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Keeping the house warm in winter

It doesn't get seriously cold here, but its cold enough to be uncomfortable if we don't make some effort.  We are actually finding that our house up on the hill is warmer than down in the valley, and we are above the frost line, so that is a nice change, but it still gets down to 5degC overnight.  We have a woodstove, but we have to cut the wood ourselves, so you don't really want to use more wood than really necessary to keep the house warm.

There are three ways that heat is lost from a building:

  • Conduction - direct transfer of heat from a warm object to a cold object, this is heat lost through the walls and roof of your house to the cooler air
  • Convection - caused by a flow of cold air, either draughts or air circulating around exposed windows 
  • Radiation - heat transmitted in the form of light waves, this can be another source of heat loss from windows, roofs and walls of your house.

When you understand how heat is lost, you can see the solutions for keeping heat in a building.

You can reduce the amount of heat lost be conduction by using insulation in your roof and walls.  We had to install insulation in our roof as part of our building approval when we moved the house, and we also took the opportunity to put insulation in walls any time that we had the cladding off, so the bathroom and the side veranda room have insulated walls.  Some of our walls are single clad - so its only one layer of VJ board between us and the cold air outside.  If this becomes a problem we will put weatherboard on the outside and install insulation in between.   If you don't have insulation, it is relatively cheap to buy and install yourself (be careful in your roof space!) and can make a huge difference to the comfort of your home in winter.

Reduce draughts
Queenslander homes are general draughty due to the floors, doors and windows not being completely sealed.  The new floor that we installed over the existing floor has made a huge difference to draughts and the floor is now very well sealed.  There is still cold air coming in around the older style doors and windows though, so I made some draught snakes (more about them later).

Curtains are also important for reducing heat loss and they break up the cold airflow around the window.  If you don't have curtains, they are also relatively cheap and easy to make, or look for old ones at opportunity shops.  Double-glazing of windows is another option, but it works out very expensive to retrofit.

Winter mode on ceiling fans
As hot air rises, you can find that even though you are heating a room, you're not feeling any warmer down at floor level.  Most ceiling fans have a winter mode where they spin backwards and direct the warmer air from the ceiling back down to the floor.

Dress appropriately
Time to get out the ugg boots and winter woolies!  Blankets and lap rugs are handy too.  I find that when we are so used to a warm climate, we can forget that we do own long sleeves and pants!

The bonus is that most of these methods will also help to keep your house cool in summer.  We certainly noticed the difference when we installed the insulation.  The only thing you would change is to encourage breezes unless you're running air conditioning (and then you want a well-sealed house also).

How do you keep your house warm in winter?  Any tips for reducing your heating costs while staying comfortable?


  1. We heat with 3 wood stoves and one is a furnace that is connected to duct work. Our house was built in the late 1700s but we have added insulation where possible. The old houses were built in low areas near spring water but it is colder down low, sometimes when walking up the hill it is almost like walking into a wall of warm air if conditions are right.
    Most of the time one stove will keep things pleasant but when it is below freezing and windy all three stoves can be brought into action. It gets cold here and people seem to have died here in the winter, some with pneumonia.
    There is not but so much that can be done, just have a large supply of wood and various grades as the best wood is burnt on the coldest nights.
    This may sound strange but if you go outside for periods during cold weather, the house will feel warmer when you come back in. So if one stays indoors for days the house will start feeling cool as you adjust to the warmth. So I make sure I go outside. It is hot here in the summer and we don't have air conditioning and I don't feel all that hot as I avoid going into air conditioning so my body adjusts to the heat. I make sure I go out and work in the garden in the heat and guess what the house feels cool when I come back in.

  2. Our home is in the valley Liz, the frosts stay frozen longer, the plants are at different stages than those of our neighbors just up the hill, and the fog hangs in later in the mornings. It's cold, and I'm in complete agreement with Sunnybrook Farm above. Going outside and working or bustling about with stuff is warming, and when returning to the house it's comparatively warm. In summer the opposite is true and the house is always much cooler than outside. Our two wood combustion fires are kept stoked up day and night so the living areas are quite warm, but oh my goodness, we do go through lots of firewood. Luckily we get it for nothing and both love wood cutting with our log splitter machine making it much easier. I do love winter! :)

  3. The concrete verandah, which faces north, stores heat when the sun's shining. It does make a difference to the ambient temperature inside. On overcast days, the poor electric heater has to struggle to stop us chilling. That's generally when the extra layers of clothing, on our winter clothing, are required.


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