Colder climates across Australia cause certain parts of the country to dip into winter temperatures as soon as Anzac day arrives. These lower temperatures have multiple affects on both our bodies and our budgets. Firstly you'll want to eat more to stay warmer, its natural. Secondly, nobody likes coming home to a cold house or sitting in one over the weekend so heating becomes a necessity. Changes around these two aspects in our daily patterns often leads to bills increasing while our financial budgets do the exact opposite.
There are also other global changes affecting our pockets which are out of our control, for example the rising cost of electricity and gas which occurred last year. These changes cause un-planned financial stress when living on a budget, which don’t usually handle sudden shifts upwards in these with much ease. This is why you need to get on top of how you heat your home to get the best value for money out of your expenditure. I want to help you cover everything so your winter doesn’t cost you a frozen arm or leg.
Where is your money going?
The two biggest one-off purchases we make in our lives generally tend to be our house and our car. Both purchases consist of numerous functioning parts which allow them to operate effectively and efficiently. However, as with cars and sending them in for annual services, so too should you perform regular checks on your house. If you have a leak or a crack in your car's engine, this will cause long-term damage if simply left perpetuate. This same logic should be applied to your house.
Certain energy companies offer their clients free energy audits of their homes but you can also perform the same duty easily enough yourself for free (especially is your company wants to charge you for an audit). Simply assess your home to understand where you could potentially be losing heat. The assessment I performed for the purpose of this post consisted of checking things such as:
- Windows (left open, not closing properly, cracks)
- Ventilation fans / vents
- Doors (drafts under or around)
- Cat-flap / dog-flap
- Dis-functional radiators
The majority of issues I found could be solved with temporary fixes. I stopped the draft under the front door with a draft stopper from Masters costing only $2.50. The other places heat was escaping from included ill-fitting window frames. I used clear Sellotape to block the holes and prevent drafts. I simply unscrewed the vents and covered the hole with paper before placing the cover back in place.
Boiler Pipes and Insulation
It’s worth checking your pipes to see if they are correctly insulated. Wherever your boiler is, check its piping to see if any insulation covering the pipes has deteriorated or fallen off. If any pipes go outside, even for a short stretch, then it will save you a considerable amount of money by making sure those and all other areas of exposed pipe are insulated as well as possible. The best materials for this are builders blanket or pipe insulation foam. Correctly insulated pipes will definitely reduce your heating bills both for the radiators and your showers.
Heating for One or more?
Asking yourself if you are heating the room for just yourself or for more than one person can save you considerable amounts of money. If you live alone then simply applying a couple of layers of socks, jumpers and a beanie can do the job faster and more efficiently compared to whacking the radiator on.
If there are two or more people then it might be more practical to turn the heating on. Still, ask yourself though whether you'll be sitting in one or two rooms? If the answer is two then it makes complete sense to heat only those two rooms, keep the doors closed and of course any windows etc. Ideally, if you have a convection heater and a ceiling fan, it’s a great idea to turn the ceiling fan onto slow speed to help disperse the heat evenly. This also works in a sauna; if you grab your towel and swing it round like a fan near the ceiling you will experience a drastic increase in heat, the same concept applies.
Timers = Money Saving
Buying a timer for all of your electrical devices is a great way to take advantage of peak and off peak electricity prices. A simple 24-hour timer switch from Masters costs $4.59 (less than a coffee at some places). If, like in my house, you have an old boiler then it’s a great way to manage the time that boiler is running. My boiler when plugged in is on and can only be turned off when I unplug it, so I have one of these timers to turn the boiler on for an hour per day (30mins in the morning and 30mins in the evening).
Applying these timers to other devices like dishwashers and washing machines can also help you use machines at off-peak times. These savings, combined with selecting efficient options such as a quick-wash mode for plates or putting a clothes wash on at 30 degrees Celsius, do also add up.
Family Energy Rebates
In light of the energy companies increasing their prices, the Australian government has introduced the carbon tax to help families subsidise these rising costs. If you live in NSW, the two options available to you are: the Low Income Household Rebate and the Family Energy Rebate.
Heating in certain parts of Australia is a necessity and when its cold, its cold! Not many of us enjoy very cool temperatures, so use the tips above to help reduce your heating bill. If you are still struggling to reduce it, consider paying the small fee to have your energy company audit your home to see where else you can save.
In addition, if you or anybody you know is about to build or renovate a property, this is truly the best time to install efficient and effective energy saving heating technologies. Although expensive to install, the year on year savings add up, especially when you might be considering central heating, in-slab heating and hydronic heating.