As we shiver through a glacial start to winter while gas and electricity prices surge, you might be tempted to hide under a blanket until spring arrives.
It’s no surprise given Australian houses – once described as “glorified tents” – are often woefully kitted out for truly chilly conditions.
Eliminate drafts, rug up, insulate your windows: how to beat the chill this winter without breaking the bannk. Credit:Dionne Gain
In Sydney, Nadia Anandini is fending off the cold by wearing her Oodie, snuggling up with a quilt, and drinking plenty of soup and hot chocolate.
“I feel like I’m living in a fridge as soon as the temperature hits 10 degrees or lower,” she says.
“The only form of heating that I have is a small electric heater from Kmart.
“It’s so cold because the building is super old and I feel like it doesn’t have proper insulation.”
Many of us can relate. So, with most Australians either living with poor heating or relying on pricey fossil fuels, how to warm up without breaking the bank?
Chris Barnes, home heating expert at Choice, says sealing up draughts has a huge impact.
“There’s often a lot of leakage through floors, under doors, around window frames, so cold air gets in or warm air gets out.”
He suggests going around your place with a candle or an incense stick. “Look for where the draughts are blowing, where the flame flickers or where the smoke blows.”
A cheap door snake, a rubber seal attached to the bottom of your door, or a window seal kit will help.
Dean Lombard, an energy analyst at non-profit organisation Renew, says simply chucking on a warm jumper can save you plenty.
“You don’t need to go overboard, but even if you put on one extra layer and turn your heater down, you’ll actually save a lot, because every bit extra that your heater is turned up, it’s a multiplier effect on how much it costs.”
Try thermals, woollen jumpers (or a blanket on your lap while working), or just layer up.
And get some rugs…
Wall-to-wall carpet is a great insulator, says Barnes. If that’s not an option, go for the biggest rug you can find.
“That will help to just insulate a fair bit of the floor and of course you can roll it up and put it away in summer if you need to.”
Crank up the air-conditioner
I beg your pardon?
“A lot of houses also have air-conditioners that they just use in summer, but most air-conditioners will also heat, and it’s actually cheaper to heat with an air-conditioner than with gas heating,” says Lombard.
“People often find, especially in the shoulder seasons, when they don’t need as much heating, that just one reverse cycle air-conditioner is fine – and then they might use their ducted heating in the thick of winter.”
Apart from toasty flannelette sheets, try an old-fashioned hot water bottle (but check the expiry date because rubber degrades) or turn up your electric blanket, which uses minimal power, says Barnes.
“We see running costs of anywhere from $5 to $10 for a winter period up to maybe $20 or so. And that’s assuming that you’re using it all night, every night.”
‘Renter’s double glazing’
You’ll obviously want to close your blinds or curtains at night, but you may not have considered this strategy: sticking bubble wrap to your windows.
“It kind of spoils your view a bit, but I’ve heard it described as the renter’s double glazing,” says Barnes.
“It obviously has a reasonably good insulating effect, and still lets light in even if it’s not very clear.”
A better deal
Of course you should also try to track down a cheaper provider.
Tom Godfrey, of comparison site Mozo, says an average household can save hundreds of dollars a year by shopping around.
If looking to switch, consider your current plan’s exit fees, rates, and discounts.
“It’s also important to know your energy usage to accurately compare the plans on offer,” says Godfrey.
Providers that offer discounts for paying on time, or using direct debit, might be a winner.
But don’t be fooled into thinking a discount on your first bills equates to the best value plan, he says.