Winter heating tips – choosing the right heating this winter
Home heating and cooling is a major energy consumer in Australian homes. Around 36% of our annual energy consumption goes towards heating and cooling of living spaces. For winter warmth, choosing the right heater (or heating source) is one part of the equation; preparing your home for energy efficient warmth is the other.
Environmental considerations vs. cost
In recent years there has been a lot of focus on our carbon footprint – that’s the amount of carbon we produce when we use mainstream energy sources – like electricity and gas for example. It is important for all of us to reduce our impact on the environment. However, simply reducing your carbon footprint will not necessarily result in lower power bills and certainly won’t mean you have a warm and comfy home in winter – at least not without looking at the bigger picture.
Consider your heating needs carefully, and then start planning.
Your choice of home heating will come down to a few key decision points. Here are some questions to start asking yourself:
- Do you have an existing home or are you planning on building a new home? – There are a wide range of choices for both situations. When building a new home, pay attention to things like passive solar opportunities that can reduce the need for energy consuming heating appliances. Also be aware of the limitations you may have with choosing a heating source for an existing home.
- Type of home – Do you live in a house, apartment or townhouse. Some types of heating will not be available to you if you live in apartment for example.
- Ownership – Do you own or rent your home? If you’re renting, you might want to be able to take your heater with you when you move.
- Need – Do you need to heat a room or an entire home?
- Budget – There is the capital cost of buying a heating appliance as well as installation and the ongoing cost to run it. No one wants to pay more than they should for home heating so think carefully about these aspects.
- Style – Do you want to simply heat your home or do you want an element of style, or a focal point in a main room? (Like a fireplace for example)
- Access to your preferred energy source – Electricity, gas, firewood and other fuels – are these readily available.
Heating appliance types
There is a wide variety of heating appliance types available today. No one heating type will, be right for everyone. Each heating appliance type will have its pro’s and con’s based on things like: Initial purchase and installation cost, running costs and availability of the chosen fuel source. Here’s a short list:
- Electric – includes radiant, convection, conductive (underfloor heating), spilt and ducted air conditioning.
- Gas – includes radiant, convection, gas ducted heating
- Wood – includes open fireplaces, slow combustion heaters & stoves and pellet heaters.
- Ethanol – includes ethanol burning fireplaces.
Prepare your home for efficient, cost effective heating
Choosing the right heating source may well play an important part of reducing your winter bills but there are other steps the homeowner can take to reduce the need for excessive energy consumption and to reduce their winter energy bills.
- Wear warm clothing – There’s no simpler way of keeping warm than by throwing on some extra clothes.
- Insulate your home – The energy consumption difference of heating a space with and without ceiling insulation for example can be as much as 30%. There are a number of options – some of which will depend on whether you own an existing home, are renovating or building a new home. Consider the possibilities for wall and even underfloor insulation as well as ceiling insulation.
- If practical, open the shades or drapes on north facing windows during the day, this will allow the suns sun’s rays to heat parts of your home during the day.
- How old is your home – have you inspected your ceiling insulation?
- Depending on the age of your home and when insulation was installed, you may be surprised to find that your current ceiling insulation has lost its effectiveness or is missing in parts. We recently had a look up in the ceiling cavity of our home to find that our insulation was missing in some parts and mostly covered in dust and leaves. Most of the insulation had packed down with the weight of the dust and leaves. Not only is this a fire hazard but the insulation is no longer able to do its job.
- Close doors to rooms that are not occupied.
- Cover windows with heavy drapes (a lot of heat loss can occur through windows – up to 20%)
- Don’t try to ‘overheat’ your home – Typically during winter you only need to heat your home to around 24 degrees to be comfortable. More than this and you are simply throwing money down the drain.