I live in a cold climate, meaning my ‘winter’ generally starts from Anzac day through till mid- October. This is a very expensive time of year for my household as I quick start to spend a lot of money on heating.
We spend more on convenience foods, spend most of our spare time indoors and by the end of October, our household budget is stretched to its limits trying to pay excessive utilities bills. Last winter was brutal, and with the rising cost of electricity and gas, heating costs can become a big financial pressure.
So here are some thoughts on how to save money on heating costs this winter. Less money spent on heating means more money to spend in summer.
Where is your heating going? Why is it costing you so much?
Just as your car may need a check-up and a service to run more efficiently so may your home.
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Some energy providers offer a free energy audit service or may charge a nominal fee, but I prefer the do-it-yourself option and simply look for ways to pay less for heating by improving your house.
Identify where your heat is leaking out. Maybe it’s that window you leave open upstairs or in the laundry? Other common places for heat to leak are through vents or ventilation fans, around doors, and un-furnished windows.
Close off the un-used vents, use door seals and draft stoppers (readily available in hardware stores and some supermarkets) and before the cold snap hits, re-seal and repair to keep that heat in.
Look to insulate and repair pipes and ducted air leaks
Giving your water heater and pipes a bit of tender loving care could give your heating costs a kiss too- if you swaddle your heater and pipes with builder’s blanket or other insulation (especially if they’re external) the water they carry won’t lose as much heat and you’ll be able to cut your heating costs. The same goes for ducted air- it can lose huge amounts of heat before it gets anywhere near you if it’s poorly connected or un-insulated.
So you’ll be pumping the heating with very little benefit. Get a little savvy and go for a crawl through the roof- if any ducting has come undone, you’ll do yourself a huge favour by getting it fixed up.
Insulate large areas of your house and save money
Insulation in any form will assist in keeping that expensive heat where you want it for longer. There are changes you can make to the window glazing that will improve insulation but if you can’t afford it, thick vinyl backed curtains are one of the best ways of insulating your windows. In my home I have gone for both blinds and curtains on the windows to keep the heat in. There are also a plethora of insulation companies in the market that install insulation in the ceiling and wall cavities.
Shop around and compare prices, talk to friends and research companies online, remembering that cheaper is not always better.
Remember, even a ‘door snake’ to stop cold air entering from under the door is a wise move that can reduce your heating costs.
Ask yourself – heating a room or heating a person?
If you’re looking to just heat a person, your heating options are more varied. Start by putting on a jumper, socks and beanie. If you’re still cold or you can see your breath in the room then it might be time to turn on the heating. Are you only going to be in one or two rooms? If so, choose an appropriate form of heating. Keep doors closed and heat only the space you’re going to be occupying. Keep your heating vents clear so the hot air actually circulates. If you’ve bought a convection heater, think about turning your ceiling fan to winter mode and have it on low- it will help disperse the heat around the room and stop the heat from layering somewhere around the ceiling and nowhere near you.
Get the right heating system to save money
Heating your house without blowing the budget is a matter of using the best system for you and your home. First, consider the fuel. Can you get natural gas in your area? If you’re using firewood, have you investigated the cheapest options? Are you looking to use the heater for the whole house, and how frequently? Whichever form of heating product you choose, ensure you keep it up to date. Spending $500 for a new heater might seem like a lot, but the energy you save could be substantial.
You can also take advantage of ‘free heat’ by opening your curtains on the sunny days so that your house can warm up naturally. Be very careful not to leave them open past the sunny period of the day, as this tip will work against you if left unmonitored.
Save money by using timers to turn heating on and off
It makes no sense at all for your home to be toasty warm if there’s no one there to enjoy it. If your current heater doesn’t have a timing option available you can buy timers for as little as $10 from department stores that plug into the electricity socket. They’re easy to use and can be set for the 24 hour period. So you can set it for when you’re going to get up, return for work and go to sleep.
Water heating costs money also
Little things like washing your clothes in cold water as opposed to hot can save on hot water heating costs and might even avoid your clothes shrinking in the wash. Avoid long hot showers as well, remembering that electric hot water systems can contribute to around a third of your total heating costs so cutting your showers down to just 3minutes or less can actively help you save money on water and minimise your heating bills. Electric hot water systems can also be more expensive to run than a solar, heat pump or gas system, so if yours is on its last legs consider switching systems to make big savings on your bill.
Don’t turn the temperature on your heating to super high temps
Energywatch reports that turning your thermostat down by as little as one degree could save you a shocking 10% off your total annual heating bill. So maybe you need to wear a jumper, and set it at 19 degrees as opposed to the tropical 21. It’s also wise to remember that 20 degrees feels very hot if outside it is 5 degrees. The same goes in summer – set your air con to just 3-4 degrees lower than the outside temp and you will feel cool.
Assitance for reducing your heating bills
With the introduction of the carbon tax and the rising charges from utility providers the government released rebates to families to subsidise the increase in costs. For NSW households there are two rebates available; the Low Income Household Rebate and the Family Energy Rebate.
Check out the ‘Family Energy Rebate‘ to see if you are eligible. There is also further assistance available per the Commonwealth government’s household assistance package, please see ‘Clean Energy Future‘ for more information.
Lastly, when building your home or renovating – consider heating costs
The other time you have a lot of opportunity to save when it comes to heating is when you’re first building or renovating a house. Several options that are cheaper to run but initially expensive to install, are easier to achieve when you’re building. These include in-slab heating, central heating and even hydronic heating. I live in a cold climate, heating is a necessity and investing in an effective system that runs for a relatively low cost is a sensible financial decision.
Every little aspect above adds up when it comes to saving money on heating, so give them a go and implement them holistically to see whether you can reduce your heating bills this winter.