Draught-proofing your home

So, you’re all rugged up and enjoying your après-ski life. But then cold air sneaks into your house, making it feel much colder than the thermostat is telling you it is. What can you do about it? Insulate!

Apart from making your home more comfortable, one of my friends said she saved 30 per cent on her heating bill by insulating her house. With many people having energy bills of $4000 or more a year, this is a saving of over $1000.

Improved insulation in your ceiling, and even in your walls, can significantly help prevent heat loss from your home. It can be expensive, but look around for the occasional government-backed energy efficiency scheme that can help offset some of the costs.

Newer housing generally has better insulation as most building codes make energy efficient/green housing mandatory.

If you have lots of money and a status home with spectacular views, you might see the value in double glazing. Double glazing will enhance the aesthetic value of your home, so that you can feel like you’re in a cosy mountain lodge looking out at the sunset or the fairy lights below. It will dramatically reduce the heat loss in your home, but if you have large windows, it will come at a cost that probably will not be worth it in terms of energy savings. Simply put: install double glazing if you want to look out through your windows on a winter night without feeling cold, but otherwise there are cheaper (if perhaps less aesthetically pleasing) options.

Here are some key steps you can take to insulate your home:

• Use a mozzie coil to discover draughts. You might be surprised where the air is getting in. Light a mozzie coil and walk around the house to reveal any draughts.

• Cover up ventilation holes with clear adhesive plastic book covering. Sometimes homes have had ventilation specially installed. You can cover these up in winter with clear adhesive book covering. (Ensure you allow for adequate ventilation if you are using gas or kerosene for heating, to prevent the risk of poisoning.)

• Fill up draught holes. Start with the biggest hole and the cheapest form of tape or hole filler — use foam pool noodles if you have to. Then gradually work in with more specialised (and more expensive) tape.

• Use a double-sided door snake. Yes, this exists and is an example of good Australian ingenuity. It covers both sides of the door, and you do not have to remember to kick it out of the way when you open the door.

• Cover exhaust fans with draught stoppers. Invented in Albury–Wodonga, these contraptions prevent hot or cold air entering through your exhaust fan. They cost around $30 and will save you hundreds of dollars in heating or cooling.

• Bubble wrap large expanses of windows. Yes, bubble wrapping inside your house is a thing and there are YouTube videos showing how to install it. Not only is this cheaper than double glazing, but you can easily take it off in summer. The bubble wrap sticks to the window with water and is easy to remove.

• Install curtains or blinds with pelmets on top. Quality curtains with pelmets on top can dramatically decrease heat loss in your home. It is important that your curtains fit properly, without any large gaps that allow cool air to come through and heat to escape. The basic rule is that as soon as the sun goes down, draw the curtains. It’s a waste of energy to have a heater running while the curtains are open.

Note that when you insulate your home, it is important that you also ventilate it. Ventilation is important to prevent mould and mildew, which are caused by condensation, and also to prevent fatal poisoning from gas fumes. You may need to open windows during the day to allow air to flow while you are at work. A good friend splurged on expensive curtains, only to find that they were attacked by mould due to the large amounts of condensation that built up on her windows. Think about ventilation before you invest in designer curtains! In bad cases, where there is insufficient ventilation, condensation can be so bad that it causes timber window frames to buckle. The best way to avoid that is to both ventilate your home and wipe down your windows each morning.

Extracted with permission from The Joyful Frugalista by Serina Bird, published by Murdoch Books, distributed by Allen & Unwin, $32.99
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