Is your home ready for winter? Small changes can make a big difference when it comes to how much you spend on heating. Take stock of your home before the cold weather blows in, and do everything you can to improve efficiency.
Choose Proper Heating
Fuel type, pricing and availability is just part of the bigger picture when it comes to selecting the right heating system. The size and age of your home must also be taken into account, as well as the installation and maintenance costs involved in each system. Depending on these factors, you may choose:
- Underfloor heating
- Heat pumps
- Central ducted heat
- Central electric heat
- Individual electric heaters
- Wood burners such as pellet stoves or fireplaces
When using a wood source of heat, measures must be taken to minimize loss through chimneys and flues. If you’re looking for a more environmentally friendly option keep in mind that around 75 percent of electricity in New Zealand comes from renewable resources. All heating systems must receive proper maintenance to operate at peak efficiency, and you’d do well to shop around for your power provider as it is a very competitive market these days and all the power companies are offering great deals to get signed up.
Winterize the Windows
Between 20 and 30 percent of home heat is lost through windows, but you can minimize this loss anywhere from 40 to 60 percent just by installing blinds or curtains. Choose thermal window coverings that fit well, and keep them closed whenever the weather is chilly.
Ill-fitting windows and cracks around window frames increase heat loss. Fill in gaps with caulk or weather stripping to prevent heat from leaking out into the environment. Replace old windows with double-glazed models made using low-E glass and inert gas insulation. These windows reflect heat back into the room to preserve the warmth already in your home.
Other areas around the house can be big sources of heat loss:
- 30 to 35 percent through the roof
- 18 to 25 percent through walls
- 12 to 14 percent through floors
Insulating these areas cuts down on loss dramatically. Walls and ceilings can be insulated with a “blown in” or injected loose fill insulation, or you can chose bulk insulation made from wool, fiberglass, polyester and other materials. Similar types of insulation can be used in the attic to prevent rising heat from escaping out through the upper floors. Bulk insulation is also used under floorboards, although foil is the most common type found in New Zealand homes.
The efficacy of insulation is measured in R-value, a number denoting how much resistance a material has to heat flow. Look for a high R-value to get the best protection against heat loss.
Get a Smarter Thermostat
Thermostats are being upgraded all the time to be more efficient and easier to use. Programmable models can be set to turn the heat up or down according to your daily schedule. Different programs for each day or for during the week and on weekends ensure a warm home when you arrive back from work or errands and a cool environment for sleeping.
Smart thermostats such as the Swann One Zen work in a similar way but offer more features. Temperatures can be set remotely using an app on your mobile device. You can opt to create schedules as with a programmable thermostat or simply “tell” the thermostat how much heat you want. If you forget to turn the heat down before leaving the house, use the app to lower the thermostat instead of wasting money heating empty rooms.
Zoned heating systems place separate thermostats in different areas to minimize energy use in the parts of your home where you spend the least amount of time. Instead of heating the entire house evenly, each “zone” can be set to an appropriate temperature.
Being conscious of energy conservation and practical with your heating choices goes a long way toward lowering the cost of keeping your home comfortable over the winter. Each change may not seem like much on its own, but they all contribute to a more efficient, affordable approach to staying warm.