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Autumn

Keeping your home warm

Taking action to stop cold air entering your home, and to stop warm air leaving, is one of the key ways to save energy and money. Here are some ideas that will help you have the greatest impact.

Draught proofing

Draught-proofing your home is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to keep your home warm and comfy as well as save energy and money. In fact, draught-proofing your home can save you up to a quarter of your heating bills.

Thermal image of a house showing heat loss areas

©iStockphoto.com

Draughts can occur anywhere where there are gaps in your home, letting cold air in or warm air escape. Look for gaps around your doors, windows, architraves, along skirting boards, and between floorboards.

Here are some draught-proofing activities you can do yourself:

  • To fill the gap between windows and frames, you can buy adhesive foam strips. You can select from a range of options at the hardware store. Another option is metal or plastic strips with brushes or wipers attached. These cost a little more but will last longer. Make sure you measure the gap between the window and the frame so the strip is the right width to do the job properly. If you have sliding sash windows, it's best to fit brush strips or consult a professional.
  • Block the gap at the bottom of doors to the outside with a brush or hinged flap draught-stopper and fill the gaps around doors with the foam strips available from the hardware store. For the inside, you can use a sand-filled or fabric 'sausage' draught-stopper. Choose from colourful designs available in gift shops or make your own from fabric that you may already have at home.
  • For some areas, such as chimneys or around electrical fittings, you may need to seek expert advice.
  • Be careful in areas which need good ventilation such as rooms with open fires or unflued gas heaters, or rooms where lots of moisture is produced, like kitchens and bathrooms. Ventilation keeps air in your home fresh, dry and healthy so don't block air vents and fans in these rooms.

Insulation

If you haven't already insulated your home, now is the time to think about it having it installed. Not only will it make your home a lot more comfortable to live in, insulation can make some really dramatic savings in heating costs. Up to half the energy we use to heat our homes in winter can simply leak out through ceilings, walls and floors. Lots of Australians are sitting in rooms that are colder than they need to be.

There are many types of insulation available and their suitability depends on where you live, the type of roof, and whether you need to keep winter heat in or summer heat out or both. Start by doing some research about insulation and installation options; then talk to an expert to find out what's best for your home, climate and individual circumstances.

It's important to have insulation installed safely according to Australian standards and by someone with expert knowledge.

Windows

Windows can let as much as 40 per cent of your winter warmth leak out of your home, but there are ways to improve window efficiency. Here are a few tips to help window treatments keep in the heat.

  • Curtains and blinds can make a surprising difference in keeping your home warm, as well as giving you privacy and looking great. Look for fabrics that insulate well, for example heavy fabrics or curtains with thermal lining or layers. Choose the best quality you can afford to give you the best thermal results.
  • Fitted pelmets above new or existing curtains are important in reducing heat loss. If pelmets don't fit with your interior design, choose window fittings such as blinds that attach to the wall and trap air flow or install curtains that reach to the ceiling. For a simple do-it-yourself and low cost option, try fitting a strip of light wood across the curtain rail above the curtain to stop heat leaking away.
  • Installing glazing on windows or skylights is another option which will increase energy efficiency by trapping a layer of air and helping to keep the cold air at bay. It also reduces outside noise.
  • Double glazing can be expensive to retrofit but there are cheaper commercial alternatives as well as secondary glazing products that involve a thin plastic coating you can affix to windows yourself at a low cost. Check out what's available in your hardware store.

Lighting

As the days begin to get shorter and cooler, we tend to spend more hours inside and have the lights burning longer each day. If you haven't already done so, consider switching to energy-efficient lighting options. Did you know that most homes could halve the amount of energy used for lighting by making smarter lighting choices and using more efficient technologies? That can add up to a lot of dollar savings throughout the year.

Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) can easily replace any inefficient incandescent lights you may have in your home. While CFLs cost a little more up front, they last a lot longer than the older style globes, are much cheaper to run, and now come in a range of shapes, colours and sizes. Tubular lamps (florescent tubes) are another good option for kitchens, garages and workshops. Try solar powered lights along your driveway or for garden lighting. Light emitting diodes (LEDs) are a new highly efficient technology if you're building or renovating as they are approximately 4 to 5 times more efficient than typical incandescent or halogen equivalents. As the technology improves and demand increases, costs will come down

Maintain heating systems

Keeping your heating system properly maintained will help it operate more efficiently and last longer.

Autumn is a good time to check your heater is in good working condition and do a little maintenance if required to prepare for its winter workout. Likewise, if you have an evaporative air-conditioning system, it may need some attention after summer when it's likely not to be used again for some time. Check the operating instructions for your system or contact the manufacturer or retailer for advice.

If you're considering options for a new heating or cooling system, read our guide to understanding heating and cooling for information on how to choose the best system for your circumstances.

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