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.