This article has been updated and reposted from the archives.
When I first wrote this we were in the middle of a mild winter – today is one of the coldest days here on the sunny coast for over 100 years – we got down to 4 degrees. Pretty cold when you don’t have a heater or any winter woolies and you have to feed a baby at 4am.
Heating is one of the biggest energy costs in the home so tackling your heating will have the biggest impact when reducing your energy bills.
I have to admit that here in Queensland, we don’t have a heater, nor do we need one. But I grew up in Bathurst where we would see some snow most years and I feel the cold. In our house, the heater use was restricted – it didn’t go on during the day until the late afternoon, except on the most frigid of days. And when it was on, the washing usually got pride of place in front of the heater to dry. That was one way that my parents saved money on the energy bills.
Here are some other tips on saving money on winter heating:
- If you’re in the market for a new heater, choose the most energy efficient heater that you can afford.
- Insulate your house. Sufficient ceiling insulation can reduce your heating bill by by 50%.
- The second highest cause of heat loss in the home (after insufficient insulation) is through glass windows. When the heater is on, close the curtains to minimise heat loss. Heavy or thermal lined curtains work best. Enclose the top of the curtain with a pelmet or insulated the top by placing a blanket over the curtain rod, this creates an air pocket and stop hot air escaping that way.
- Block draughts. Heat can escape (and cold air get in) through draughty doors and windows and vents. Use door sausages or old towels to block draughts under doors, and seal leaky window sills. You can get a foam leak guard to place around door and window jams at your local hardware store. Remember to keep some ventilation in the house, particularly if you have an un-flued gas heater. Indoor plants help keep the air in the house fresh.
- Get active. Your body warms up with movement, so jump on the exercise bike, do some vacuuming, scrub the bath, go for a walk and heat up naturally.
- Layer up. Before turning on the heater, put on an extra jumper. In Winter as a kid I used to wear three pairs of socks, even to bed. A few years ago I bought a woollen poncho for those cold hours at the keyboard – unfashionable but functional and nobody sees me anyway.
- Cover up from head to toe. Most of our body heat is lost through our head and feet, so donning a beanie and some socks will keep you warmer.
- Get into bed with your hottie. Hot water bottles are really effective warmers, and they’re portable. Warm the bottom of your bed, hold one while while watching TV, take it out while watching the kid’s soccer match. An alternative to the hot water bottle is the rice bag, both of which don’t use electricity, unlike the electric blanket.
- Invest in a wool underlay. These are a bit pricey but make a huge difference when keeping warm. As an alternative to the wool underlay, put an old doona or blanket under your bottom sheet instead for a similar effect. Add extra blankets to the bed and try flannelette sheets rather than cotton for extra warmth.
- Regulate your heater use. During the warmest part of the day, and in the night while you’re sleeping turn off the heating and use the sun (or your bedding) to keep warm.
- Go to bed earlier. Going to bed a hour earlier and turning off the heater will save heating costs. Also, turn the heater off 1/2 hour before leaving the house to go work. The rooms will stay warm long enough while you get ready to leave, and your not heating an empty house.
- Heat only one room or just a few rooms. As a kid, we had a gas heater in the lounge room. We would race from the bathroom to dry off in front of the heater after a shower, we’d get dressed in front of the heater, we would sit in front of the heater to study. During the mouse plagues of the 80’s, even the mice would come out and brazenly sit in front of the heater to get warm. The rest of the house was an ice box but it meant we spent time in the same room as a family.
- Snuggle up on the couch under a blanket. Rather than turning on the heater, snuggle up with a loved one or your hottie in front of the TV or with a book. Polar fleece makes a really warm blanket, and is inexpensive. I find knitting in front of the TV is also a great warmer.
- Zone off unused areas of the house. There’s no point heating the laundry, the unused guest room, the toilet, or whatever other room that you use infrequently. Close the doors and zone off these areas. If you use central heating see about getting it “zoned”.
- Gather in the kitchen. Your heater isn’t the only source of warmth. Spend time in the kitchen while the oven is on, and do some baking during the colder months. Slow cooked casseroles in the oven not only provide hours of warmth, but a wonderful homey aroma and an easy, hearty meal to warm you on the inside. As a variation on this, when I was flatting in Sydney, I used to sit in the laundry in front of the clothes dryer to read. It blew deliciously warm air with a clean laundry scent.
I’m not one for the cold. Even if you’re like me, and you don’t like to feel the cold either, there are many ways to stay warm without blowing the power bill.
How do you save money on heating in the home?
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