Keeping cosy in winter doesn’t have to be an expensive affair. There are a lot of energy-efficient options these days for creating and retaining heat indoors, and many of them have the additional bonus of adding value to your property as well.
Good insulation is number one on the list of value-adding energy-saving solutions. There’s no point trying to heat a space that just releases all the warmth outside. It’s like trying to blow up a balloon that has a hole in it – even if you manage to inflate the balloon, you have to keep adding air if you want it to stay full. Likewise, if your house isn’t properly insulated, you have to keep adding heat if you want it to stay warm. That’s an expensive operation with the price of electricity these days.
The two main areas responsible for heat leakage are ceilings, and openings like windows and doors. Both can be insulated very easily by professionals or as a weekend DIY.
Ceiling insulation tends to make the most measurable difference to interior temperatures. It’s so effective that it’s been made a legal requirement for all newly-built homes and extensions in South Africa. There are several types of ceiling insulation available on the market, but make sure to check the thermal resistance value, or R-value, of your chosen product to ensure it’s appropriate for your home and climate. The higher the R-value, the more insulation the product provides.
It’s also a great idea to get a geyser blanket put in at the same time as your ceiling insulation, and many installers offer this as part of their service. Geysers lose a lot of heat to chilly ceiling spaces in winter, which pushes up the amount of electricity they use. Insulation will help to minimise this problem.
As for windows and doors, these can be insulated using adhesive foam strips – readily available at your local hardware store – to block any draughts coming through gaps in the frames. Door draught excluders are also available for exterior doors that don’t seal tightly against their sills.
No matter how well sealed they are, windows do lose heat through the glass as well, so good quality curtains or blinds are also a must for a nice, cosy home. It is recommended to open any curtains on north-facing windows during the day to let the sun’s natural warmth heat your home, and then closing them at night to keep that warmth indoors.
Of course, in the middle of winter, a little bit of sunshine might not warm things up quite enough, but that doesn’t mean you need to use electricity-guzzling heaters to get temperatures up to more bearable levels. Fireplaces are a wonderful, electricity-free source of heat in winter and modern, clean-burning, closed-combustion options can generate a serious amount of heat with very little fuel. Houses with working fireplaces are also extremely popular with buyers, so you could definitely recoup the cost of installing one if you eventually sell.
Other energy-efficient heating options include gas heaters and specifically-designed low-power heater panels. These are best used to heat single rooms, however, and not an entire house.
Remember, the most important thing to heat is you, so warm the spaces you actually use, and don’t underestimate the power of a hot water bottle and a pair of fluffy socks.