When the cold starts setting in there’s nothing nicer than snuggling up in a warm home and riding out the winter weather. With the fire roaring or heater cranked you can relax and enjoy your warm oasis removed from the outdoor chill. However, winter time is often when we realise that our homes are working against us as we fight against heat loss while warming them up. 

Heat loss in a house can be a major problem, especially in the cold months. In a home where heat can easily escape it takes much longer for large spaces to warm up and it happens in a less efficient manner. Thankfully, through knowing what to be aware of, you can make small changes that can have a big effect on how much heat is lost in your home. Read on to learn how you can combat the annoyance of heat loss to create a warmer, more comfortable environment during the chilly months.

Ways to Heat Your Home

There are numerous ways in which to heat your home during winter, however not every method of heating was created equal. Some methods mean you need to be prepared early on in the year (such as ordering and sheltering firewood so it’s dry enough to use during winter). Other methods require you to be vigilant that you don’t damage your home or put those living in it at risk in the process of staying warm (in the case of unflued gas heaters, which release water vapour and air pollutants into the home). 

When deciding which device and method will most efficiently heat a home, it’s a great idea to take a read through the government guidelines on the heating standard as per the Healthy Homes Guarantee Act. This piece of legislation allowed for a minimum standard to be set for rental homes with the aim of making all New Zealand homes warmer and drier. Even if you don’t own a rental home, the standards give you a great minimum to aim for when thinking about heating and heat loss.

The World Health Organisation recommends a minimum indoor temperature of 18°C, so it’s important to have efficient fixed heating units that can at least reach this point. While many different heating devices can easily reach this temperature, not all are efficient, affordable or healthy. Open fires and unflued gas heaters are examples of this and won’t be acceptable under the healthy homes standard. Meanwhile, homes equipped with wood burners or heat pumps would be given the stamp of approval.

Installing a heat pump — such as those in our Panasonic range — is a great choice for a low-maintenance, yet efficient way of warming your home. Using a heat pump requires no ordering of gas or wood and can be adjusted for peak comfort of your family. They can be installed on the wall or in a non-intrusive floor space, run quietly in the background, and you needn’t worry about protecting younger members of the family around them.

HRV wall mounted heat pump

For those who live in areas of the country where temperatures plummet in winter, heat pumps are still a good choice as efficient models can be used in temperatures down to -15°C. And better yet, you can set the timer to start warming your home before you arrive back from work or school or before you get up in the morning. A heat pump is also a useful device during the hot, sticky months when it can be used an air conditioner, giving you a cool space away from the heat of summer.

Ways to Reduce Heat Loss in Your Home

Once you’re using an efficient heating unit in your home, you’ll want to ensure you’re retaining as much of that precious heat as possible and not losing it when simple measures could have been taken. To avoid heat loss, homes can be equipped with a few helpful items, as well as have a few alterations made to make your environment as comfy as possible.

Curtains

It might seem obvious but having curtains and blinds that can be used daily is a really simple way to tackle heat loss. Homes are usually equipped with at least some curtains and blinds, but if you have windows (including glass doors) without them, consider fitting them with some. If your curtains are not lined with thermal backing, this could be a good alteration to make to retain as much heat as possible. Thermal lined curtains also have the benefit of keeping rooms incredibly dark – perfect for good quality sleep. During winter you should make sure curtains are open during the day, allowing rooms to warm up with as much sunlight as possible. Pulling all curtains shortly before sunset will help trap the heat inside.

Draughts

It’s horrible to feel as though you’re sitting in a breeze while indoors during winter, so detecting and blocking all draughts is key. Check doors, windows, skirting boards and any other gaps around your home to identify any draughts and then work on ways to seal the gaps. For quick fixes under doors, buy draught stoppers — or have a go at making your own. Check and tighten hinges, latches and catches on doors and windows regularly and seal up gaps using clear sealant or weatherstripping from your local hardware store.

Draught coming through bedroom window

Close off unused rooms

If you have any disused rooms in your home, close off the area to make sure that it’s not heated unnecessarily. And if you’re primarily using one space — such as a living room — close all the doors until that space is sufficiently heated, before allowing the heat to travel to other areas like bedrooms.

Home Insulation

If you want to employ some longer term fixes for heat loss, consider investing in home insulation. Having insulation allows heat to be retained in the winter, but also keeps your house cooler in the summer. Despite the benefits of a well insulated house, most New Zealand homes built before 1978 are unlikely to have home insulation so if you live in an older build this is something to consider looking into.

If insulating your entire home is unfeasible, try doing it by area of priority. The roof is the most important area to have insulated due to hot air rising and escaping upwards. Underfloor insulation is the next most important, followed by your walls. Insulating walls can be difficult in existing homes as it often requires removing lining and cladding, but will reduce heat loss and make your home much easier to warm. The insulation standard as per the healthy homes standards require ceiling and underfloor insulation with a minimum thickness of 120mm. Click here to learn more about what the minimum standard of insulation should be in New Zealand homes.

Double glazed windows

Another long-term fix for your property is replacing and upgrading your windows. As anyone who has lived in a home with single-paned windows will know, these are perfect for letting heat out. In fact, poorly performing windows can be a massive cause of heat loss in a house — even if with home insulation. While the insulation might be keeping heat from escaping through the roof or floor, it can still find a way out via windows. This is why it’s important to have good curtains and blinds and, better yet, to have double glazed windows.

Double glazing creates an insulating gas layer between two panes of glass that better holds heat inside homes. You can start this by replacing windows in areas such as the lounge and rooms with large windows and then move onto other spaces by priority. There are also a number of alternative ways your can retrofit your home without double glazing. These include installing an aluminium frame inside your existing window, or installing new glass into existing sashes.

If you’re involved in the planning or early build stages of a new home, you could also incorporate passive heating into the design. Blending design and good insulation, passive heating can keep your home warm all year. What’s more, it doesn’t necessarily have to cost more, though it can benefit from investments that pay themselves off quickly. For instance, designing your home so that the main windows face the sun is something that can be altered in the design relatively cheaply and easily. And although installing things such as an insulated concrete floor, quality insulation and thermally broken window frames may have a higher initial cost, they quickly pay themselves off due to lower power bills. 

HRV wants every Kiwi to thrive this winter. Keep an eye out for our upcoming content for more winning winter hacks. 

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