Does this sound like a familiar scenario to you? It’s the middle of winter – you’ve got the electric heater on full bore, you’re wearing your best thermal socks and you’re still chilled to the bone. Worse still, your power bill is through the roof!
Don’t resort to wearing your puffer jacket inside to stay warm this winter. We’ve rounded up the six reasons why you might be struggling to heat your home. Read on to find out where you could be going wrong, and how you can go from chilly to cosy in no time:
1. Your home’s insulation isn’t up to scratch
Before hunting down other heating options, look at your home’s insulation. With poor insulation often comes higher power bills, condensation build-up on your windows and mould growth on the walls. Houses built before 1978 are unlikely to have any insulation, unless it has been subsequently added, and houses built before 2007 often have lower than required levels of insulation and single glazing.
Good quality insulation helps keep the heat in during winter and out during summer. As a result, your home will be easier and cheaper to heat properly, not to mention more comfortable to live in during those cooler winter months.
The priority for insulating your home should be ceiling and underfloor, followed by the walls. These three areas form a ‘thermal envelope’ which acts as a complete blanket protecting the inside of your home from external elements.
Keen to give your home a thermal boost before winter? Retrofitting insulation might seem like a daunting task, but there are some relatively easy solutions. For some measures, there are even government grants available, to help alleviate the cost involved. Plus, it will be cost-effective in the long run – a well-insulated home will reduce your heating costs over time.
Ways to thicken up that thermal envelope for your home include:
- Ceilings – often the easiest and most effective area to insulate in an existing home. If your roof space is accessible, bulk insulation can simply be placed over your ceiling lining and framing. If you have existing roof insulation, double-check that it’s still more than 120mm thick (thicker than the framing). If the answers no, it’s probably worth adding some more.
- Floors – this will come down to whether your house is built on concrete slabs or suspended floors. There is little you can do to improve existing slab floors that sit directly on the ground, aside from adding a strip of vertical insulation around the slab edges, to prevent heat escaping. On the flip side, suspended floors can be a major heat loss culprit. If the space under the floor is accessible, insulation can be installed between the joists. Additionally, if your section is quite moist, it pays to install a layer of polythene groundsheet under the house. The sheet will reduce moisture entry into the house, help the insulation work better and make your home easier to heat – talk about a triple threat!
- Walls – retrofitting wall insulation is not a walk in the park, and you might need building consent to carry out the work. The most effective time to do it is when your cladding or the lining is being replaced. You can choose to either insulate your walls with injected or blown-in insulation, or bulk insulation. Before you install either kind of wall insulation, always check that your cladding is weather-tight or your insulation will be quickly damaged.
2. Your curtains or blinds aren’t trapping in heat
To retain heat in your home this winter, you’ll need to maintain a ‘mind the gaps mentality,’ especially when it comes to your windows. Approx. 21-31% of heat escapes through windows.
Well-installed curtains or blinds can help to reduce heat loss through your windows, so long as they’re installed without any pesky gaps. Without a good seal between the curtain and the window, cold air will simply fall out of the bottom of the curtain and into your home. So, when in doubt, block those gaps!
Check that your curtains fit the following criteria:
- are floor-length and touch the floor
- fit tightly against the wall or window frame
- are wider than the window frame
- are double layered with a thick lining
3. The air inside your home is humid
Most of us associate humidity with thick, sticky, summertime heat. But in actual fact, humidity can also make your house difficult to heat during the colder months. This might seem a little counter-intuitive, but let’s explain!
Humid air has more water in it than dry air – so it takes more energy to heat humid air because you’re heating more water. While damp homes will eventually heat up, it takes longer because your heating device has to do two jobs – both heat the room and expend energy drying out all the excess moisture.
Take a look around your home: is there a build-up of condensation around the windows? Are everyday activities like cooking dinner and or washing clothes contributing to the moisture content of your home? Are there telltale signs of dampness, like green, blue, black or grey mould in the bathroom?
A whole home ventilation system can help to reduce the accumulation of moisture within your home and provide a constant supply of filtered air. Positive pressure ventilation systems draw in new air from your roof space, which is then pushed into your home through a series of ducts. Stale, damp air is pushed out, reducing condensation and moisture. Drier air also helps improve the efficiency of your other heating products – great news for your power bill!
4. Your house needs a dose of draught stopping
We’re all pretty familiar with that dreaded drafty breeze – and no one likes gusts of cold air nipping at their ankles in the winter!
One of the simplest and wallet-friendly steps toward a warm home is to stop draughts and keep the heat inside your home. Draughts are simply gusts of air that pass from the outside to the inside of our home, because of pressure differences caused by wind or warmer indoor temperatures.
It’s easiest to heat a house if there aren’t many opportunities for the warmth to leak away. Get ahead of winter, and think about draught stopping in Autumn.
The typical way draughts get inside is around windows and doors, through unused fireplaces or gaps in the floor or in the walls. Here are some common sources of draughts and how to seal them up before the chilly season sets in:
- Doors and windows – add weather stripping to seal gaps around doors and windows. You can also seal the door or window trims with clear or paintable sealant. Check your hinges and latches are fitting their frames nice and snugly. If they’re loose, tighten them up. For gaps under your doors, consider fitting a draught excluder. If you have locks in your home that go right through the door, install moveable keyhole covers to block out the breeze.
- Chimneys and fireplaces – if you’re not using your fireplace, seal it up. Want a cheap and cheerful way to close off your chimney? Simply stuff a bag with shredded newspaper and place it up the chimney – just make it obvious the bag is there so no one tries to light a fire in the blocked chimney. If you don’t plan to use the fireplace again, get it closed by a professional.
- Ceilings and floors – in old houses with exposed timber floors, the gaps between floorboards can mean lots of draughts. Install bulk underfloor insulation hard up against the floorboards to help reduce draughts coming in through the gaps. It will also reduce heat loss through the floor in general.
5. Your current method of heating is ineffective
If you’re still using the same fan heater you’ve had since university, it might be time to rethink your heating strategy. When it comes to heating your home, it’s all about striking a balance between energy efficiency and heat dispersion. Using a heater that is not the right size for your space – such as a small fan heater in a big living area – means it will work hard, increase your monthly power bills and provide you with little warmth to show for it. You won’t save money by buying a heater that is too small.
Choosing the right heating product will come down to your personal needs – do you like the ambience of a gas burner? Or do you prefer setting your heat pump to come on automatically each morning? Whatever your preference, be sure to research your options thoroughly, and weigh up the cost versus benefit for your family.
At HRV, we have a range of heating options– from plug in panel heaters to high wall heat pumps, and so much more. We can even pair a heat pump solution with an HRV home ventilation system – so your home is filled with drier, filtered air before it’s heated to your desired temperature. Simply book a free assessment with HRV and find out more. Our friendly professionals are happy to talk you through the best heating options for you and your home.
6. You’re trying to heat up too much space at once
Have you ever tried to carry all your groceries into the house in one go, only to drop a bag down the driveway? Being too ambitious with the number of rooms you’re trying to heat is a similar scenario!
To heat your whole home efficiently, you’ll need a solution that can transfer heat across multiple rooms. Many Kiwis use single split systems that are only designed to heat the room they are installed in. While leaving internal doors open may allow some of the heated air to travel into other rooms, in most houses this doesn’t work too well, particularly if there is a hallway in between, if there are high ceilings or if the house needs a lot of heating in general.
If your lounge feels tropical and balmy, but your master bedroom has a similar temperature to the Arctic, you may want to consider a multi-split heat pump. A multi-split heat pump gives you many of the advantages of individual heat pumps in each room, but typically with only one outdoor unit powering them. HRV’s multi-split heat pump has its own smartphone app that helps you maintain a consistent total temperature across all rooms.
Beyond heating your home
Heating is only one piece of the puzzle. To really make your home warmer, drier and more comfortable this winter, you need to think about how insulation, heating, ventilation and tackling dampness work together as a system.
If you’re fed up with wearing thirty layers of clothing inside your home during winter, contact us for a free, no-obligation home assessment. We can measure your home and work out exactly which combination of HRV heating, cooling and ventilation solutions are right for you.