What’s hot in winter warmers

June 10, 2013 by  
Filed under Solar Energy Tips

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Home winter Rinnai Flame Fire image. Picture: Supplied.
Source: Supplied

THERE’S no use pretending. The weather has turned and winter is finally here.

It’s time to pull out the throw rugs, electric blankets and slippers because no one wants to put a toe outside the house.

But with electricity and now gas prices soaring, many homeowners are understandably concerned that they will receive a nasty shock at the end of the season when the bill arrives.

Choosing the best way to stay warm could save you a whole lot of money while maintaining your comfort throughout winter.


If you are building or renovating, there’s plenty to gain from following some basic solar access design rules.

Try to design living areas with windows facing north. This will provide maximum access to sunshine during the day, reducing the need for artificial heating.

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If your floor is made from something with high thermal mass, such as a concrete slab, the heat from the day will be stored and will continue to be released into the room after the sun has gone down.

Ausgrid energy efficiency expert Paul Myors says it is worth taking advantage of our mild climate on warm winter days.

“We live in a part of the world that is often sunny in winter so if you can take advantage of that, it’s a free kick,” he says.

Insulating ceilings, floors and walls can also have a significant impact on energy needs. Paul says ceiling insulation alone can reduce energy bills by up to 30 per cent.

For those not planning major building work, simple changes can make a big difference. Sealing gaps around doors and windows will stop hot air escaping while thermal-backed curtains reduce heat loss through glass.

For those living in old houses, sealing old unused fireplaces will prevent cold drafts entering the room.


With so many heaters on the market, it is easy to be confused. Paul says the most cost-effective heater differs between households.

Your decision will depend on many factors, such as how big your home is and how long you need to run the heater.

So while reverse-cycle airconditioning and gas heaters are generally considered the most efficient ways to heat larger areas, Paul says a single person or someone looking to stay warm for a short period of time might be better served using a bar radiator which is considered a high energy consumer.

“If you are one person in a large house, it may be more efficient to sit in front of a bar radiator and warm yourself rather than heat the whole room,” he says.

Traditional wood fires in open fireplaces provide atmosphere but not much warmth with up to 85 per cent of their heat going up the chimney flue.

However, wood-burning heaters that can direct up to 75 per cent of their heat into the room are back in vogue, thanks largely to changes in technology and the recognition that timber is a renewable resource.

Companies such as Atmosfire produce wood-burning heaters with large ceramic glass panels so that users can enjoy the beauty of the flame while extracting more heat from the fire.

For those who love the look of a flame, the new breed of ethanol fires are gaining popularity, especially with design-conscious homeowners.

Black Stone marketing manager Chris Florac says the environmentally friendly fuel can warm up a small room while providing an open flame inside the glass box.

“They are not a strong competitor for gas or electrical but they come into their own for people who want a room makeover without the cost of installing a heater,” says Chris. “You can move them from room to room if you want to.”

While they certainly have design qualities, Paul says ethanol heaters are not yet giving off a huge amount of heat.

“They look great and architects love them but the heat output they give has its limitations,” he says.

Those who have installed underfloor heating should also take care to monitor its use given it consumes so much energy.

“In a relatively small space like a bathroom, it is not a big issue and I know some people swear by it,” he says.

Even the oil column heater has its uses, says Paul, especially for children with respiratory conditions.

“With young kids, you might need to heat the air in their bedroom and keep the room warm throughout the night,” says Paul. “Column heaters are expensive to run but they have their place because they are very safe.”


There’s little point in working out the best heating system for you if it is not being used correctly and there are a number of good habits that can help cut down your household energy consumption.

This can be as simple as wearing an extra layer of clothing, using an electric blanket to warm the bed or seeking comfort under a heated throw rug in front of the television rather than turning on the heater if you are home alone.

Drawing the curtains each evening when the sun goes down is a good habit to get into as is closing doors to unused rooms to help contain the heat.

Where there are several people in the room, Paul says it makes sense to heat the whole space to a temperature between 18C and 21C.

“That’s a comfortable room temperature in winter, as long as you are dressed for the season,” he says.

“For every extra degree you are adding about 10 per cent to your heating bill. It can be useful to have a thermometer in the room.”

Keep it simple

Follow these simple tips to reduce your chances of bill shock from your energy provider.

Get dressed. Put on those socks, wear those slippers and wrap up in a jumper before you turn on the heater.

Ready, check, go. Check your room temperature and turn down the heater because every degree adds 10 per cent to your heating bill.

Be a draft dodger. Close up old replaces, fix weather strips to windows and run a fabric snake under the door to keep out the cold.

Fan the re. Hot air rises so get double use out of your ceiling fan by running it slowly and directing the warm air down. You’ll need the heater less and fans cost only a few cents to run per hour.

Star gaze. If you want to heat a large area, reverse-cycle airconditioning or gas heating is the way to go. These kinds of heaters come with star ratings to indicate their efficiency.


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