Heating in winter can become an expensive necessity, there is only so long you can live the life of a student keeping warm by huddling up in blankets. Sure having a fully insulated home is the goal we all have but the reality of renting means that the majority of the time your home will be poorly insulated, have heating that either costs through the roof or won’t have heating at all. So instead of pitching out large amounts of money on heat proofing a house that doesn’t belong to you here are a few tips and tricks to keep the power bill or energy bill down.
We are lucky our house has some insulation and a heat pump, but being an older home there are lots of other places heat is lost. High ceilings, older style wooden floors and windows and drafty doors. All of which take away from the benefits of having the insulation we have and the energy efficient heat pump. We would love to have solar power but whilst renting there isn’t much point. Instead we find other ways to keep our power bill down, our house toasty and of course healthy. The thing is with the internet these days is essentially you can find information on these things absolutely anywhere, everyone has different things to lower their bills so what I have to tell you probably won’t be much different from what you could find else where but I have added in a few things that I’ve discovered myself.
Monitor your consumption:
It may seem like a pretty straight forward thing, you get your bill and you pay it right?
You make sure you leave as few appliances as possible on when they aren’t in use, you turn off lights when you leave the room. But have you taken a closer look at your bill lately?
Whilst in hospital after little man was born we were stung with a $400+ power bill (ours is usually about $100) so it was a pretty sudden increase, specially considering my partner had been away during that time and I was the only one at home. I had thought I’d been pretty good at keeping track of our consumption and checking our bills etc. but what had happened was the meter reading had read our meters wrong for several months. As in he had come when we were out and tried reading it through the window above our front door via use of a ladder (something he had told me he had been doing), this seemed pretty impossible because he drove a tiny little car which in no way could hold a ladder tall enough. Either way our power bill had been incorrect for months and when I had decided it was time I entered one myself it came up a lot higher then the guy had assumed it would be.
Moral of the story is always check that your reading is correct, that way you won’t over pay or be stung with a big bill if there has been an error. This doesn’t really lower your bill it just prevents surprises and over payments.
Keep heat in:
In our house we lose a lot of heat upwards, the issue with having high ceilings is that you can’t really remedy it very easily so rather then lowering the ceiling we find methods of keeping the heat in the space we have.
We all love big windows but the issue with lovely big windows isn’t just that you have to clean them but the heat that is lost through them. If you don’t have double glazing there are things that you can do to keep that heat from escaping. The best is to get some good heavy thermal lined curtains that go from above the window frame right to the floor. But if you are like us our has has thin but thermal lined curtains that end just below the window frame and start level with the top it. Buying new curtains for every room in the house could get very very expensive. I could make us some but that costs time and money and I unfortunately don’t own a sewing machine.
What other options am I looking at; well there is DIY double glazing. Bubble wrap is the commonly known one and you can get rolls of it reasonably cheaply from Warehouse Stationary, but what puts me off is the fact that you won’t be able to see out of your windows. Alternatives to bubble wrap are out there, even a layer of cling wrap supposedly helps a little or there is window insulation kits that you can buy (Bunnings have a few different kinds, but this one is one I think looks pretty cost effective at only $25 for 6sqm). Neither have I tried but I may do in the near future. Both essentially involve the same principle you are applying an extra layer to the window and for some reason plastic film has apparently been picked as the ideal covering.
Door drafts are a little less difficult, is you have a gap in the top of your door get some insulating tape to fill the gap. It’s reasonably cheap, self-adhesive and easy to apply, you can pick it up from almost anywhere as well, even occasionally discount shops like Clearance Shed will have some. As for under the door, you can use a rolled up towel if you are desperate or if you have a spare pair of old tights around and a few old rags you can easily make a draft stopper. Cut the tights to a length longer then the door you are wanting to block (foot still on works best and requires the least amount of sewing) stuff with the old rags or pillow filling or whatever you have on hand. The advantage of using rags is that once it is sewn up you can mold it into the gap under the door easily. For an even more effective filling bean bag beans are even more pliable and being polystyrene insulate really well.
Older wooden floors can sometimes develop gaps between the floor boards. If you have easy access to the underside of your house invest in a large supply of catering foil (buy the cheapest you can possibly find, you can get it from a lot of places you wouldn’t expect so keep an eye out every where you go) using duct tape stick it to the underside of your floor reflective side towards the flooring. It may seem kinda odd but it works in the same way insulating foil works, it reflects the heat back into the house instead of letting it seep out into the ground. If you don’t have access to under your house or the thought of it just makes your skin crawl a little, then it becomes a matter of plugging the gaps. You can easily do this with wood filler such as Selleys No More Cracks Wood Filler, it’s ready to use and so easy to apply. For bigger gaps, which is what we have it is best to clear out the gap first of anything that is in there, it could be old filler or dirt and dust. Then fill with either wood slivers or rope, then once there is something for the wood filler to sit on use the wood filler. Doing this simple and easy thing can effectively save you quite a bit of money trying to warm your home because it will require less time for the heat to build up and once it has it will stay in for longer. Carpet of course does insulate to an extent but not as effectively as other floor insulation and treatments.
Keeping energy use down:
You’ll be surprised how much energy the smallest of appliances use, it’s pretty common knowledge that fridges and ovens use large amounts of power but there are a few things I have discovered that eat through power quicker than anyone would expect.
We had an older box type TV in our lounge up until recently, the amount of power it consumed was more then what the cost of upgrading it was. It may seem like you are putting a lot of money into something when you upgrade but in the long run if it is going to save you money it is worth while doing so. My partner plays Xbox 360 but he hadn’t in awhile so I decided to turn it off at the wall instead of it being on standby and the month that it was off completely our power bill was lower then it had been in a long time. Even if you have a newer gaming console or TV turning them off at the wall when they aren’t in use can save you a fair bit of power. Every little bit counts right? All those standby lights add up.
Also check your settings, most TV’s now have an economy mode or power save mode.
Replacing the light bulbs in our house made a huge difference, we switched to energy saver light bulbs and that again saved us a fair bit of money. We have always been pretty vigilant on turning off lights when we leave the room and any other device actually that isn’t in use so that wasn’t really an area of extra savings for us.
I found out recently that water heating costs around 18% of your power bill, thinking about it this makes sense as our hot water cylinder is constantly heating whenever the temperature in the tank gets a little low or we use water. Shorter showers are something that we all strive to achieve but with Little man our hot water consumption has definitely increased. Washing bottles, hot washing bibs, baths it all adds up and our hot water cylinder isn’t insulated. The cupboard actually has a hole in the floor that goes right through to the ground so it really isn’t effective at keeping heat in. I’m definitely going to look at resolving this because if we are pouring money into heating our water and it is essentially just pouring out of the house we really really are just wasting money. There are lots of different ways for insulating a hot water cylinder from as simple as blankets or catering foil, polystyrene to professionally made insulation.
A great trick is to turn off all your lights at night and go around looking for those lovely little glowing LED’s, if something has that glowing then it is receiving power even though you aren’t using it.
So that’s all I could come up with but feel free to add any other tips in the comments.