Winter Proofing the Good House

We possibly chose the stupidest time of year to move to one of the coldest places in the state last year…. mid July.  We very, very quickly discovered that what we thought was cold in Melbourne was quite mild by comparison.  We also very quickly found that our house, as cute as it is, is a b**ch to heat.  It cost us a fortune – a reality we’ll have to get used to I fear – and we were still freezing.  The heat escaped through our drafting windows with their cheap haphazard coverings and through the gaps in our floorboards and what heat there was tended to stay at the 12+ft ceiling and never ventured down to where we humans were existing.  It was less than desirable and we have been on a winter proofing and energy saving quest ever since.

Over the summer we have been slashing our spending budget to within an inch of its life and have gone without lots of things.  I’ve started shopping regularly at Aldi something that I’ve never done before but that I have found a good experience so far.  I can find loads of Australian made products, some free range small goods, the quality is usually pretty good and the shopping trip is quicker (less brands means my choice is made faster).  The only product reject we’ve found so far is the cat food – our cat won’t touch it. (Please feel free to pass on your best and worst of Aldis if you shop there.)  I still make trips to my local independent supermarket for a few things I can’t get and shop at the green grocer and butcher, but overall I’ve been pleasantly surprised and so has the budget.  This along with far fewer treats, dinners out and the like has seen us save a considerable amount to put towards some winter proofing solutions.

First up is dealing with the ineffective heating system – the expensive bit!  I thought we’d be better off going for a couple of space heaters and extra blankets on the beds in the then unheated bedrooms and not using our central heating.  But after a trip to our local heating specialist – also where we got our hot water system last year and where service is exceptional – it has been suggested that upgrading our current ducted system might be the way to go.  If we can put in a better and more effecient unit, add a zoning capacity and move the return air vent (all of which we should be able to do for less than two space heaters which we would need otherwise) we should be able to get it working in our favour and pushing that warm air down to human level.  However, to be sure this is a) possible and b) cost and energy efficient they are coming out this week to have a look and do a full quote.  Whatever the solution turns out to be it should be in place before winter (which felt like it actually started today!).  I’m excited about that.

The second winter proofing solution is floor coverings.  I love the floor boards we have, they’re light, full of character (read slightly scruffy) and easy to clean.  But they’re also cold, fulls of gaps and noisy.  So we have found a local place that will do a good deal for two big rugs for our two living areas and a hall runner.  These are not cheap, but are good quality, thick and hopefully warm.

The third task is searching for more heat-saving window coverings.  Our current collection of window furnishings include wooden Venetians – there’s nothing heat-saving about them! – ill fitting and poorly installed, cheap Roman blinds which don’t even cover the gaps between the doors and windows.  Again this does nothing to keep the heat in and cold out.  The rest of the curtains are a motley collection of cheap tab top ready made curtains and proper curtains that are falling apart and on runners that need fixing.  Clearly the whole lot need to be replaced…. that’s not going to happen this year.  But depending on how much we have left in the budget, the worst of the lot – venetians and romans – will be ditched to be replaced with good quality lined and professionally made and installed curtains.  I’ll work on the rest over the next year or so.

So what are your best winter-proofing solutions.  And what is it that you’re squirreling away a few extra dollars to put towards?  I really can’t wait for the day when our budget is not quite so tight, but for now we’ve made the decision to live meagerly so we can have better family life balance.  Even so a bit more financial wriggle room will be nice eventually.

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12 Responses to Winter Proofing the Good House

  1. We too have been winter proofing.We’ve had a friend in insulating under the floor and in the walls. Our floor was flating boards whih had to come up due to their condition and after reading we decided on tiles. They can be cold underfoot but we have rugs we put down in winter. The tiles though provide thermal mass which helps to hold the heat in winter and cool in summer. Our bedrooms are carpetted with pure wool – warmer and naturally fire retardant. 🙂 So far with under the floor insulated (we used earthwool and then the blue paper stuff) and just the north and south walls (able to be reached without scaffolding) we’ve not needed our fire lit all week! We’ve seen 12-14C overnight and the house has maintained 20C or marginally under! This week we plan to heavily insulate the ceiling and roof (I can currently see daylight through the mnhole 😦 ) and then when we can beg borrow hire or steal scaffolding we will finish off the eat and west walls. We only have our wood heater for warmth and after going through well over $1000 of wood not to mention that which we cut for free or were gifted, it’s been money well spent on the insulation.
    I also always try to buy pure wool or a minimum of 80% when buying jumpers. It’s always hit and miss at op shops but we’ve all got enough warm winter woollies to see us through. Gloves and gauntlets each too and hats and scarves. Last winter I popped a hat on even inside and that was enough to bring my comfort levels from cool but tolerable to toasty and comfy. 🙂
    We also invested in woollen doonas. We all needed new ones anyway so figured it was worth the investment. With a couple of op shop wool blankets (those gorgeous orange ones from the 70’s)and some hand me down Onkaparinga hot pink blankets from my parents as well as flannelette jarmies we all were toasty and that was before insulation! We still awoke to cold mornings (-6C outside and I think it was around 9-10C inside that morning) but with wool, knee rugs, slippers and the fire we soon thawed out. 🙂
    Curtains and pelmets are next on my list. Curtains are great but the pelmet stops the heat leakage in or out around the top of the curtains. A friend assures me they’re easy to make so I think that might be a mid winter project for us. 🙂
    Sorry for hijacking your post here too. Just wanted to share what we’d found worked for us. I’ll raise you a nice warm cocoa and toast to a cosy winter. 😀

    • Barbara Good says:

      Yes, I’ve been told pelmets make a big difference, they are on our list depending on budget restraints. Our insulation is pretty good – adding to it will only help so much but we will go down that path perhaps next year. Unfortunately we can’t do under floor heating of insulation in this house. The carpets in the bedrooms are in terrible condition visually, but have really good underlay which is a bonus. It too will be replaced with wool carpets in the future. I bought us all wool doonas the first day we moved to Ballarat and between those and the wool blankets I got from Mum and Dad and my mother in law (also great 70s colours) we have never been cold in bed – quite the opposite some days! It’s during the day when we’re trying to do things and can’t snuggle under a blanket on the couch or a doona that we really feel it.

  2. Lorna says:

    Our house is an old council house that has the cheapest windows and doors possible, very drafty. I have lined all my curtains and made draft excluders for the doors, crocheted blankets for the beds and to snuggle under on the sofa. Fuel for heating, lighting and cooking is a large part of our budget in winter.

  3. narf77 says:

    Just ordered a 10 tonne load of dry logs in order to keep Brunhilda, our large 4 oven wood burning stove happy for the next few years. She is very efficient, heats the whole house (as she is on 24/7 for about 7 months of the year) and even though we have wooden floorboards, in the middle of winter we are snug and warm. Saving every cent we get in the moth eaten sock under the bed for a small wind turbine 🙂

    • Barbara Good says:

      That sounds wonderful – though I have absolutely no desire to add wood chopping, fire lighting/stoking/cleaning to my already too long list of jobs. That and I am totally hopeless when it comes to fires, every experience I’ve had I’ve either made it way too hot and way too cold.

      • narf77 says:

        We had no choice as we don’t have another oven. We cook in a covered bbq over summer and actually did a full roast dinner in there not so long back. I learned to love Brunhilda and her ways and work with her right through our colder months as we get free heat and so many other benefits. I guess it is horses for courses and we love her 🙂

  4. Jenny Pearson says:

    Hi Barbara, not too much I can add to your already wonderful plans for winter warmth (cannot understand just why “they” put the ducted heating in the roof instead of under the floor, much more efficient, and surely there was clearance!!) However, just a few little hints, door snakes (you probably already have them) and maybe a hot water bottle/heat pad in the girls’ beds BEFORE they are put to bed to warm everything up a little, and what about good old-fashioned flannelette sheets until everything is absolutely hunky dory, they are so nice to snuggle into, and of course, a couple of nice throws draped over the couch to snuggle into on cold nights – quite romantic really!!! I too shop at Aldi and a mix of the other big two – I go to a large shopping centre about 30 minutes away and have the good fortune of choosing all three supermarkets, butchers, fish mongers, bakeries, nuts and dried fruit specialists, large deli and a super large fruit shop, so competition is great and oh so very good for my wallet – especially as we are also on a rather tight budget. One thing I do is treat shopping like part of my ‘job’ or a challenge to see just how much I can get for how little, without skimping on the quality, gives you a sense of purpose, and of course it is your ‘job’ to make the hard earned go as far as it possibly can. Best of luck with your goals, and I know from experience it can be done without losing too much good, fun living.

    • Barbara Good says:

      Oh I wish I had a shopping centre like that Jenny. My shopping trips consist of a green grocer, then Aldi, then one of the other big supermarkets for what I can’t get at Aldi, then the butcher. each one I have to drive to, park, get the kids out of the car (I try to just go with Miss Two now that Miss Four is at Kinder), across the carpark and finally into the shop. It takes at least two hours and is quite tiring and frustrating at times. But once I’ve been I never go back no matter what I run out of, (with the odd exemption like milk or toilet paper but that is very rare), I just make do with what I have or go without.

      I agree with you about the in roof ducted heating especially with 12+ ceilings! Sadly the crawl space at the front of the house is far to narrow to safely put ducts in the floor – the house was built over 100 years ago and would not pass today’s requirements in some respects. We have had a tradesman come and do a full assessment of the place to come up with the most efficient system. Looks like we’ll be going with space heaters, but I will know for sure when he sends the report back to us.

  5. Our last house was COLD. We had only a wood heater to heat to the whole house. The windows were so large and some so high that coverings were not an option…..We found a brand of heaters from Sweden (I think) called Nobo and they are amazing! They are expensive to buy but very cheap to run in comparison to any other type of heating we investigated so worth the investment. You can get various sizes depending on the room size and mount on the wall if desired. I think most of the models have a thermostat also so they only come on if required. They are worth investigating.

    • Barbara Good says:

      I hadn’t heard anything about the Nobo Kyrstie, they sound interesting. From the quick search they seem to heating panels you install in each room – is this what you got. Hydro type heating is quite common in some houses in Ballarat where hot water is used to heat panels that then heat the rooms, it seems kind of similar to that. Is yours gas or electric? Perhaps I’ll do a little more research.

  6. BTW – I have no affiliation to the heater brand mentioned above, it is just what we discovered on a similar journey 🙂

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