Have you noticed the magnitude of your electricity bill during the winter? Or the gas? Or the price of firewood? Whatever the source of energy used, with the cold weather shoot spending to amount to skim the depressing. Winter is at our doorstep here in South Africa, and it is time to think of heating that won’t leave our wallets cold.
So many times we find ourselves thinking about ways to keep the house warm, without ruining the family budget. Although we do not have the extremely cold winters of Europe, progressive climate change have led to some serious cold season around here, making the question of heating so much more important.
But let's face it, it is not always easy to keep a warm home, especially not when it requires a lot of energy. In old houses with poor insulation, it can be an impossible task, even if the spaces are not very large.
Often the solution to these problems comes down to technique and skill, to know the problems thoroughly and apply some simple tactics. And that's what we deal with in today's article! Let us explore in depth some heating problems in our homes and ways to overcome them, without overloading the accounts at the end of the month. Mission Impossible? Let’s see…
Let us meet the number one enemy: the chimney effect! Never heard of it? It is explained by a law of physics, but we’re not going so far! Put simply, it is the movement of air into and out of buildings due to pressure differences, and that makes a kind of chimney. In very simple terms, what is happening is that the hot air is less dense than cold air, and therefore will rise if escaping through any gap that exists above, dragging cold air through openings at the bottom, which will cause very unpleasant air currents. The greater the thermal difference and the height of the structure, the greater the buoyancy force, and this effect is enhanced. So if you live in a multi-story home your problem is even bigger!
At this point the reader should already be in despair… Is this the end the romantic evenings by the fireplace in the living room?
Well, if your fireplace is of simple design, and you are determined not to spend more money, the answer is yes. It is best to limit those nights to special events, find another solution to heat the space, and give some thought to acquire a stove or at least install a door in the fireplace. This will end the chimney effect and make for much more efficient burning.
Do not forget to cover the fireplace when not using it, otherwise the evil effect will be felt and you will continue to lose heat. If there is a slider, leave it in the closed position. If you do not have a slider, improvise a covering. You just have to remember to take it out when using the fireplace… or smoke will invade your home and can be dangerous!
Besides the fireplace there are several other villains of heat loss in your home! Cracks in doors and windows and damaged sealing rubber, or windows without them, are the main culprits. But there is more, and sometimes it is not so easy to identify the sources of air currents. Uninsulated ceilings, vents in kitchens and bathrooms, cracks in walls, damaged areas…
As a back-up solution, in addition to sealing strips on doors and windows, you can use traditional rolled-up towels or pieces of fabric in the lower openings of the gates. However, if you have already taken all measures regarding the doors and windows and still feel that there are drafts that you can’t pin down, try using a candle. Go from room to room with a lighted candle and pass along cracks, joints or any other place where you suspect cold air entering. When the flame wavers, you have your answer, and you can start trying to isolate.
Enjoy the gifts of Mother Nature! During the day, let in the sunlight as much as possible. Open the blinds or shutters and curtains, and let the environment warm up. Even the winter sunlight, magnified by glass windows, is more energy than you would have had otherwise.
If the curtains are an essential factor for the insulation in your house, there is a little trick that you can use to continue to have its insulation without losing the warmth of the sun. Install a temporary railing behind the curtain’s normal railing, and hang transparent shower curtains. In the morning open the blackout curtains and let the sun come through the other. This maintains the isolation and gets the sunlight, without sticking to the walls. In summer it is only a matter of taking it down and saving it for next winter!
Even with insulation tape, the windows can miss some of that precious heat that can lower electricity costs, so do not forget to close them once you get home. If possible, do so before nightfall, yet in winter it is almost impossible for anyone working!
If you live in a particularly cold area, or where the insulation of windows is not the best, think about installing thick curtains for the winter as in the image. These are from Cabbages & Roses in London, and are perfect to isolate the room at the same time as giving it a warm and welcoming air that helps a lot for the feeling of thermal comfort.
Have you figured out where the cold air comes in? Before the cold creeps in, move your furniture in order to monetize the heat sources and avoid unpleasant thermal sensations. In other words, move the most functional furniture, such as sofas, chairs and dining tables out of the path of drafts and cold spots in the home. There is nothing more unpleasant than being at dinner with cold feet!
Maintaining a stable temperature is very important to prevent heat loss and extraordinary expenses with regards to heating. The temperatures recommended for maintenance of thermal comfort in your home are between 21 and 25 ° C during the day and between 15 and 17 ° C in the night time. To keep these controlled temperatures, use a thermostat. An automatic thermostat is more efficient because it avoids forced heating or going above the values stipulated.
If you think that 15 or 17 ° C at night are very low temperatures to you, increase them. But keep in account line studies point to lower temperatures during sleep help you sleep better and activate the metabolism. Simply cover yourself with blankets to stay toasty warm!
If you need more help bringing down the electricity bill, take a look at these: Tips for an energy-efficient house.