Winterising your home

Wendy Johnson

We get soooo excited this time of year.

Autumn leaves are vivid. We feel the warmth in the sun during the day and so fling the windows open to air out the house. Then, bam. It hits. Winter. One cold spell after another, and then another.

Before the season changes, why not get your act together and do everything you can to winterise your home? It will stop you from tossing money out the window and prevent you from having a heart attack every time you see your energy bill.

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A great place to start is the Actsmart sustainability hub. The ‘What can I do to take action?’ section is a gold mine of practical online tools, services, guides, programs and tips, most of which are free. And they cover what you can do at home, work, school and in the community.

Don’t worry that this is all super-duper technical stuff that’s impossible to understand. Quite the opposite. Some actions cost nothing and take no time at all to implement. Others cost a bit and others might require more time and money, but every action you take will help you save this winter without compromising your comfort. And even better, you’ll be helping the environment and keeping Canberra a special place to live.

Firstly, think of these startling stats. They might convince you to make the change to a more efficient household:

  1. 60% of your household’s energy cost goes to heating.
  2. You lose about 25% of heat through windows and door gaps.
  3. A 5% gap in insulation can reduce your insulation value by about 50%.
  4. You can lose between 10% and 15% of heat through cracks and gaps alone.
  5. You save up to 10% of your heating bill for every degree you lower your thermostat.

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So what to do? Here’s 20 ideas

  1. Take a couple of hours to check online resources and free tips on the Actsmart sustainability hub.
  2. Book in for a free Actsmart workshop (see Upcoming events), including on topics like introduction to energy efficiency, DIY draught proofing and understanding thermal performance in your home.
  3. Borrow a Home Energy Action Kit from your local library, containing everything you need to assess your energy and water usage and develop an improvement plan (including power meter, infrared thermometer, compass, stopwatch and more).
  4. Check out DIY videos on YouTube.
  5. Minimise the time you heat and cool. Turn off your heater at night and when no-one is home for an extended period.
  6. Use draft stoppers (door snakes) on all external doors.
  7. Seal doors with draft strips—inexpensive, readily available and easy to use. Just peel off the back and away you go.
  8. Seal cracks and gaps.
  9. Check ceiling lights and ensure they’re sealed. Replace with sealed LED replacements.
  10. Wrap insulation around external pipes.
  11. Set your water thermostat at no more than 60°.
  12. Set your thermostat at between 17°C and 20°C. Throw on a thicker jumper if you get cool.
  13. Buy quality curtains (tightly woven fabric) that fit all the way across your windows and touch the ground. Close them at night and in rooms not being used during the day. If your curtains don’t touch the ground, block off the bottom with inexpensive draft stoppers.
  14. Line curtains with ‘block out’ backing.
  15. Block off the bottom and top of blinds. Close blinds at night and in rooms not being used. If changing or buying new blinds, don’t get vertical or venetian—they don’t insulate.
  16. Consider window insulation film. It’s like a tough cling wrap. Stretch it over your windows and seal with a blow dryer to form an effective vacuum. Despite the initial investment, this saves heaps of money. Many stores in Canberra sell the film or you can source online (enviroshop.com.au/shop for example). This really works and it’s not hard — even I managed to do it when living in Canada.
  17. Check ceiling insulation for gaps and ensure at least 20 cm thickness. To check, find your manhole and poke your head up to look around (or, if you’re me, get help). Then fill in gaps and bump up insulation if needed.
  18. Determine what insulation you’re using. It’s the R-value (resistance to heat flow) that counts. The higher the better.
  19. Install a reversible ceiling fan in high ceilings, to push heat down in winter and act as low-cost cooling in summer.
  20. Consider the age of your appliances. If, for example, your fridge is more than 15 years old it’s likely worth replacing it—you’ll get your money back in savings relatively quickly.

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For more ideas: visit www.actsmart.act.gov.au

Feature image by Martin Ollman

Wendy Johnson

Wendy Johnson graduated with a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, a few decades ago. She’s been living in Australia since 1995, having fallen in love with eucalypt trees and kangaroos. Wendy is passionate about Canberra and all the nation’s capital has to offer. She loves to write (about everything and anything) and owns her own pr and advertising business. More about the Author

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