Heating costs make up 40 per cent of Australian residential energy bills during winter but it is possible to avoid the chill and keep the household budget in check, said Gavin Lewis, EnergyAustralia General Manager – Energy Services.
The first rule of efficiently heating a home in winter, Mr Lewis said, is to keep warm air in, and the cold air out.
"Buying a new heater is an understandable response to warming up a cold house but that approach can be expensive, and unnecessary," Mr Lewis said.
"The truth is heating a home doesn't have to cost a fortune. A few small tweaks can make a big difference to how much energy a household consumes, particularly in winter," Mr Lewis said.
Simple and inexpensive ways to warm households include minimising draughts with floor stoppers, sealing cracks around doors and windows, insulating rooms, ceilings, roofs and walls, and ensuring heaters are serviced regularly.
If the budget allows, consider new, energy-efficient heaters and appliances.
Mr Lewis said it was important to service heaters about every three years and to clean filters regularly between services to ensure appliances are operating at maximum efficiency.
EnergyAustralia's home heating hints:
- Heat a room according to use. Transit areas like kitchens or hallways can be heated to 16 degrees Celsius and rooms where people spend more time, such as lounges, are generally comfortable at 21 degrees Celsius.
- Install retrofit double-glazed windows, which can retain up to 40 per cent of heat inside;
*A cheaper, short-term alternative is applying heat-shrink film to windows.
- Take advantage of the winter sun by letting in natural light, particularly through north-facing windows. The sun is most intense from 10am to 3pm; let in as much light as possible during that time. At other times, keep the blinds closed.
- Draught-proof around the bottom of external doors with door snakes and install weather stripping along door edges.
- Ensure walls, ceilings and beneath floorboards are properly insulated; this can reduce heating costs by up to 20 per cent.
- Run ceiling fans in reverse during cooler months. Set to clockwise, the fan creates an updraft that sends warmer air pooled near the ceiling back down to living areas.
- Use a warmer doona so heating can be turned down or off while the house is asleep. Doonas are also an excellent replacement for electric blankets which can drive up energy bills.
- The higher the star rating, the more efficient the heater. The star rating of an appliance is determined by its energy consumption and size. Each star equates to a 15 per cent energy saving.
- Get expert advice to get the right model, and capacity, heater. Too small, and the unit will run constantly. Too big, and it will run infrequently in short cycles, causing extra wear and tear.
- Incorrect installation can reduce the effectiveness of a heater by up to 30 per cent, which unnecessarily adds to energy bills and causes problems including dehumidification, dust and poor air distribution.
For more information, visit EnergyAustralia at www.energyaustralia.com.au/residential/home-services.