5 cheap (or free) ways to keep the house warm this winter

29/06/2020
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Don’t shiver in silence! Use these 5 simple (and cheap) techniques to warm up your home and stay toasty this winter.

Read more: What’s the cheapest way to heat a New Zealand home?

 

Quick Summary

  • Make and use draft excluders. DIY guides here and here.
  • Install window insulation films or use bubblewrap. Guides here and here.
  • Open curtains in the day, close them at night.
  • Keep furniture away from heat sources and use rugs/blankets to insulate the floor.
  • Use as few rooms as possible and close off the rooms you aren’t using.

 

Draft excluder

1) MAKE (AND USE) DRAFT EXCLUDERS

Draft excluders are long pieces of thick material, usually in the shape of a sausage, that are placed at the bottom of doors to keep the cold out and the warm in. You might be surprised at how much of a difference blocking even a small gap can make!

You can buy these with all sorts of  covers, making them look like dogs, cats and other beasts - but homemade options made with spare fabric, rice and some old tights are just as effective at keeping you warm. Here’s a DIY guide from The Guardian.

Alternatively, you could use old pool noodles, cut in half, and slotted onto the bottom of the door. These are a bit more of a hassle to remove when you want to leave your now toasty-warm room, but if you’re not handy with a needle, they’re a faster, easier alternative. Here’s an Instructables guide to get you started.

 

Bubblewrap window insulation

2) CHEAP-AS WINDOW INSULATION

Double-glazing is great, but it’s also expensive and not always an option if you’re renting. However, there are a couple of cheaper and less permanent insulation options to reduce the heat loss through your windows.

First, the classic: window insulation kits. These include a clear plastic film to go over your existing single-glazed windows and some kind of adhesive to keep it in place. They work on the same principles as double glazing, creating an extra barrier between your warm home and the cold outside - but they’re much cheaper and only stick around for about one season. You can buy enough for five medium sized windows for under $30 at either Bunnings, Mitre 10 or most other hardware stores. Energywise has a great guide to installing window insulation effectively too.

Second, something a little more unusual: ‘bubblewrap insulation’. This is exactly what it sounds like. You take some bubblewrap (large bubbles are best, but any size works) and stick it to a window bubble side down with either sticky tape or just a spray of water. Again, this provides a layer of air that helps insulate your home against the cold outside. Plus it’s great for renters because the bubblewrap just peels away. Frugal Kiwi has a fab guide to the bubblewrap technique, including where to get free bubblewrap.

 

Curtains for warmth

3) STRATEGIC CURTAIN USE

After double-glazing, curtains are the next line of defence against the chill of winter. Thermal lined ones are best, and floor-to-ceiling ones provide a good ‘seal’ of warmth.

However, it’s also important to know when to open and close these curtains to get maximum effectiveness out of them. Generally, when the sun is up, keep the curtains open to let the sunlight and warmth in. As soon as the sun goes down, close them to trap that heat in overnight.

The advanced version is:

  • In the morning, have north-facing and east-facing curtains open. Keep south-facing curtains closed throughout the day.
  • In the afternoon, close the east-facing curtains and open the west-facing curtains. Keep the north-facing curtains open throughout the day.
  • Once the sun sets, close all the curtains (including the north-facing ones).
  • Repeat in the morning.

Curtains aren’t just for windows either! Pinning a rug or blanket over an external door can help give it an insulation boost too. Pro-tip: cover up pet flaps in the same way.

 

Man moving a sofa

4) ADJUST YOUR FURNITURE

The position of your furniture can make a surprising difference to the warmth of the room you’re in.

First, make sure the furniture is at a decent distance from heating devices. It might feel wonderful to have your armchair right in front of the fire, but the dense material is absorbing all that heat it’s putting out instead of spreading it around the room and keeping the ambient temperature high.

Speaking of fires, if you have one that you’re not using right now, remember to plug the flue. You can use a rubbish bag filled with shredded newspaper for this, but make sure you remove it before you light a fire!

Next, cover your floors. About 10 per cent of a home’s heat is lost through the floorboards. You can cut that down by popping a rug, blanket or sheet on the floor - even if it’s just in the room you are using. Just make sure not to put them in front of an open fire. While you’re down there, check for cracks in the floor. You can fill these with silicone putty to improve your insulation, but check with the landlord first if you’re renting.

Lastly, there’s the ceiling fans. You might not think to switch them on in the winter - after all, they’re there to keep you cool - but lots of models actually have a ‘winter mode’. This changes the direction of the fan so that it pushes the hot air down. Heat rises, so knocking it back down to earth means you can enjoy it for longer before it disappears through the roof.

 

A family playing a game in the same room

5) CHILL WITH THE WHANAU

Maybe ‘chill’ isn’t the best choice of words, but there are lots of benefits to everyone hanging out in the same room. Heating one or two rooms is much easier than heating the whole house. If rooms aren’t being used, close the internal doors (and perhaps use some of those draught excluders you’ve made). That includes bedrooms and bathrooms.

Sometimes, everyone packed in just isn’t an option, but using as few rooms as possible and concentrating people in the most well-insulated room in the house keeps everyone toasty.

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