For most of us, having an ‘energy efficient’ home means reducing the amount of electricity we use to run it. As we head into cooler months and the need to warm our homes becomes prevalent, we’ve put together some advice on how to enjoy a nice warm home without having to rely on consuming lots of electricity over winter.
Pick the right heat source
It pays to do your research in this area as choosing the right heating solution really depends on the size and shape of the space you want to heat, how warm you need it to be and for how long.
On average, Kiwi homes need a minimum of 2kW of electricity for a small-medium sized living room. Don’t be fooled into thinking you need a less-powerful heater that will be more cost effective to run because really it just takes longer (and more power) to heat the space. And getting one that’s too powerful is wasteful.
Heat pumps are the cheapest heating source to run with every kilowatt of power in getting you 3 to 4kW out! However, if the area isn’t huge or doesn’t need to be heated all the time (for example, just taking the chill of the air in a bedroom before sleeping) an electric heater can sometimes be a better option.
Get the most out of your heating solution
No matter what heating options you have in your home, you can give them a helping hand. Close off rooms you don’t need to heat and block draughts from coming under doors with door snakes. And get warm air circulating with a fan; Consumer NZ tested this and found that placing a small fan on the floor in front of an oil column heater raised the average room temperature by 5°C three times faster! If you’re using a ceiling fan remember to adjust its direction for the season.
Insulate, insulate, insulate!
Improving your insulation is one of the very best ways to make your home more energy efficient both in winter and summer. It will make a HUGE different to how much energy is needed to heat it.
Prioritise improving your ceiling insulation as heat rises and this is often the cheapest and easiest to install. Underfloor insulation is next, with more in the walls after that if you have the budget. It pays to note that standard levels are a recommended bare minimum and EECA advise going much higher.
Make sure your home is dry
After insulation, having a dry home is the next impactful thing you can do to help energy efficiency. A damp home is so hard to heat and who knew ‘living’ could be such a damp affair! Everything we do adds to the moisture levels in our homes so here are some ways to dry it out and/or help prevent moisture from building up:
- Home ventilation system
- Open (north facing) windows a little during the day for airflow
- Get a dehumidifier
- ShowerDome and extractor fan in the bathroom
- Plastic sheeting under the house to stop rising damp
- Vent clothes dryer outside
- Rangehood in the kitchen and use lids on pots and pans
- Check plumbing for leaks
- Maintain an even inside temperature throughout the house (helps stop moist air from condensing)
- If wooden joinery, maintain internal and external seals to minimise the amount of moisture that can seep in.
Curtains and blinds
Defend the windows. Glass is such a poor insulator that windows tend to be the main source of heat loss in any home. You can read more tips on reducing heat loss out of glass here, but one of the key ways is through quality curtains and blinds. According to Energywise they can “reduce heat loss through windows by 60% for single glazed windows, and 40-50% for double glazing.”
Most people also forget about the joinery. Wooden joinery is typically more insulating that aluminum joinery. If you are considering moving from single glazing to double glazing, consider your joinery type and whether investing in thermally broken aluminum joinery is an option for you.
A thick, closely woven fabric will offer the best heat loss reduction but it’s not essential and may not be what you want for an all-season look. At least make sure curtains and blinds have a thermal lining.
Ensure a snug fit on both sides of the window and at the top of the curtain or blind to stop warm air sneaking down behind it. And when possible, it’s best to have curtains that touch the floor or break at the floor. This leaves no gaps for cold air to get under.
Having a pelmet above the curtain rail creates a pocket of air (similar to how double glazing works), which helps to reduce heat loss. Another way to trap the air movement is to return your curtains around your curtain track so they come into direct contact with the wall or utilise curtain rods that curve at the end and bring the curtain into direct contact with the wall to create a seal.
Make sure you keep curtains and blinds open during the day to let in any sun and close them as soon as it goes down to keep in any warmth.
Use less hot water
Water heating is a big energy consumer – from 30-40% of your power bill! First, check the thermostat and readjust it to about 60°C if you can. Call a sparky or plumber if you can’t. Next, try to take shorter showers. If a family of four cut their shower times down to 3 minutes per day they’d see a marked difference in their power bill.
According to a Stuff article, in a home of three, every minute in the shower adds about $90 a year to your energy costs. Fix any leaks and think about installing a low flow showerhead. The stats are pretty impressive on what you could save.
Those appliances that don’t need to be on all day, like the TV (not the fridge, that has to keep running) can be switched off at the wall to make some savings. That’s right, even in standby mode they’re using energy. Whenever it’s time to upgrade to a new appliance, check and compare energy star ratings on like for like products. If you’re not comparing like for like, compare the energy consumption figure on the labels; the model with the lowest kWh per year is the most energy efficient.