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Light grey couch with mustard cushions and throw blanket.
Give your home a health check, then layer in warmth, comfort and money-saving tweaks, to feel happy, healthy and in control.

The benefits of a healthy home

The start of a new year is peak season for assessing what needs to be improved in your home (and life) but, while those January resolutions are now just a distant memory, winter is a great time to review your overall home health – inside, outside and financially.

Start by making sure your health and comfort are covered – your home should provide everything you need in terms of warmth – and also your physical and mental wellbeing. Then look at how you can do things better in the second half of 2024, focusing on organisational systems and savvy financial tips to make your life run more smoothly. 

Cost-effective heating tips

A healthy home is a cosy home. Make your home a haven this winter with these tips for creating a cocooning space that keeps out the chill without breaking the bank.

Layer up for a healthy home

Blankets, rugs and cuddly cushions are essential ingredients for a winter nest, while the visual effect of amped up texture makes us feel warmer as soon as we enter a room. Natural fibres, such as wool, are one of the best ways to add texture and warmth, says interior designer Emily MacAlpine of MARG Studio. “This could be by adding a thick, knitted wool throw rug to the end of your bed or sofa to snuggle up under,” she says.

Embrace the sun

Sunlight is a fantastic no-cost source of heat – and a dose of sun also helps keep the winter SAD (seasonal affective disorder) away. Note where the sun falls in the cool months and take advantage of every beam. “Homes should act like a living thing that changes with the seasons and throughout each day,” says Emily. “Consider where the sun rises in the morning and how it tracks through the home as the day progresses.”

Emily suggests tweaking your window treatments to control the amount of light you get into the home, especially during the warmest times of day. Angle shutters to welcome in light, open curtains fully and, crucially, close shutters and draw curtains closed when the sun fades to lock in that lovely warmth.

Plug the gaps

The whistle of a winter draught is the sound of your money blowing out of the door. Keep your home snug and your energy costs down by blocking draught points that let in icy air and steal your warmth. Fabric door snakes, fixed door seals and weather seal tape (for doors and windows) are affordable and easy D.I.Y. solutions. Insulate windows (especially single-glazed ones) with good window treatments – hang curtains high and wide to cover the gaps around the edges of the frame and opt for thermal fabrics where possible.

Smart solutions

Using smart technology to fire up your heating systems gives you complete control over your home’s climate from wherever you are, says John Campbell, Bunnings electrical buyer. “Smart technology allows users to remotely control heat pumps, and some models can even sense the temperature of the home and adjust settings automatically,” he says. It’s not just heat pumps, either. “Fans with winter modes can be controlled using smart technology, offering convenient and efficient heating solutions,” John says. This technology allows you to come home to an already warm and comfortable space and can even cut your energy bills as you fine-tune the system to match your routines and override it when your plans change.  

How to boost your health and wellbeing at home

Winter can test our physical and mental wellbeing. Use your environment to boost your healthy home with these breathe-easy ideas.

Fresh air

Shutting all the windows and cranking up the heater is the go-to comfort solution in winter, but it’s not great for air quality. Between occupant-related pollution (the carbon dioxide we breathe out), pollution from cooking and heating (specifically gas and wood heaters), mould and moisture, our health can be negatively impacted. Aim to balance airtightness and ventilation by opening windows daily for an hour or so. Fans can be used to further circulate air. Using a heat pump can help too, as many models have air-purification filters. 

Break the mould

Mould and damp deserve special consideration, as their negative health effects can be dramatic. Guard against mould this winter by following the tips above, while also targeting sources of damp within the home. Make sure you use bathroom extractor fans and rangehoods to suck out damp air; avoid drying clothes on racks indoors; consider upgrading to a condenser dryer (or run it in a room with an open window); use a window vacuum on ‘crying’ windows; and place moisture absorbers in cupboards and any damp corners.

Jungle escape

Pot plants are said to improve air quality in the home, with some of the top performers including peace lilies, sansevieria, Boston ferns and spider plants. As well as claims that they help to remove toxins from the air, plants have also been found to have a calming effect – win-win! “I have chosen indoor plants like rubber plants and parlour palms because, beyond looking good, I know I can neglect them a little bit and go away and not have to worry too much about water,” says Emily MacAlpine.

Green therapy

The mental health benefits of gardening have been well documented – pottering in the garden has been shown to soothe stress and anxiety and promote positive emotions. Why not combine the psychological benefits of gardening with the physical benefits of homegrown herbs and vegetables? Herbs such as coriander, thyme, sage and rosemary are all fantastic for winter stews and curries, and veges like kale, lettuce, peas and radishes are all easy to grow and great for your health.

Variety of pots filled with different green plants, against a dark background.

How to improve your financial health at home

Give your home and finances a midyear health check and commit to an organised, well-budgeted year.

Hunt for savings

An annual health check of your major expenditure is the ultimate adult move. Flex your financial responsibility muscles by checking in with lenders, insurers and energy suppliers – make sure you’re getting the best rates and that, in the case of insurance, you’re adequately covered. Hannah McQueen, financial adviser and founder of enable.me, says shopping around for better deals is not only easy, it can also pay off. “For example, sites like powerswitch.org.nz give you a quick assessment of whether you could pay less with another power provider,” says Hannah. Also consider whether you could get a better deal on your mortgage with a different bank. “It’s not just about getting a better interest rate, many banks will give you cash for changing to them,” adds Hannah.

Set a budget

With budgeting, it’s rarely about making one big change. “Rather than going on a spending detox and cutting all the fun out of your life, it’s more sustainable to focus on being intentional about where you spend your money, and track that it’s going where you meant it to go,” says Hannah. She suggests paying attention to small, frequent costs. “Try having a separate account for all food and drink expenses, and only top it up weekly – we find people tend to spend about 15 per cent less when those regular costs are kept in check.”

Scan your bank statement for subscriptions and automatic payments and check you’re getting what you pay for – and paying for things you want. If you’re shelling out for a streaming service you never use or a gym ‘donation’ when your runners are gathering dust, consider cancelling the membership or diverting the funds to a service you’ll actually use.

Hone the home office

Organising your work from home or study set-up can help boost focus and productivity, as well as set boundaries between work and home life. Emily MacAlpine recommends organising your work equipment and storage so everything has a place and can be packed away to create a sense of finality to your workday. “This could be especially important if you are working from a space like the dining table that needs to be returned to its other function,” says Emily. She suggests using wheeled storage or anything with a door or lid so everything can be tucked out of sight.

Overhead shot of woman sitting at study desk, typing on laptop.

How to organise your wardrobe

Take your organisational skills beyond the office to bring order to other areas, and potentially save – or make – money in the process. A seasonal storage audit and winter wardrobe cull allows you to see what you already have and identify any gaps in your wardrobe, so you can make intelligent purchases, not knee-jerk online buys. And you can sell your unwanted clothes or accessories.

Look for local markets and team up with a friend to hold a stall. Or sell stuff online using a fashion marketplace like Depop to turn preloved clothes, bags and more into cash. Plus, by assessing and storing your summer kit neatly, you’ll have an easier auditing job next season! 

 

Photo Credit: GAP Interiors/Marcin Grabowiecki, Brigid Arnott, Alex Reinders 

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Health & Safety

Please make sure you use all equipment appropriately and safely when following the advice in these D.I.Y. videos. You need to be familiar with how to use equipment safely and follow the instructions that came with the equipment. If you are unsure, you may feel it is safest to consult an expert, such as the manufacturer or an expert Bunnings Team Member.

Grave health hazards are linked to asbestos, which may be in homes built up to 1990. Health hazards may result from exposure to lead-based paints in older materials and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer. You can also use a simple test kit from Bunnings to indicate the presence of lead-based paint.