It’s cold outside.
With the large cold-front which has hit Johannesburg, these words seem like an understatement.
The cold and dark months of winter, when we spend more time indoors and keep our heaters turned up…. is also the time when our electricity bills go sky high.
As South Africans, we’ve also become used “rolling black-outs’” or what we more fondly refer to as “loadshedding”.
Our electricity supply often becomes more unstable when the high demand increases because we all need to keep warm.
We would look for more cost effective and natural ways to heat our homes, without breaking the bank or worrying about the power going out at any time.
Here are some of our top tips, to help out in your home;
If it’s sunny out… Open the Curtains
- Once the sun is up, capture as much of that free heat as possible
- Even on cold days, the sun is still warm.So before you leave the house for the day, open up those curtains and let the light shine in(If there are certain parts of the house that don’t get sunlight, no need to open those curtains)
When the sun sets… Close the Curtains
- While this seems obvious, many people forget, without sunlight, heat escapes back the way it came – through your windows(You can even put up temporary curtains, sheets, rugs, etc. over doors to the outside, even if just at night while you’re sleeping)
If you aren’t using the room… Close the Door
- If you have an empty guest room or storage space, close the door and seal it with a draft-stopper
- Keeping doors closed will prevent cold air moving into the rest of the house and contain the heat you’ve generated in a smaller area.(Keeping the door open while you shower, lets warm steamy air travel through your house)
Feel a draft (or a mini one)… Exclude it
- D.I.Y draught excluders are one lesson people can learn from previous generations
- Old-fashioned draught excluders work well – remember that strange little ‘sausage dog thing’ you would always see by the bottom of the doors in your grandparents home. They stop heat escaping through the gap between door and floor
Pro Tip: Simple draught excluders can be made from cutting an old pair of tights and stuffing them with socks. The stuffing can be almost anything from rice and lentils to gravel
- It’s amazing how even a small draught can make a room a lot colder, so if you can cut that bit of air out it immediately makes a difference(Remember openings like pet doors/flaps, letterboxes and keyholes)
In the kitchen… Use the Oven
- Baking, convecting, and broiling things will keep your house warmer, especially in rooms nearest the kitchen
- Don’t be afraid to roast a chicken or bake a ton of casseroles when the temperatures dip!(Once you’re done using the oven, turn it off and leave the door open. All that wonderfully warm air will heat your kitchen)
Want it automated… Set a Timer
- Setting timers for heaters is important. If it’s very cold, the timer should be set to switch the heater on earlier, rather than turning the thermostat all the way up to try warm things up quickly.
- Timer switches are not only great for making sure you’re saving electricity when no one is home but also making sure your house is warm when you need it to be and stop you from constantly having to remember to it on and off
Pro Tip: Timer switches look like wall adapters that have a clock face on them showing the hours of the day, with switches that are either put in the on/off position. You can purchase these from any supermarket , hardware store or electronics store
- Suggested ON/OFF Timer Settings: (this should be adjusted according to your schedule)
6:00 am – 9:00 am
4:30 pm – 11:00 pm
2:00 am – 4:00 am (if the temperature drops drastically overnight this is advisable)
Pro Tip: Windows and doors are some of the biggest culprit for having those little gaps that let the cold air in.If you want to test where the gaps might be, light a candle and carry it with you throughout the house, holding it close to the doors and windows. When you hold it still and it flickers, you have a possible gap.Hold your hand out to test it and you’ll often feel cold air. It may seem like a small and unimportant leak, but it can definitely make a big difference, especially when there are a few around your house.
The Stack Effect… Seal it Up
- This is movement of air in and out of homes creating large-scale chimneys
- Rising warm air will pull in cool air from the outside through any gap it can find
- The effect is magnified in taller homes so be extra aware of the stack effect if you live in a multiple-story home
- Apply caulk to seal off air leaks around windows
- Put bubble wrap on your windows to cut heat loss in half(It’s not the most attractive option, but it will save you money on your energy bill)
- Self-adhesive foam strips can help seal any gaps in the edges of windows
- For doors the “sausage dog” draft excluder
- Or door sweeps that seal those gaps on the bottom
- For gaps on the sides and top of the door, use weather stripping and gap fillers
Bare floorboards… Better Cover them Up
- Heat also escapes through your floorboards
- Rugs and blankets can help mitigate this and have the added bonus of keeping your feet warm
- Add a rug or roll of carpet to your floor in the winter, and you’ll notice a difference in coziness. They’re also warmer to walk on than hardwood or tile floors
Pro Tip: Feet have a big impact on body temperature, we can massively change the temperature of our feet to allow our body temperature to be controlled very accurately. So keep your feet warm
Radiators… Double the Heat Up
- Did you know you could put tinfoil on the back of the radiator (also known as a ‘fin’ or ‘oil heater”)
- The effects reflect heat back into the room instead of it just floating up to the ceiling. There is special reflective radiator foil, but the kitchen variety will work as well
- Putting a shelf above the radiator can also help channel the warmth (but it is very important to remember to never put it directly on the radiator)
Lastly… Keep the Person Warm vs. The House
In truth staying warm is more about keeping the person warm versus the entirety of the house.
The house doesn’t really care if it’s a little chilly, but you care if you’re cold.
So throw on hoodies and sweaters, get a warm robe, sip on hot coffee or tea all day, break out the thick blankets and bed sheets.
Have any other great tips that we’ve left off? Let us know in the comments and we’ll add it onto our list