Here’s what we know for sure: it’s getting cooler, and we’re spending a lot more time at home. Heating and cooling make up 20 to 50% of the average power bill on a good day, so with nowhere else to be at the moment, we’ll probably see that go up. Already, some homes are using a whopping 65% more energy than usual.
Not everyone uses their heater the same way, but if there’s one thing that split system enthusiasts and remote-withholding radicals can agree on, it’s that lower power bills are better. So I scoured the deepest, darkest (still passably legitimate) parts of the internet for every little idea that could help keep you warm and your heating costs down.
1. Stick a note on the heater control that says ‘20°C max’
Un-fun fact: adding one degree to your heater setting can add up to 10% to your power bill. That’s why CSIRO says you should set your heater no higher than 20°C - and energy.gov.au even goes as low as 18°C. It sounds impossibly low, but after trying it myself for a few days, I haven’t noticed a huge difference between that and my usual 24°C (which makes me wonder where all those extra degrees have been going).
If you can’t set the temperature on your system, buy a room thermometer so you can still keep things in check.
2. Close off rooms you’re not using
No one wants their heat going to an undeserving recipient – I’m looking squarely at you, spare bedroom – so close the doors to the rooms you don’t need heated. If you’re the forgetful type (or distracted by wanting to know what happens in the next episode of Tiger King), put a note up somewhere that’ll prompt you to close doors as you come and go.
3. Add door snakes at every opportunity
Picture door snakes as bouncers that won’t let heat out of the club. You know, because heat’s so popular.
So dust off the one your mum (probably) gave you when you moved in, or fashion your own out of mismatched socks. If you prefer the ‘what I have on hand’ method, a rolled-up towel does a good job, too.
4. Put insulation strips on your windows
Similar to a door snake, these stop draughts from undoing the good work of your heater. You can get them from hardware stores and stick them on your windows yourself – kind of like a sticker book for adults.
5. Seal your pet doors
If your pet likes going out in the cold about as much it relishes a trip to the vet, seal up their door and just let them out the old-fashioned way. (Maybe make it obvious that their door is out of action too, so Fido doesn’t end up with a shiner.)
6. Close your curtains early in the evening
Did you know that up to 40% of heat loss in winter happens through uncovered windows? Set a timer around 5:30pm each night to remind you to close the curtains. On especially cold days you might want to keep them closed longer to avoid overworking your heater – just be mindful that this could mean using extra lights and possibly forgetting what daytime is.
7. Keep warm clothes at your workstations
Once you’ve committed to your heater setting, pretend you have no control over it (a bit like most workplaces). Now that your ‘office’ and your wardrobe are neighbours there’s no need to turn up the heater until you’ve added a few layers. It’s even easier if these extra clothes are on hand - so chuck some jumpers and beanies in any room you work from.
8. Keep blankets handy, too
If you think about it, your body is an organic heater, so keep the warmth you generate naturally all to yourself with blankets. If you’re working from home, no one on the video call is going to know you look like nanna from the waist down (if they’re smart, they do too). Bonus points for stretching to a whole doona.
9. Make a warm drink
Cold hands can fool you into thinking you’re cold all over. A cup of tea is the perfect fix – just remember to only boil as much water as you need to save electricity.
10. Work from bed
One-up your colleagues’ jokes about their commutes by literally never leaving your bed. Say you pulled an all-nighter at work. Say you only leave work to shower and eat. Everything is a competition and you are winning.
(Especially when you realise for those snug work hours, you didn’t even consider turning the heater on.)
11. Seal cracks in floors and walls
If you’ve got cracks between floorboards, around skirting boards, window frames or cupboards, you are extending a very literal warm welcome to heat loss. If you see any (and you’re looking for a weekend project), you can seal them yourself – there’s a guide on how to do it here.
12. Take an exercise break
(Please hear us out.) Even if it’s for 2-3 minutes, you can get your body temperature up with a few stair climbs, jumping jacks or squats. Try it when you get up for a cup of tea, or when you go to the mailbox for that thing you don’t remember buying off eBay at 3am (probably with the money you saved on heating costs).
Alternatively, throw on a dancefloor hit and let the rhythm take you. You are the dancing queen.
13. Use a heat bag
These are like a warm-up power-up. Three minutes in the microwave and you’ve got something that can keep you warm for another hour. Combine it with a blanket for insulation to stay in Snugtown for even longer.
14. Turn the heater off while you cook
The oven, stove and general hype of going full Masterchef will warm you up pretty quickly. So if you’re going to be in the kitchen for a while (hello, emotional bakers), turn off the heating in the rest of the house. Don’t let the leftover heat go to waste either – open the oven after you use it to let the warm air flow.
15. Get some rugs
Not only do these insulate your floors, they’re a lot warmer than floorboards or tiles if you need to make a quick barefoot jaunt down the hall (presumably because you forgot your slippers).
16. Find your sunny spots
If there’s anywhere in your home that gets extra sun during the day, see if you can set up a spot to work there, even if it’s just for a couple of hours. Local cats will be able to provide relevant intel.
17. Move furniture that’s blocking heaters
You didn’t turn your heater on to warm the back of your couch (we don’t think), so pull any furniture that’s touching your heater away a bit, to allow the warm air to circulate better.
18. Block unused fireplaces
Chimneys are like a cold air superhighway into your home. Close the damper, or if you don’t have one, look into installing a chimney balloon. (For the uninitiated, this is a balloon you inflate in your chimney to stop draughts before they hit your living room. Just remember to remove it before Christmas.)
19. Reverse your ceiling fans
Ceiling fans pull hot air up and away from you when it’s warm. If your fan has a reverse setting, it’ll push rising hot air back down to where you want it. Science.