Visit a display home on any given weekend and you will be blown away by the luxurious indoor/outdoor lifestyles they offer. Magnificent cafe doors, outdoor kitchens and the seamless transition between the interior of the home and the entertainment zones.
Unfortunately for many, these stunning features see little use throughout the year, especially in the colder Southern states – the huge doors let in the chilly winds and sitting outside means shivering and complaining. With energy and gas bills through the roof, the cost of trying to efficiently heat your home can mean making a choice between comfort and cost.
It needn’t be that way. There are wonderful innovations available which can make your home and entertainment areas, year round hives of social activity. Allow me to share a few.
Prior to stumbling across a patio heater which actually warmed the undercover area enough to comfortably sit out there, we tried every known heater on the market including:
- Chiminea – the smoke was unbearable and the heat insufficient
- Old fashioned gas heater – besides being intrusive and ugly, the heat source was too limited, the gas bottles a nuisance and they felt dangerous
- Fan heater – not up to the task and resulted in massive electricity bills.
When friends moved into their luxury new home, we popped over for a drink and they were sitting outside on a cool autumn evening. Their patio was surprisingly warm yet I couldn’t see any obvious source of heat. Eureka! The solution was Heatstrip heaters which, I was informed, besides being gorgeous, were the most energy efficient heater around. Sold!
Keeping the heat contained
Installing an efficient and effective heat source is one thing but the real trick is to keep the heat in and the wind out. This can be achieved through blinds. There are a myriad of blind styles on the market at the moment:
- Zip track style
- Plastic zip around
- Plastic roll down
- Moveable louvres
- Motorised blinds
Personally, I prefer the zip track style blinds. They look fantastic, they are taut – so don’t look as messy as plastic blinds and they shade the sun yet can be easily opened when needed. Due to their transparency when you are inside – you can see the garden yet the neighbours can’t see in and they also block a high percentage of wind.
There are a number of companies making and selling these so look for a reputable one, with good testimonials and reputation. Good quality ones will be expensive but what is the point of a lovely patio if you can’t enjoy it year round?
Double glazed windows prevent heat loss through the use of a two pane system. Becoming more common these days is triple glazing which adds even more thermal resistance.
Aside from keeping the house warmer, double glazing also increases security due to its resistance to breaking and it is superior at noise blocking.
Double glazing can reduce heat loss by up to 30%. Although initially more expensive than single panes, they can quickly pay for themselves.
Ensuring your home insulation is adequate can prevent money from disappearing through your roof and walls, by reducing the need for heat in winter and air conditioning in summer.
If your home gets cold quickly when the heater is turned off, it is a good sign that your insulation is either nonexistent or just not up to the job.
We lived with an open fireplace for years before being brave enough to actually light it. Once we did, there was no stopping us. Luxuriating in front of a crackling fire must be one of life’s greatest pleasures. Whilst the cost of wood can be prohibitive and the heating is limited compared to central heating, there seems to be an endless supply of free firewood left on nature strips around the neighbourhood.
With our insulation in place, we generally take the chill off the room with the central heater and then let the wood burner take over. Combustion stoves can be purchased fairly economically and installed with a flue unit. Many older homes have fireplaces in-situ but covered over – this may be the perfect time to resurrect them!
Whether to leave the heating on low 24/7 or turn it on only when needed, is an oft debated question. Realistically one should take into account how many hours are spent in the home. If you are out of the house 15 hours a day, it wouldn’t seem feasible to have the heater running all the time.
However, if you are constantly coming and going from the house and turning the heater on and off in the process, it may be more economical to have it maintaining a low warming temperature of around 20 degrees.
The most important facet in keeping a home snuggly warm in winter is to keep heat loss to a minimum. Up to 35% of heat is lost through the ceiling, 20% through windows and 25% through walls – minimise that loss and you are well on your way to a warmer, more comfortable winter.