Winter survival guide

Living Well | Tianna Nadalin | Posted on 16 May 2019

12 low-cost and planet-friendly ways to warm up when the temperature drops. 

Steaming hot showers, sitting in front of the heater and sleeping with the electric blanket on might be tempting during winter, but they’re not necessarily the most efficient, or environmentally friendly, ways to take the chill off. Those extra running costs can snowball and, before you know it, your energy bill has skyrocketed.

Don’t let the winter frost bite into your bank account. From reversing your ceiling fans to going to bed with a hottie (hot water bottle, that is), these energy-saving tips will help keep you snug as a bug without blowing the budget.

Young woman sitting on the couch with a cup of tea, looking out the window to snow

Putting on thick socks and a jumper is an easy way to take the chill off when you're sitting around indoors.

1. Rug up

It’s no wonder you’re feeling the chill; it’s Arctic outside and you’re wandering around the house in a T-shirt and bare feet. Warming yourself is cheaper and easier than heating your whole home so, instead of cranking up the thermostat, try putting on a pair of thick socks, slippers and a jumper. Better yet, wrap yourself up in a blanket or snuggie and snuggle up on the couch. 

2. Control the thermostat

When it comes to heat settings, 18 to 20 degrees is the magic, not to mention most efficient, number. Every degree warmer than this can increase your energy usage by 10 per cent and, given heating and cooling already account for 60 per cent of an average household’s energy bills, that extra cost can quickly add up. If you have zoned systems, heat only those rooms you are using and close doors to empty areas.

3. Reverse your ceiling fans

Heater on but still have cold feet? Hot air rises so sometimes all you need is to do is give it a little nudge in the right direction. Most ceiling fans spin in an anti-clockwise direction to create a breeze in summer. In winter, you want to reverse this so they are turning clockwise at low speed, to help push the hot air back towards the ground.  

4. Take shorter showers

While this applies year-round, keeping your showers short and sweet is especially pertinent in winter, when standing under the hot water until your whole body resembles a sultana is particularly alluring. To make stepping out into the frigid air a little less shocking, try towel drying in the shower (after you’ve turned off the tap, of course) while it is still nice and steamy. 

Pot plant sitting on a window sill with sheer curtains that are slightly open

Leave curtains open during the day to maximise sunlight.

Mugs of hot cocoa with chocolate dripping over the sides, surrounded by dark chocolate shavings and dates

Warm up at night with a cup of decadent hot chocolate.

5. Install a low-flow showerhead

If you’re not going to cut down your shower time, at the very least, install a low-flow shower head to reduce your water wastage. Plus, the less water your heat, the less energy you use.

6. Close the curtains

In an uninsulated home, windows, doors and floors account for about 40 per cent of heat loss. But don’t fret if you don’t have double-glazed windows. Dressing for the weather doesn’t just apply to people. Window dressing in winter can help mitigate the effects of the cold. Keep your curtains open during the day to allow maximum sunlight into your home and then close them at night to trap the warm air in.

7. Start weather-proofing

If your windows are closed but you can still feel frosty air in the home, investigate the source before turning up your heater. A possible draught source could be a poorly sealed window or door. Consider a draught snake for a quick, effective fix, or seal up chilly leaks with caulk or weather-sealing rubber strips.

8. Keep heating vents clear

If your heating vents are obstructed by high-pile rugs or covered with couches (or someone sitting on them), not only does it mean the warm air won’t reach you,  the heating system also has to work harder, therefore increasing your energy use. Keeping air filters clean is also important. Dirty filters can greatly reduce the heating efficiency of a reverse-cycle air conditioner so regular maintenance is key to keeping them running optimally.

staying warm in winter

Winter baking is not only great for making delicious treats, it will also help to warm up the house.

9. Drink more tea

That glass of whisky or red wine might feel like it’s warming you up but it’s actually reducing your body’s core temperature. Alcohol causes your blood vessels to dilate, which is why you might feel flushed after a cheeky tipple. In doing so, it overrides one of your body’s key defenses against the cold: vasoconstriction. If you want to drink your way to warmth, opt for herbal tea or hot chocolate instead.

10. Use a hot water bottle

Nana really did know best. Instead of relying on energy-guzzling electric blankets to warm your bed, the tried and true hot-water-bottle-under-the-covers is still one of the easiest and most effective ways to warm up when you’re winding down. Slip your little hottie (New Zealand slang for hot water bottle) in between the sheets a few minutes before you’re ready for bed, then check your tootsies into a toasty, duvet sanctuary.

11. Get your bake on

If you’ve always wanted to learn to bake or to master the art of perfect pork crackling, winter is the ideal time to unleash your inner Martha Stewart. Baking and roasting are seriously satisfying cooking methods and, as well as getting a delicious dinner or delectable dessert out of the activity, using the oven has the added benefit of helping to heat up the home.

12. Get moving

Last, but not least, one of the easiest ways to get warm during winter is to get your blood pumping. Going for a brisk walk, run or bike ride, doing a class at the gym, or even cleaning the house can help you work up a sweat in no time.