Australian houses have been called "glorified tents" for their inability to stay cool in summer and warm in winter. Is yours one of them?
There's no need to freeze this winter: here are a few small changes you can make to make your home warmer and more energy-efficient and keep your heating costs down.
If you don't have ceiling insulation, expect to BYO blanket.
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. If you're going to spend money on heating and air conditioning, you might as well make it as cost-effective as possible by insulating your home.
"Average households that install wall, floor and ceiling insulation can save hundreds of dollars on energy costs each year," says Chris Barnes, CHOICE's home-heating expert.
"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.
Average households that install wall, floor and ceiling insulation can save hundreds of dollars on energy costs each yearChris Barnes, CHOICE home-heating expert
"DIY insulation is a messy, hot and uncomfortable job but I saved myself over a thousand dollars doing my house myself," says CHOICE staffer and insulation enthusiast Ashley Iredale.
"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."
2. Go with the flow
Be aware of how the hot air moves around your house. It's tempting to move the sofa as close as possible to the heater, or to put your wet laundry in front of it during a rainy week, but this will restrict the flow of hot air around your house. To ensure you get the most out of your heat source, make sure nothing is blocking the flow.
To make your heating more efficient, close doors to rooms you're not using. Only heating the rooms you're actually in will reduce your heating bill – there's no point heating the spare room if no-one's in there.
3. Magic carpet
If you have hard floors, rug up – literally. Any distance that you can put between the cold floor and your tootsies will make a difference, so consider covering hard floors with rugs. They are also effective insulation – if you have an older house with gappy floorboards, a thick rug can do wonders to prevent extra chilly air seeping in.
4. It's curtains for cold
Curtains will help you keep warm in winter, but cool in summer. Up to 40% of heating energy can be lost through windows, so pull the curtains closed to keep the warmth in. For maximum insulation, adding a pelmet will stop the warm air escaping through the top of the windows.
"If you want to take things to the next level, double glazing is the Rolls Royce of heat loss reduction, but it's a major job," says Ashley.
Our counterpart in New Zealand, Consumer, has an excellent comparison of the benefits of different types of curtains and blinds, as well as double glazing.
5. Seal it up
Track down any draughts in your home, particularly around doors and windows, and seal them up. Most of the products you'll need to do this can be picked up at a hardware store, but do your homework before you start shopping or get some advice.
Sorting out draughts and gaps in your house will make your heating system more efficient.
Products that can make a difference include:
- Door snakes
- Weather seal tape
- Silicon sealant or caulk
- Roller door seals
- PVC door strips
- Storm-proof seals
- Brush door seals
- Auto-lift door seals.
If you're renting or you're not confident in your DIY abilities, weather seal tape or draught strips are a good place to start. They look a bit like sticky tape, but are made from foam or rubber with an adhesive backing.
To install, just remove the backing and stick the adhesive side inside the doorjamb or window frame. It's a good idea to measure up before you hit the shops – each door will need about 5m of tape to seal.
If you have a chimney, install a damper that can be closed when the fire is off, or a chimney balloon when it's not in use.
6. Turn back time (... and your fans)
When you change your clocks at the end of daylight saving, turn your ceiling fans on reverse (most models have a reverse switch). This makes the blades turn anti-clockwise and, since warm air rises, it'll push the warm air from your heating system back down towards the floor.
Thinking of installing ceiling fans? Check our ceiling fan reviews before you buy.
Safety first: 3 heating no-nos
Some heating techniques are a bad idea, but some can be downright lethal when used indoors.
- Heat beads or barbecue briquettes give off carbon monoxide as they burn, so shouldn't be used indoors.
- Indoor gas heaters, particularly unflued gas heaters, must not be used in small rooms such as bedrooms due to the emissions they give off.
- Never use outdoor gas heaters indoors, and don't use gas stoves or cooktops as heaters – they aren't intended for it and give off too much carbon monoxide (they don't have the same filters as indoor gas heaters).
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.