The strategies below will help you save energy and money, yet still stay comfortable during the remaining cooler months. Some of the tips below are free and can be used daily to increase your savings; others are simple and inexpensive actions you can take to ensure maximum savings through the winter.
1. Keep Your Home Dry
A family of four can produce 34 litres of moisture a day through everyday tasks such as showering, cooking, and even breathing! This tends to be a bigger problem in winter, when the wet weather makes our homes even damper.
The more moisture that’s in the air, the more expensive it is to heat your home. This means that one of the best ways to heat your home more efficiently over winter is to keep your home dry.
• Use extractor fans when cooking or showering.
• At least once a day, fully open doors, and windows to air out your home and wipe away any condensation that forms on your windows or walls. This includes spare rooms. Avoid drying clothes indoors as this just creates more moisture in the air.
2. Leave the Oven Door Open After Use
After using the oven, leave the over door open a little. There’s a lot of heat in that oven, so letting it escape puts the heat to good use by warming up the kitchen and surrounding rooms.
3. Plastic Cover the Windows and Doors
Cooler temperatures might mean not all exterior doors and windows are used in the winter. Use plastic to cover the windows and doors that go unused to eliminate drafts and keep in the heat. There are window insulating kits for sale at big-box stores such as Bunnings and Mitre 10. Good quality kits can be purchased for as little as $7 per window.
Kits for doors or large windows will cost more, and while some building supply stores may stock these, you might have to seek out an online supplier such as Amazon. Some kits come with built-in zippers for occasional use.
Another simple solution rather than purpose made kits or plastic is simply hanging blankets to help insulate. Though this can obscure the view and light from a window, and possibly allow moisture to build up.
4. Bundle Up
Walking around in shorts and a singlet in the middle of winter doesn’t make much sense, even when you are indoors. If you know you’re home only briefly, including when getting ready for work in the morning, it’ll make more sense to put on a sweater or sweatshirt, and wear socks and fuzzy slippers instead of warming your home.
Equally, it might be nice to place a soft, comfy blanket on the couch and chairs to cuddle up in while you watch TV, read, or chat with friends.
5. Let in the Sun
Open the shades even on chilly days to let natural sunlight warm the rooms in your home. The energy from the sun coming through an average-sized north-facing window is equivalent to running a panel heater in winter.
6. Seal Cracks and Holes
You would be surprised at how much heat is lost through cracks that seem insignificant. A tube of silicone or another sealant will only cost you a few dollars, and it’s an easy weekend project.
7. Install Door Sweeps
You can also install door sweeps — also called draught guards or draught seals — on the bottom of exterior doors or doors to uninsulated areas such as a garage. This step will lessen the amount of air that escapes through that crack.
8. Insulate Pipes and Old Water Cylinders
Hot water cylinders older than 2003 aren’t insulated very well and should have a cylinder wrap and pipe lagging around the first 1-2m of pipe coming out of the cylinder. Your cupboard will still be warm and dry for storing linen, and you could save up to $80 a year on energy bills.
You can lose heat from your home or apartment through the floors as well as windows and doors. Put throw rugs on hardwood and tile floors to eliminate the shock of the ice-cold surfaces. Place non-skid pads or runners under the throw rug to keep them from sliding and keep you safe.
10. Insulate Your Roof and Floor
Many older homes still don’t have roof or underfloor insulation. Even those that do have it can often benefit by:
• Covering up the interior of the roof entry with plastic, pieces of insulation, old blankets, weatherstripping, saran wrap, painter drop cloth, or even a few old shirts. Any of it will help slow, if not, stop, the draughts, and warm air from floating away through your roof. Heat rises and maybe getting pulled right up through the ceiling space, so you may not notice a cold draught even though your (expensive!) hot air is floating away.
• Installing higher density insulation. This may be a worthwhile energy-saving investment.
11. Lower the Water Cylinder Setting
The water cylinder can account for up to 25% of your utility bill. Many people don’t know that water cylinders can be set. Set the temperature to a reasonable level to save money all year and ensure there’s no risk of burning from hot tap water (which reportedly only takes one second at 70 degrees Celsius).
For DIY Gurus
If you know what you’re doing, then electric outlets and light switches can be insulated to prevent heat loss. Use expanding spray foam to seal between the metal outlet box and the Gib board. Trim off the excess and replace the cover.
12. Turn off the Lights
Keeping the lights on in your home may not be expensive on a per-watt basis, but it sure does cost money over time. To save as much as you can, turn off lights any time you leave your house – or even when you leave the room. Turning off lights when you have plenty of natural sunlight can also help keep your electric bill down over time. The bottom line: If you aren’t using a light, turn it off.
13. Use Portable Heaters Sparingly
Small portable heaters might be cheap to buy from a shop, but they’re usually quite costly to run. For safety reasons they aren’t suitable to use when you’re not home or when you’re sleeping, and need keeping well clear of curtains, sofas, beds, and other items. They might work well in rarely used rooms though.
Only use portable heaters in the current room where you are hanging out, and usually, it’s not a good idea to use them when there’s an alternative such as a fire or heat pump.
14. Replace Lights With LEDs
LED light bulbs use up to 80 per cent less energy than incandescent bulbs, while producing the same amount of light, and last much longer. Over their lifetime, you can save nearly $300 for every standard 100W bulb replaced by an LED. If you have CFL or Halogen bulbs, replacing these with LEDs can also generate good savings.
If you have downlights installed before 2012, or if you can replace the bulb in them, change them to modern LED downlight fittings that can have insulation fitted over them. For every 1cm gap in insulation, you can lose up to 30% of insulation performance.
Top tip: get quality LEDs from a local hardware store or reputable supplier. Avoid cheap imported versions, which can burn up quickly.
15. Maintain Heat Pumps and Appliances
All your appliances are machines, and just like a car, they need a little tender love and care to operate well. Check your manuals or just ‘Google’ your appliance model numbers to see how often and what kind of minor upkeep they require, possibly including:
• Cleaning dust from heat pump filters. Cleaning the filters will keep them operating efficiently – which saves power – and it’ll also help you breathe cleaner air too.
• Appliances such as fridges, freezers, and washing machines can benefit from clearing dust from behind the appliance and any air intakes or outlets. The less dust you have blocking the mechanics of these devices, the more efficiently they’ll run (saving on your energy bill) and the longer they’ll last. For example, a fridge works by running coolant through all those little pipes on the back – if they’re dusty, the coolant doesn’t cool down as well, so the fridge must work harder to compensate.
• If you’re using a dryer, remember to clean the lint filter on every load. A buildup of fuzz slows down the dryer.
16. Shut the Fireplace
Make sure the flue is closed when the fireplace is not in use. If you have a glass screen, close that, as well. Open fireplaces allow heat to escape.
17. Shower Sensibly
Taking a short shower with an efficient showerhead not only conserves water, but it’ll also save on power bills. Look for an efficient shower head with a three-star water rating and choose your favourite four-minute song to shower to.
18. Run Appliances Off-peak
Some electricity companies offer cheaper electricity rates during the night, when the demand is typically far lower than it is during daylight hours. Running appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines at off-peak times can shave dollars off monthly energy bills, depending on your power provider.
19. Cook Wisely
Cooking is a large use of energy, there are plenty of ways to make savings here:
• Cover pots – water in a covered pot heats faster and uses less energy. This might also help keep down moisture levels in your home.
• Always cover items in the refrigerator. Failing to do so releases moisture and causes the fridge compressor to work overtime.
• Leave room in the fridge and freezer. These appliances work most efficiently when the cold air inside can circulate, i.e., they’re not jam-packed with food. Also, be sure there's enough clearance behind the appliance to let air circulate.
• Use only enough water to reach the top of vegetables or other foods being cooked.
• Cook with clean pans. Lots of black stuff on the outside surface of pots and pans blocks heat from reaching the food inside, so cooking time is longer. Scour and scrub after each use.
• Use the appropriate burner. Put small pans on small burners and bigger pans on big burners to save energy.
• Wait until there's no more room on the racks before starting the dishwasher. The energy used is the same regardless of the size of the load.
20. Better Curtains and Blinds
Double-layer floor-length curtains with a close-fitting track can work as effectively as double glazing on your windows to retain heat and reduce your energy bills. Lined and well-fitted roman blinds or honeycomb blinds also keep the heat in well.
21. Check if You’re Eligible for the Warmer Kiwi Homes Grant
The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) is offering Warmer Kiwi Homes grants.
This government program helps cover 80 percent of the cost of a heat pump, pellet burner or wood burner (up to a maximum of $3,000 including GST), as well as underfloor and ceiling insulation.
Even though the days have started getting longer, we’ve all got to push through a few more cold snaps! Hopefully, the list above can help you trim some expenses during the remainder of winter so you’ll have a bit more in your pocket when summer rolls around.
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