Easy hacks to keep warm on a budget

ORANGE , AUSTRALIA - NewsWire Photos JUNE 10, 2021: Heavy snowfall is pictured in the Orange Botanical Gardens in mid-western NSW as the region is blasted with freezing temperatures. NCA NewsWire /Troy Pearson
Winter temperatures should return to average or above-average across the country this year. NCA NewsWire /Troy Pearson

As Australians continue to weather an unwavering cost of living crisis, energy retailers have forecast prices to soar as the mercury begins to drop across much of the country.

Resilient and savvy Aussies have passed around their favourite tips and tricks, some more normal than others, in a bid to help others save some pennies through the colder months.

This comes after the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) revealed its draft default offer in March, forecasting electricity prices to increase by as much as 30 per cent in some states.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - NewsWire Photos June 03, 2022: Generic images of powerlines. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Andrew Henshaw
Electricity prices could rise as much as 30 per cent this winter. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Andrew Henshaw

AER chair Clare Savage said prices could have risen by as much as 50 per cent had the government not intervened to cap them.

Prices in Victoria, which has its own price cap, will increase by about 30 per cent from July 1, meaning a typical household bill will rise from $1403 to $1829 annually.

Increases in wholesale costs have been blamed for the surge in energy prices, largely due to global gas shortages caused by the war in Ukraine.

However, the end of La Nina has brought some good news this winter, with less rainfall expected than last year and much of the country returning to normal or above-average winter temperatures.

Regardless, average minimum winter temperatures for southeastern parts of the country normally range from 0 to 9C, meaning many will still be forced to find ways to beat the chill.

Average winter temperatures for Australia in winter. Picture: BoM
Average temperatures for Australia in winter. Picture: Bureau of Meteorology

Young Australians, who have felt the cost of living pinch more than any other demographic, are perhaps the most savvy when it comes to tightening their purse strings during the colder months.

Iona Grace, 25, lives in an uninsulated apartment in Surry Hills, Sydney, with her boyfriend Doug.

Without thick glass or curtains, Ms Grace tends to layer up when the mercury drops, turning to a space heater when “things are dire”.

When the forecast is especially bleak, Ms Grace reaches for a hot beverage and a sleeping bag jumpsuit purchased for a reasonable price at Aldi.

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - NewsWire Photos JUNE 3, 2022: Generic power and gas images. Electricity meter, safety switch. PHOTO: NCA NewsWire / Brenton Edwards
Simply rugging up can be a quick and easy way to get ahead of steep electricity bills. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Brenton Edwards

Having studied and sharehoused in Canberra, where night-time temperatures dropped to as low as -7C, Ms Grace would nevertheless rarely touch the central heating.

“When I had central heating I never used it, it just wasn’t cost-effective, especially when the house is larger and not well insulated, you’re never going to retain that heat,” she said.

“Having individual small heaters in each room ended up being best because we could just heat where people were.”

While a well-insulated home is one of the best ways to fight the frost, insulating walls and ceilings can be a time-consuming process and isn’t an option for many renters.

Temporary and cheap hacks for better insulating homes include sealing windows and doors with weather stripping, door sweeps or door snakes to keep drafts out.

Putting down rugs on hard floors and using thick or thermal curtains also makes a difference, while some savvy Facebook users have sworn by sticking bubble wrap to windows.

Others have recommended using a clotheshorse to dry garments in front of the heater, placing a larger item of clothing furthest away from the heater to trap and better circulate the hot air, drying clothes quicker.

Some savvy Aussies swear by putting bubble wrap over their windows as a cheap and effective insulation solution. Picture: Facebook
Some savvy Aussies swear by putting bubble wrap over their windows as a cheap and effective insulation solution. Picture: Facebook
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - NewsWire Photos, JUNE 3, 2021. Wet scenes in Sydney. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Jeremy Piper
This winter is forecast to be drier than last. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Jeremy Piper

The installation and running costs of different kinds of heaters have been compared by Choice Australia, which found that reverse cycle airconditioners are always the cheapest option long term.

This is because they produce a lot more heat for the electricity they use compared with other heaters.

With an upfront cost of $1273, excluding installation fees, these bad boys cost a reasonable $163 to run each winter.

Of course, this option may not be suitable for those unable to pay a large sum upfront or for renters.

In such instances where one must turn to portable heating solutions, oil column heaters win out as the cheapest, costing little upfront but up to $300 to run over the course of winter.

They are also safer than space heaters, which are responsible for more than 40 per cent of all home heating-related fires, although modern versions are much safer than previous versions.

Oil column heaters are the most efficient portable heating option. Picture: Instagram
Oil column heaters are the most efficient portable heating option. Picture: Instagram
By hanging a large piece of clothing at the far end of the clothes rack, it traps in the heat and dries your clothes faster. Credit: Cleaning & Organising Inspiration Australia/Facebook
By hanging a large piece of clothing at the far end of the clothes rack, it traps in the heat and dries your clothes faster. Picture: Cleaning & Organising Inspiration Australia/Facebook

The advantage of portable heaters is that they are ideal for heating individual rooms in situations where few people are around, making it unnecessary to heat the whole home.

Alternatively, heated blankets can be fantastic and cheap alternatives when sitting or lying down, typically costing around $10 if run every night through winter.

If running an airconditioner, Aussies are advised to aim for an 8C difference between their aircon and the outside temperature for “optimal warmth at a cheaper price”.

“Avoid constantly cranking up your airconditioner to a higher temperature, it doesn’t work and actually wastes more money,” a Choice Australia TikToker for said.

“The harder the airconditioner works to heat the room, the more electricity it uses.”

This TikToker advised air con users to 'avoid constantly cranking up' the temperature. Picture: TikTok
This TikToker advised aircon users to 'avoid constantly cranking up' the temperature. Picture: TikTok
ORANGE , AUSTRALIA - NewsWire Photos JUNE 10, 2021: Heavy snowfall is pictured in the Orange Botanical Gardens in mid-western NSW as the region is blasted with freezing temperatures. NCA NewsWire /Troy Pearson
Winter temperatures should return to average or above-average across the country this year. NCA NewsWire /Troy Pearson

Putting a ceiling fan on reverse can also help you get more out of a convection heater, as it will redistribute heat evenly so that it doesn’t settle directly above the heater.

Regardless of your selected heating option, you should only use it in required areas for as long as you need to and shouldn’t crank up the temperature more than necessary.

Ms Grace also urged thrifty introverts to conquer their fears and spend more time with family members or housemates.

“When I had housemates we would all sit in the same room together so we could heat the one space, plus having others nearby made things warmer, temperature-wise and emotionally.”

Ms Grace also turns to her partner as a heat source.

“I cuddle up to my boyfriend Doug at night but he has very cold feet, so he keeps those away from me because he knows what’s good for him,” she said.

“However, I do put my cold feet and hands on him.”