5 cost-effective things you can do this winter
Keep the heat you've paid for inside your home
Draught-proofing your home is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to keep your home warm and comfy. You'll also save lots of energy and money as draught-proofing can save you up to a quarter of your heating bills.
Swing by the hardware store and pick up supplies like brush-strip seals for the bottom of the doors, draught-proofing strips and even some of grandma's old-fashioned door snakes (just remember to train everyone who uses the doors to put the snake back in place after coming inside).
Don't forget to block the gaps around internal doors too. If you have rooms you're not heating, such as laundries and bathrooms, draught-proof these too. This way when you close off areas you don't need to heat, there's no hidden and unwanted leakage of warm air.
Windows of opportunity
Windows can let as much as 40% of your winter warmth leak out of your home but there're ways to improve window efficiency.
Invest in new warmth-saving curtains and blinds. This 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, like 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 (curtain boxes) above curtains are also 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, or install curtains that reach from the ceiling to the floor. For a simple do-it-yourself and low cost option, try fitting a strip of light timber across the curtain rail above the curtain to stop warm air that you've paid to heat from leaking away.
Installing an additional layer of glazing on windows and skylights is another option to increase energy efficiency. This way you'll trap a layer of air and help to keep the winter chills at bay. Glazing also helps reduce outside noise. Double-glazed windows can be very expensive to retrofit (see the 'Longer term investments' below) but there're cheaper commercial alternatives and secondary glazing products that have a thin plastic coating which you can put over windows yourself at a low cost. Check out what's available in your hardware store and on the internet.
Insulate your roof
If you haven't already insulated your roof, now is the time to think about having insulation installed. Not only will it make your home a lot more comfortable to live in, you can also make some dramatic savings on your heating costs. Up to 45% of the energy we use to heat our homes in winter can simply leak out through our ceilings and roofs.
While there's been some recent controversy, insulating your ceiling remains a sensible decision. 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 industry professionals with expert knowledge.
Set your thermostat
You can save money by having a programmable thermostat and keeping the internal temperature set to between 18 and 20°C.
It's nice to feel warm at home when it's cold outside, but remember that every 1°C lower you set your heating can save you up to 10% on your energy use.
Make sure that the timer is set to warm your house for times you'll need it, turning it off overnight and when you are away from home.
Install a water-efficient showerhead
Hot water accounts for a large chunk of your power bill. It might not seem like much but installing a water-efficient showerhead is one of the most cost-effective ways you can save energy on heating water and save water too. A water-efficient showerhead is simple to install and will pay for itself in a very short time. Best of all you can still enjoy a great shower.