Heating and cooling for households

It’s not always easy to keep buildings warmer in winter and cooler in summer, without relying on expensive to run heating and cooling systems. Here are our top tips on how to do just that, as well as how to keep the running costs of such systems down.

The main way to keep any building’s inside temperature inside is by improving what is called the building envelope. This refers to the insulation properties of a building, which covers all external walls, floor, ceiling, windows and any gaps in these.

We recommend ensuring your home has sufficient insulation. Visit our insulation advice page here.

It is also important to reduce draughts and gaps in your home. Read more about draught proofing here.

It is also worth considering your windows. Check out this story we featured about windows in our news pages.

When you do need to use heating and cooling here are our top  tips for heating and keeping your home warm when the temperature drops outside!

  1. Insulate, insulate, insulate! We go on about this because it just makes sense. Sufficiently insulating your home can save around 65% on heating and cooling costs. Ceiling, walls and under-floor are worth looking at and insulating wherever possible. If you’re not sure whether or not your draught proofing and insulation are sufficient you can get a detailed assessment done at a discounted rate through our carefully selected draught proofing and insulation supplier. Sign up here
  2. Seal draughts! Check for cracks and gaps around windows, doors, plumbing, heating units and ducted systems. In some older homes all the gaps can add up to a metre cubed! So it’s well worth filling those gaps or getting a professional to come in and do it for you. You can have a draught proofing audit down to help prioritise your actions, sign up here
  3. Use your thermostat. Set it to between 18°C and 20°C; every degree higher can increase your bill by up to 10%. If you have central heating, the thermostat should be positioned in the living area, where you spend most of your time. Protect the thermostat from draughts, heating outlets or direct sunlight, so that its able to read the room temperature accurately
  4. Use a timer. A timer can turn your heater on and off automatically, such as 20 minutes before you wake up in the morning. Leaving heaters on overnight can cost a small fortune.
  5. Turn it off. Going out for the day? Turn your heating off. It’s significantly cheaper to turn it off and on again when you return, than to leave it running
  6. Zone your home. Minimise the area being heated, by closing doors to rooms that aren’t being used. Doubling the size of the area being heated, can double the cost. Many central heating systems can be zoned by closing vents or turning off parts of the system. Make sure you know how to use yours effectively
  7. Reverse your fan. Reversible ceiling fans are a great way to circulate warm air that’s built up near the ceiling, and only cost 1-2 cents an hour to run
  8. Curtains to heat loss! Keep the heat in at night by insulating the windows with heavy curtains. When coupled with pelmets curtains are even more effective, as they stop airflow behind the curtain, which would otherwise draw the hot air up to behind the curtain as it rises
  9. Maintain your heater. To ensure your heating is running efficiently and safely, it’s important to service it regularly. Visit the Energy Safe Victoria website for more information on safely maintaining your heater
  10. Use your existing reverse cycle air conditioner as a heaterrecent research shows that this could save you hundreds, compared to using gas central heating.

Hints and tips on ways to keep your cool this summer!

Heat stress can be a particular problem for people in built up areas, with lots of concrete and buildings around them. This is known as the Urban Heat Island Effect (UHIE) read more about that in this news article.

Here are some top tips on keeping your (and your building’s) cool in the warmer months.

  1. Again we say… Insulate! we can’t stress this enough. See point number one above – insulating will keep your home more comfortable year round
  2. Stay cool, but not cold. When using an air conditioner, set the thermostat to around 26°C. Every degree lower cost you more in cooling costs
  3. Care for your air-con. Make sure your air-conditioner isn’t working harder than it needs to, by cleaning the filter fortnightly during summer. If you are considering installing a new air conditioner this year we recommend going for a reverse cycle unit. You can read this study from 2015 to learn more about the efficiency of air conditioners for heating AND cooling your home. Don’t forget that if you have solar power in your home then you can get power from your roof for free when the sun is shining, which can certainly keep the costs of air conditioning (during the day) down a great deal. If you would like to get an obligation free quote for solar sign up here
  4. Let the night in. Give yourself a good night’s sleep, by opening doors and windows and letting the cool evening air in. Make sure you have fly screens on your windows, so that in the evenings when the temperature drops you can cool the house with a natural through breeze (without inviting unwanted insect visitors!). During the day close all doors and windows, making sure to close curtains and blinds as well to keep inside cooler for longer
  5. Fans are your friend! If you do use air conditioning in your home fans can help keep your air conditioning costs down by keeping you cooler for longer and helping to circulate the cool air. If you don’t have air conditioning then fans can really help cool you down, especially if you spritz yourself with cool water to create your own personal evaporative cooling system!
  6. Check that your draught proofing has survived winter – it’s just as important to keep the heat out of the house in summer as it was to keep the heat in the house in winter!
  7. Shade the north and west side of your house. This is particularly important for windows but if a wall is not insulated you can also get a lot of heat gain from walls.  If external shading isn’t an option you can get reflective foil to put on the glass, to reflect the radiant light away from the window. This can reduce heat gain by around 40%. For more on windows check out this article from our archives! Deciduous trees and vines are also a great option, so that they can let their light in during winter months, when they lose their foliage
  8. Avoid heating your house with halogens. If you have halogen downlights they not only use a lot of electricity but they get really hot, which is not good when you’re trying to keep your home cool. Replace them with LEDs, which are much cooler and more cost effective. Read more about LEDs here.
  9. Don’t forget your pets! Cool animals in a cool bath or shower to keep their body temperature down and don’t forget to make sure there is plenty of water for them
  10. Remember there are health and safety considerations when it comes to heat stress. You can keep your core body temperature down by
  • Putting your feet in a bucket of cool water or take a cool shower or bath
  • Spritzing your skin with a spray bottle to create your own personal evaporative cooling system
  • Staying hydrated – drink plenty of water and try to avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks, as they can act as diuretics and increase the chance of dehydration
  • If you have more than one storey to your home then stay downstairs- hot air rises, so upstairs will be hotter!
  • Making a homemade air conditioner by placing a bowl or pan of ice/cold water in between you and a fan
  • If you are struggling to stay cool at home then visit an air conditioned public building, such as the library, cinema or a shopping centre
  • Be able to recognize the symptoms of heat-related illnesses and true heat emergencies. If you are concerned for yours or someone else’s health call the emergency services on 000 or Nurse-on-Call (health advice from registered nurses – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 1300 60 60 24