As outside temperatures drop, why not upgrade your home heating and insulation? Here are some smart ways to stay toasty.
A reverse-cycle heat pump – also known as an air conditioner – covers off all your heating and cooling needs in one unit. It can also be a highly efficient and cost-effective form of heating (check the Energy Rating Label on a unit before you buy).
While investing in a new heating option, look for one that offers more control. Carrier’s Sleep Mode gently lowers temperatures as we fall asleep and raises them for a snug awakening.
Having Wi-fi control allows you to turn on the heating remotely so you can return to a warm home. Some air conditioners, such as the Carrier ‘Fern’ range, can be fitted with a Wi-fi kit, which allows you to operate it remotely via a tablet or smartphone. At home, you can use voice control (through a Google or Amazon smart home hub) to crank up the heat from the comfort of your bed.
The new generation of slow-combustion heaters boast enhanced eco credentials. All new wood burners installed after August 2005 on properties under two hectares must have emissions of less than 1.5 grams per kilogram of dry wood burnt, and a thermal efficiency of at least 65 per cent. Before buying a wood heater, check regulations with the Ministry for the Environment and your local council or unitary authority, as you may need a building consent.
Air leakage can quickly cool a room – but this is relatively simple and low cost to fix. “Draught seal windows, doors and ceiling hatches with adhesive weather strips and seal under doors with door brushes and/or door snakes,” suggests Chris Mischeski, home performance adviser at Sustainability Trust (sustaintrust.org.nz). Caulk around larger gaps in skirting boards and where pipes enter a house. “Also, look out for draught sources such as pet flaps and broken extractor fan housings, and seek advice on how to fix them,” adds Chris.
A sunny expanse of windows can be the weak link in winter. If you are renovating, double-glazed windows can significantly reduce heat loss. For a quick fix, think curtains, blinds or, even better, a layered combination.
“Insulation is a critical component of a warm, dry and healthy home,” says Chris. Using the right type is crucial for a well-performing end result – and the higher the R rating of a product, the more heat the home will hold. For ceilings with no insulation, Chris recommends insulation segments between joists with another layer cross-laid over the top; over existing ceiling insulation, use a polyester ceiling blanket to cover timber joists and reduce heat loss through timber. “Aim for at least R3.6 insulation in the ceiling,” says Chris.
For underfloors, use at least R1.8 insulation between joists, and choose a material such as polyester that can withstand damp conditions. “But in high wind open environments where the underfloor is exposed, semi-rigid segment products work best as they reduce windwash through the insulation,” says Chris. Some bulk insulation products can be retrofitted and, with good access, this can be a relatively straightforward DIY job. However, although today’s insulation products are relatively low irritant, it’s recommended to wear long sleeves and trousers, gloves, a dust mask and safety glasses while installing.
Musty and damp air is not only unpleasant but unhealthy, and it’s a natural consequence of a season of closed windows. Ventilate your home as much as possible during winter by using extractors in steamy areas such as the bathroom, laundry and over the kitchen stove, and by opening the windows for at least half an hour a day. You can also enlist the help of indoor plants to cleanse stagnant air - choose potted pals that have air-cleaning properties.
Though not the most efficient or economical choice for heating a whole home, electric heaters, including panel and fan models, are ideal for smaller, insulated spaces. Use them to take the edge off when working from home during a cold snap. Be aware that they are not suitable for wet zones; a ceiling-mounted, combined heat, light and extractor can be a good solution for a bathroom or laundry.
Improve the temperature of your home with underfloor insulation, check out our how to guide.
Photo Credit: Cath Muscat and Pablo Veiga