14 February 2022

12 steps to beat the winter chill

Is your household prepared for winter?

We all know winter is coming but we’re often unprepared when the first cold snap hits. Here are some tips to make sure your home is ready.

1. Buy firewood now

If you haven’t ordered firewood yet, do so now to avoid the rush or potential long waits when winter arrives. No matter what type of wood you buy, make sure it is well-seasoned so it’ll burn efficiently. If you suspect the wood is damp, a cheap moisture meter from a hardware store will confirm whether you can use it this year. Check out our guide to buying firewood before you buy.

2. Clean your heat pump

The filters on your heat pump can fill up with dust. Vacuum or wash them so it can efficiently blow air across the room. While you’re at it, clear the area around the outdoor unit and test the heat pump to make sure it’s working well. Here's our guide to cleaning your heat pump.

If you find that it isn’t, you’ll need to call in a technician.

3. Clear gutters

The first winter downpour will quickly reveal clogged gutters at your place. Make sure the autumn leaves are cleared out of your gutters so water drains efficiently and doesn’t overflow somewhere where it can do some damage.

You can buy extendable gutter cleaning brushes from hardware stores saving yourself the potential hazard of climbing a ladder.

4. Chimney sweep

If you have a woodburner, organise a chimney sweep to make sure it’s working properly once a year. Creosote builds up over time, leading to an inefficient woodburner that’s also a fire risk. If your chimney can be cleaned from the bottom up (from inside) then the job will be cheaper. If your type of fire requires that you need to get on the roof, the job costs climb as you’ll need scaffolding or edge protection as well.

5. Wrap your cylinder

If you have an older hot water cylinder that isn’t insulated, you’re simply throwing money away. While the hot water cupboard is great for helping dry clothes, it’s a waste of energy to have the cylinder uninsulated.

You can buy a DIY kit and easily do the job yourself. Usually, it’s in the form of a big blanket (usually with a fire-retardant layer) that can be cut to size and taped on. Any excess blanket can be wrapped around the pipes for some extra cost savings.

6. Heaters

Dust off any heaters that haven’t seen daylight since last winter and give them a quick check to make sure they’re working. If they’re making a funny noise either get them checked by a professional or get a new one – it’s not worth risking a fire.

Electric heaters are expensive to run. If your lounge does not have a fixed heating option, now’s the time to think about installing a woodburner or heat pump.

7. Electric blankets

Be careful with electric blankets if you’ve had them stored away for the summer. Just like heaters, you need to give them a thorough check. If they’ve been folded, consider replacing them as it can damage the delicate element running through the blanket.

An electric blanket is a cheap, efficient way to feel cosy in cold weather and you can even get electric throws that’ll keep you warm on the couch.

8. Ventilation

Good ventilation in winter is key to keeping your home healthy. If you have a ventilation system in your home, think about the last time you had the filters changed – it may be time to switch them out so the system works efficiently.

Also take the time to make sure your window stays are effective. If they’re loose or missing, fix them so you can leave your windows slightly ajar and make use of the free ventilation they provide.

9. Eliminate draughts

While ventilation is a good thing, cold draughts are a thief of comfort. They’re most common around doors and windows and you can buy cheap kits to help block them up.

If you live in an old villa, the draughts could come from anywhere and a good way to find them is with a lit candle. Hold the candle near windows and doors and if you see the flame flicker and move, you’ve found a draught.

10. Curtains

When was the last time you took a good look at your curtains? Flip them over to check for mould on the back and for any visible damage. Clean off any small areas of mould, but if they’re beyond repair, it’s time to think about replacing them. The fit is important when it comes to keeping your place warm so any replacements should sit as close to the wall as possible and ideally, puddle on the floor.

If you like the look, opt for honeycomb blinds instead, they’re the best insulators by far.

11. Insulation

When was the last time you poked your head into the roof and checked the state of the insulation? Over time it compresses and starts to lose its effectiveness. Take a look to see how yours is faring. If it’s old and damaged, you can top it up or replace it yourself.

Same goes for under the house, wind and house movement can dislodge underfloor insulation – simply refit it or replace any damp or broken bits.

12. Switch it up

If you haven’t checked up on your power retailer in a while, it’s time to do so now before the big bills hit. Enter your details at powerswitch.org.nz (you’ll need to have you latest bill at hand) and see if you could be saving money by switching retailers.

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