living room/etc.

If you really want to go for the full package, consider double-glazing your windows. This acts like another ‘curtain’, letting in the warmth and trapping it in during winter (and come summer, you’ll find it helps you keep the house cool).

Reverse the direction of your ceiling fan

ceiling fan
Reverse your ceiling fan and stay warmer for longer

If you think your ceiling fan is just for hot, humid days, think again. By reversing the motor in the winter, so it’ll spin clockwise. The fan creates an updraft that actually pushes warm air near the ceiling back down, which will help keep you warm.

Close the door(s) and zone your heat

close your bedroom door
Close the door to any area you aren’t heating to ensure you aren’t paying too much

Shut the doors to rooms you don’t use as often. This will conserve the heat for the areas you’re actually using. Even better, if you can separately heat rooms, this means you’ll only be paying to heat the areas you use. Shut the door on the spare bedroom, and be done with it. If you really want to cut the bills further, use timers on your heating system. This may mean cutting the heat to your living room half an hour before your bedtime so you only heat the room you’ll actually be in, or completely shutting off all heat in the house after 12 PM. Similarly, starting your heater 30 minutes before you get up each morning will take the edge off the chill and remove the need for a costly turbo blast of heat when you start moving through your home each day. It’s a simple fix but it can save you serious $$$ over the winter months.

Staying warm and keeping the bills down might require a little extra work from you now, but a few hours of patching up holes and finding the right bedding can really pay off in the long term. On average, a household with good insulation and double glazing (just two of the tips above) saves at least $500 over a year on their heating (if you want to see just how much you could save, here is an energy calculator which can help calculate an estimate savings amount).

Written: 10 August 2020, Updated: 7 August 2020

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