Freezing on the couch?
There are plenty of simple steps you can take to make your home warmer and more energy-efficient. Beat the chills and reduce your bills with our tips below.
Here's a startling fact: more people die from the cold in Australia than in Sweden. Research from medical journal The Lancet revealed that the cold contributed to about 3.7% of deaths in Sweden, but 6.7% (one in 15 deaths) in Australia.
So how can relatively mild Australian winters can result in more deaths than the below-zeros in Scandinavia? It seems that constant exposure
to low temperatures increases not only blood pressure, but the risk of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, as our heart and lungs struggle to warm us
up. It's an important reminder that keeping your home warm in winter is not just for comfort but is for your health's sake too.
Australian homes are often better at keeping cool rather than warm (though some homes aren't good either way - too hot in summer and too cold in winter). Adrian Barnett, Professor of Public Health from the Queensland University of Technology, has called Australian houses "glorified tents", which expose
Australians to much lower temperatures than the Scandinavians endure inside. Swedish homes are better designed to keep in the heat and have a cosy average temperature of 23 degrees, compared to the below 18 degrees you can find in winter in an Australian weatherboard or Queenslander-style house.
If you want to feel warm at home long term and also save money you need a plan that goes beyond beanies and ugg boots. Here are some practical solutions to beat the winter chill:
- Insulate: It is the best way to keep the heat in winter in and in summer out. Average households with ceiling wall and under floor insulation can save around $450 per year on energy bills.
- Seal up gaps and cracks: If you add up all the cracks and gaps in an average home, it would be the equivalent of having a 1 metre by 1.5 metre window open all the time. They can account for up to 15-20% of heat loss.
- Seal windows and use curtains: That will not only help you to keep warm in winter, but cool in summer. Up to 40% of our heating energy can be lost and up to 87% of the heat in our homes is gained through the windows.
- Look for possible draught culprits: Not only windows, but doors can be an issue. If you're just heating one room or living area, close its doors and windows to keep in the heat. A simple door snake or a rolled up towel can also help stop any draughts, especially in older houses where the doors might have larger gaps at floor level.
- Cover the floor with rugs: They act as insulation between your feet and the cold, hard floor.
- Reverse ceiling fans: Most models have a reverse switch. It turns the blades anti-clockwise and pushes the warm air from your heating system from the ceiling (remember, warm air rises) back down.
- Maintain your heaters: Get them serviced professionally every few years to keep them running more efficiently; gas heaters in particular should be well-maintained to ensure safe operation. Or if you're in the market for a new one, check out our heater buying guides.
- Close up any rooms you don't use and turn off the heating there.
For more advice for keeping warm take a look at our guide to home heating.