At a recent dinner party, a couple from Paekakariki on the Kapiti Coast chatted about the sale of their family home. They were downsizing as the children were long-since scattered around the world. Yes, even outside Auckland, people discuss housing. The interesting point about this, other than the fact their home sold quickly, was that the most popular question the real estate agent was asked was whether the house had double-glazed windows.

The conversation popped into my mind as I was thinking about the latest issue of our magazine. Not surprisingly, it is dominated by heating test results and the best options for heating your home. Not too many years ago the idea of double-glazing would have been an anathema to most Kiwis. Doughty lot that we are, we’d rather sit in the cold and damp, than spend money on better insulating our homes. Thankfully, that view is changing as we’ve recognised the damage that does to our health. Today, it’s virtually mandatory to double-glaze new builds and there are affordable options for retro-fitting existing homes.

We bang on about efficient heating but there is no point if you are losing heat through poor insulation. No amount of efficiency can counter that.

One of the options we highly recommend is a heat pump (with provisos). You need to get the right size and it needs to be properly installed. Our heat pump reports are hugely popular. This year, we are giving consumers even better advice by recommending the heat pumps we think do the job best. For our full list of recommended heat pumps go to our heat pump database.

But heat pumps are expensive. If you’re only heating a small space, a plug-in job might be the answer. In our latest issue, we have test results for all manner of plug-ins including oscillating towers, micathermics, convection, fan and oil-column heaters. We tell you which is best where. We even recommend a couple of budget (less than $100) models.

Our technical writer George Block has done the hard yards on heating and hot water costs — the fuel you use for keeping your home warm and running your hot water has a big impact on your bank balance. You’re a mug if you don’t check it out. Our heat cost survey and what you need to take into account is available here.

Though some people might take saving a bit too far. My stepdaughter (in her second year at university) boldly told me recently she and her four flatmates would save money this winter by not using heaters. Instead, they would all have electric blankets and sit in bed during the evening. Admittedly insulation of any kind is a stranger to that student flat. The electric blanket plan was dreamed up before the cold winter snap and I’ve not made further inquiries …

About the author:

Sue Chetwin has been our Chief Executive since April 2007 after more than 25 years in print journalism. She was formerly the Editor of Sunday News, Sunday Star Times and the Herald on Sunday.

Sue oversees all of Consumer’s operations and is also the public face of the organisation. Sue is a director of the Banking Ombudsman Scheme and a member of the Electricity Authority Retail Advisory group.