Modern houses, winter, and you

No Award would like to try and help you out with some ways to keep you warmer in your tent-like Aussie rental home this winter.

One of the biggest problems with an Aussie winter is the way our houses are glorified tents. “Moderate” cold weather in Australia leads to more deaths that severe heatwaves. And all the things you might do to mitigate that, such as insulation and better curtains (or curtains at all), is hard to do if you’re a renter, which a lot of us are.

On Friday Steph went to a sustainability conference, and when one of the presenters was asked a question about sustainability for renters, the presenter just kind of faffed around and didn’t really offer an answer. So No Award, lifetime renters, are here to offer you some options.

Keep the House Warm

D U H. Okay so what you have to do is keep the hot air from escaping, and keep the cool air from getting in.

Locate and stop up draughts. Draughts are most likely to come through gaps in windows and doors, especially those crappy patio doors. You can make or buy a door snake, but that’s annoying because if you’re like No Award, you’ll usually forget to push it back in when you’re closing a door. What we recommend is that you get a ‘draught excluder’ for sealing windows and doors, and stick them as appropriate. They come off super easy at the end of winter or the end of your lease, and are easy to put on. You can get them for about $12 at your Bunnings or similar.

(But one thing door snakes are great for is sitting on top of rattly windows, if they’re the type that opens by sliding upwards. They’ll stop the draft and the noise!)

Open curtains when the sun is out. This takes advantage of the glasshouse effect. But remember to close your curtains again when the sun goes down, to keep that heat you’re generating in.

If you have stone, concrete, tiled or wooden floors, cover them with a rug. A blanket from the oppie is fine. Obviously this isn’t as necessary if you have in-floor heating (the dream).

Close internal doors. If you have a cat who cries loudly when internal doors are closed, leave them open just a fraction — Liz likes to rig up a complex network of competing doorstops to keep the door in place.

Keep You Warm

Put an underlay on your bed! A spare blanket as an under-layer works fine if you don’t want to spend dollars on it. This creates an extra cushion of air to insulate you when you’re in bed.

Hot water bottle. Steph loves hers (it is a penguin). Even if you’re sitting at your desk or table, a hot water bottle at your back or in your lap will make a real difference.

Alternatively, use a dry heat pack — there are instructions for making your own here.

Roast and bake things in your oven! And when you’ve finished cooking your deliciousness, leave the oven door open (so long as you don’t have an inquisitive cat/dog/babby who wants to stick their nose in there) – the heat will dissipate into the air.

Blankies over everything! Cosy, close-to-hand blankets that you traded for or bought at the op-shop. It’ll make you feel better and also make it easier for you to wrap yourself up when you’re too cold to move.

Electric blankets are much more efficient and sustainable than space heaters. Switch it on half an hour before you go to bed, turn it off when you get in, enjoy a night of toasty comfort. (Remember to check your electric blanket at the start of every winter, and discard it if it is fraying or damaged.)

Layer your clothes. You’d be amazed at the difference a singlet under your top will make. (In the deepest depths of winter, Liz goes so far as to wear leggings under her pyjama pants at night.) This, again, is about creating another layer of air as insulation — this is why even sheets and leggings that are crocheted are amazing, despite having “holes” in them.

Candles. They’re atmospheric and increase the ambient temperature of your room.

Please share your renter-friendly tips and advice for staying warm in an Aussie winter in the comments.

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5 thoughts on “Modern houses, winter, and you

  1. Melina

    Hats! My dad (who lives in a half finished house, but that’s another story) lives in a beanie on winter mornings. I’m also incredibly fond of the dressing gown around home (especially great when you’re up in the middle of the night feeding small babies). If your house is like ours and is colder in the morning than it is outside, then open up windows and doors as early as you can 🙂

  2. Fingerless gloves are great for all those things you need to do in an evening (read, write, type) but your hands would otherwise be too cold.
    I also have a friend who has a flat without heading who lives in a sleeping bag suit during winter so she stays warm (like this http://selkbag.com.au/store/index.php)
    Also, nice warm socks and slippers are great to keep your feet warm in winter (Ugg boots and their synthetic equivalent) were invented to keep toes warm.
    If you are lucky enough to have a bath in your rental property, a warm bath before you go to bed will also help keep you comfortable (though they are water intensive).

  3. Wool socks. Everybody needs wool socks, I don’t care how scratchy they are. I packed a pair on on impulse when I came to Melbourne, thinking “Ha ha, how likely is it that I’ll need them,” and they SAVED MY LIFE.

    People think Canadians are robust when it comes to winter, because our outside temperatures are lower. But that just means that once the air gets nippy we retreat into our well-insulated brick houses, crank the central heating, and enjoy the toasty warmth until spring. We are wimps compared to you Aussies, I know that now.

  4. Zahri

    Definitely wooly socks, with the possibility of combining them with uggs. Put them on when you get home and when you get up in the morning. Wear them to bed and kick them off if necesssary.

    Hot water bottle or heat pack goes in the bed half an hour before bedtime.

    If you can’t or don’t like to blow dry your hair, tuck it up in a wrap or beanie to dry against your head. The wrap dries it faster by trapping your body heat. Alternatively, if you’re trying to dry it straight, put on a hoodie and tuck your wet hair into the hood. Keeps it out of the way and not dripping on everything.

    Touch screen gloves! Aldi usually have pairs ($10) during the ski sale. This means you can use your phone while keeping your fingers warm.

    If your bathroom isn’t properly ventilated, remember to close the window most of the day and only open it when you’re using the shower or bath. (I often forget to close mine, and then wonder why it’s freezing in there)

    Also, if you’re sick, you can use the shower as a quick humidifier to create warm steamy air to breathe. Close all doors and windows and fog it up.

  5. My godsend is (cheap) leggings worn under whatever trousers I’m wearing. Preferably full-length, because then I can tuck the bottom of my leggings into the top of my ankle-socks, and I have a full length cocoon of warmth up my legs, which means I don’t get as cold in the first place. If you’re wearing trousers and boots, you can get away with wearing leggings and socks instead of stockings under your clothes, and those are definitely warmer.

    Bedsocks (or at least, socks you’re wearing to bed) – I use a few pairs of socks which have started to get holes in them as bed socks – put them on when I’m getting ready for bed, and if necessary kick them off in the middle of the night because I’m overheating. Then I put them on in the morning with my slippers (to keep my feet warm).

    If you’re hypothyroid, like I am, the trick is not to get cold in the first place. You’ll be more uncomfortable if you’re constantly cooling down and warming up again, so try to maintain a constant body temperature in the first place (which for me means, layer up when I first get out of bed in the morning – I’m usually toasty warm in my bed, but I rapidly cool down when I’m out of it). Also, if, like me, you turn into an ice-block from sitting in the one place, the solution is getting up and moving around on a regular basis. Hot drinks also help (and provide a good reason to get up and move around) and if you’re trying to avoid overloading on tea or coffee, hot water works just as well as anything else.

    If your oven (like ours) leaks heat through to the base of the grill, put something on to cook on a slow heat (fruit cake, casserole, etc) in the oven and leave the grill door open. The heat will radiate out from the oven, and warm the kitchen area. How much of the rest of the house it warms depends on the quality of the insulation in the property (ours has all the insulation of a tent). I have Plans for cooking a lot of fruit cakes this winter – guess what my family is getting for Christmas this year!

    If all else fails, rugs, scarves, and gloves work to keep the heat in near you where it should be, rather than dissipating out into the environment where it isn’t any use.

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