Follow our guide to making your home 100% chill-proof this winter, whether your reno budget is humble or humungous
Save: Stop draughts
The older your house, the more likely it is to be leaking warm air through cracks, gaps and disused or degraded fittings. Common problem areas include unused chimneys, cracks between floorboards and old or warped windows and doors.
A good start is to:
- Block unused chimneys
- Seal obvious holes and gaps with sealant and expanding foam
- Replace ill-fitting windows and doors or put seal strips and draught excluders around them.
Splurge: Install double glazing
Double-glazed windows (two panes of glass with air or gas trapped in between) can slash heat loss through windows, improve the feeling of warmth and dryness in your home, reduce noise from outside and reduce or remove condensation build-up in cold weather. Double glazing is standard in new houses but it’s also worth installing in existing homes. If you need to prioritise where your money goes, install double glazing in the main, heated areas of your house as well as in large windows. For the best results, look for windows with frames that have insulating properties such as wood, PVC or thermally broken aluminium, and low-emissivity (low-E) glass. Some companies offer retrofit double-glazing options that can be installed into your existing windows.
SAVE: Lower cost alternatives to double glazing include DIY window insulation kits and low-E window film.
Save: Revamp your windows
Well-fitted blinds or curtains can go a long way to stopping heat loss through draughty windows or thermal transfer. A little known fact is that the effectiveness of curtains is all about the quality of the seal you create between the curtain and the window. Cold air that forms near your window gets heavier and, if your curtain is too short or too far away from the window, that cold air will drop into the room. Warm room air is then drawn in at the top of the window, creating an undesirable current that cools down your home.
To provide good insulation your curtains should:
- Be full-length and touch the floor
- Fit tightly against the wall or window frame
- Be wider than the window frame
- Be double-layered with a thick lining
- Net curtains installed very close to the window, and in contact with the window frame, can be helpful in stopping cold air currents, too.
It may seem crazy in the depths of winter, but one of the best things you can do to ensure a warm, healthy home is to throw open the windows. Ventilating your home daily to circulate the air and allow moisture to escape will make it easier to heat and less likely to get mouldy. Installing a home ventilation system will accomplish this automatically.
The other half of this equation is to ensure no unnecessary moisture is being trapped inside your home. Install extractor fans in your bathroom and kitchen, and ensure they’re blowing steam outside rather than into your roof. Dry clothes outside whenever you can and vent your clothes dryer externally, too. Dehumidifiers can chew up lots of electricity, but can also be very effective for drying out damp rooms or cupboards.
Splurge: Build in passive heating
Passive design is the eco-friendly future of modern building. This approach aims to maximise a home’s orientation to the sun and landscape to ensure it is naturally heated and cooled with minimal energy use. Materials such as poured concrete are used in walls and floors to store the heat of the day’s sun for gradual release throughout the night. Insulation is essential and window size and placement are carefully considered. Fittings such as louvre windows are then deployed to naturally ventilate your home and keep it at an even temperature. If you’re building a new home or doing a big renovation, using passive heating technology could save you big bucks on heating and cooling your home well into the future.
Splurge: Install efficient heating
Portable heaters, electric blankets and cosy jumpers are fine, but at the end of the day your home is still going to be cold. Investing in modern, efficient heating will save you money in the long run, improve your quality of life and keep your family healthier during winter, and you can’t put a price tag on that. Even a single heat pump can make a big difference to the air temperature in your home, and there are so many options available now that there’s sure to be one in your price range. If you’re building new or carrying out major renovations, underfloor heating or a whole-house central heating system is worth considering as these technologies are super-efficient, cosy, potentially invisible and are integrated with your hot water system, which means maximum benefit for minimum cost. The initial outlay is no joke but the investment will lift the value of your home and offer years of improved health and comfort.
Save: Plug-in portable heating
If your budget can’t stretch to a built-in heating solution, using a heater is the next best way to warm up a space. However, freestanding heaters can also end up costing you a lot in power bills so choose your model wisely by doing your research. Models with a thermostat (to maintain an even temperature), a timer (so you can set the heater to warm up a space before you need to use it), and a fan (helps to warm a room faster and more evenly) will help to keep costs down. And remember, portable heaters are designed to quickly warm a small area so don’t leave it on for hours and, if you’re using it in a large space, find ways to restrict the airflow to your immediate area using curtains, room dividers and furniture.
Love an open fire? Enclosing your fireplace or installing a modern wood-burner is a far more efficient way to generate heat from burning wood. Check your local council regulations for the installation and use of fireplaces.
Did you know, about 10% of a home’s heat can be lost through the floor, 24% through the walls and a massive 40% through the ceiling?
For this reason, insulating your home is easily the best thing you can do to keep it warm and healthy, and to keep heating bills low. There are various funding schemes available to help you do this if you don’t have the funds right now, and some banks and lenders are starting to offer interest-free insulation loans. If you can’t afford to insulate your whole home, prioritise the areas that are heated (so you don’t waste money on heating air that will just escape through your tin roof) or that are vulnerable to cold and damp. Alternatively, you may wish to start by insulating the roof and attacking your home’s walls and underfloor spaces at a later stage.
Remember: All building work, including renovations, needs to comply with the Building Code and may need a building consent. You can find more information on the Building Performance website or by contacting your local council.
Words by: Sally Conor.