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Keeping warm in Winter

I was amused to come across this article supposedly about people who live in cold houses by choice. I'm not sure how much of it was about choice or necessity for most of those interviewed but I'm sure many people in rental properties can relate to the challenge of living in a cold house, particularly those with poor heating facilities in their homes. No one wants to sit in one room under a heater all day or be faced with a ridiculously large gas/electricity bill at the end of winter. So how can we keep warm?

Reduce draughts
Many rental properties are without insulation and poorly maintained.  In winter, draughts can account for up to 25% of heat losses. Here are some ways to reduce draughts:

  • Sealing up cracks and gaps (including floor gaps: even covering the floor with a thick rug will help)
  • Sealing unnecessary vents
  • Sealing exhaust fans and outlet grills
  • Sealing unused fireplaces
  • Using the Draft Stoppa prevents hot or cold air entering from the roof cavity, thus reducing the cold air circulating in your kitchen or bathroom.

One easy transportable method to reduce door draughts is to make or buy door snakes (our double door snakes are great for busy areas, as the door can be opened and closed without the need for adjusting the dooor snake each time).

For the sides of doors and windows adhesive backed foam is a good resource. Hardware stores sell it in various widths and thicknesses, and the tape is self-adhesive and easy to install. Simply cut the tape to the length you need with scissors, peel away the backing from the tape and stick it in place. The size and flexibility of tape makes it well suited for blocking irregular-sized cracks.

Insulated curtains have many benefits by keeping out the cold weather and keeping the warmth inside. Ask around your relatives, most people seem to have a spare pair of rubber backed insulated curtains stashed in a cupboard somewhere.

Alternatively you might like to pick up a pair cheaply at a charity shop or ebay or even make your own. Make some ties while you're at it, you’ll want them open in the mornings. Here’s a great easy tutorial. Making curtains is pretty much just about sewing straight lines. (This gets easier with practice!)

You can also get a range of removable window pane insulation at hardware stores not unlike the sticky 'Contact' used to cover school books. Some people even claim good success with sealing their window with bubble wrap, DIY style.

Keep your bed warm
Electric blankets are reasonably low in energy to run compared to other household appliances however there are environmental impacts with regard to:

  • The plastic coated wiring and other components that are used
  • They are often made with synthetic fibres
  • There's some debate as to health issues relating to electromagnetic fields
  • The initial cost of the blanket and then the ongoing costs of electricity
  • The fire/burn/shock risk.

At any rate they should be checked at least once a year for safety reasons.

More environmentally friendly options:

  • Woollen underlay blanket (or even another blanket or doona under the bottom sheet)
  • Flannelette sheets
  • Hot water bottle
  • Rice/Wheat Bag
  • Thick patchwork quilts

General homewarming, energy reducing tips
Focus on keeping yourself warm, not your house.Perhaps you’ve seen the doona suits for sale? Now you can make your own from a few spare sleeping bags. Tutorial here. Or at the very least, layer up with warm clothes to reduce your need for constant heating. Thermals can be a good option too as well as thick socks or slippers.

  • Keep doors closed to keep heated areas warm.
  • If you're making a hot drink only boil the amount of water you'll need rather than a full kettle.
  • Go back to the teapot and enjoy the ritual of making tea rather than constantly using teabags. It's relaxing, cheaper and reduces waste. A tea cosy helps your pot stay hot longer. Tea leaves can be composted or thrown directly on the garden once cooled.
  • Bring out your clothes horse. Using a clothes dryer expends more energy than other house hold appliances; even more than a washing machine.
  • During stationary activites such as watching tv, reading or using a computer, keep a blanket folded on your chair for easy warmth in mere seconds.

Winter is a great time to purchase bulk ingredients (grains, pulses, veggies) and make pots of soups, stews and curries. Spices such as turmeric, ginger, garlic and chillies help to boost your immune system and keep the body warm. Buy seasonal produce such as beetroot, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, pumpkin and silver beet. It's cheaper, has less distance to travel and is grown in Australia. Bulk cooking can be divided into smaller containers and frozen, thus reducing the need for take away food. Try a soup party with friends or swap casseroles to keep your winter meals interesting.