How to stay warm this winter

If you are in the market for a new heating system, there are important decisions you will need to make for the future. Not only will the heating system keep you warm during winter, but a good system should reliably last you more than 10 years.

But with so many different types of heaters – and price ranges – on the market, it is important to know exactly what you are looking for. Heading into a store with an idea of what is best suited to your home will ultimately reduce time wasted shopping around and ensure that you get the right fit.

Electric v gas
The two main types of heaters are powered by electricity or gas. Generally, electric heaters are portable, cheaper to buy and more suited to small spaces.

“If you live in a smaller property like an apartment or unit, or you are simply looking to warm one room like a lounge room or bedroom, a portable heater can be a cost-effective and reliable option,” says Aaron Flavell, General Manager Home Services at RACV.

A gas space heater is either fluid (fumes directed outside through a pipe) or unflued (fumes pushed out into the room). It is important to use an unflued gas heater with adequate ventilation as they have the potential to cause indoor air pollution.

Aaron says electric and gas heaters are suitable for small to medium properties, and that owners of larger houses may consider a ducted central heating system which can be powered by gas or electricity.

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There are different types of heaters that are designed to heat single rooms or the whole house

“The cost of buying and installing the system, and ongoing running costs, will be higher than an electric or space heater but a central ducted system is capable of heating larger areas,” he says.

“Most ducted systems are zoned so you can heat only the rooms you need, and not waste unnecessary energy heating rooms you are not using.”

Energy efficiency is the key
Davyn Edwards from RACV's Service Delivery Provider says to keep an eye on the energy star rating of an appliance or system.

“Generally the higher the star rating, the most expensive the unit is to buy but given these appliances generally last for 15 years or longer it is worth spending that little bit extra on the initial purchase,” he adds.

A heater is a significant investment, so the cheapest option in the shops may not be the right option. “A small $30 heater uses about 10amps of power, and is a very inefficient way of heating a room or space," he says.

“Conversely a much larger inverter-style reverse-cycle split system system would draw similar amperage but heat a larger area in a shorter period of time, so the running costs for the larger split-system system will be a lot cheaper.”

Whatever system you choose, Davyn says it is important to ensure it is serviced on a regular basis.

“This ensures the unit is not only safe to use but also that the unit is running as efficiently as possible. Regular services can also extend the life of the unit as minor issues can be rectified before they become more serious.”

The outdoor question
Winter and outdoor entertaining don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand in Australia, but there’s no reason why they shouldn’t.

There is a range of stylish and effective outdoor heaters on the market that will allow you to enjoy your deck, patio or barbecue even in the colder months.

“Patio heaters are available in different shapes and sizes and generally run on bottled gas meaning the heater can operate for 10 or more hours at a high heat,” says Aaron Flavell, General Manager Home Services at RACV.

Chimeneas – freestanding clay fireplaces – are also popular and can be purchased from as little as $200.

“Some chimeneas can be converted into wood-fired barbecues and pizza ovens, so their versatility is a big selling point,” says Aaron.

Stay warm overnight
There are plenty of ways to stay warm overnight – but leaving the heater on overnight shouldn’t be one of them.

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Electric blankets can be an alternative to using a heater as it uses less energy

“Not only can it be unsafe to leave a heater on unattended during the night, but the usage can see your energy bills skyrocket,” says Aaron.

Aaron says that having an electric heater running in your bedroom, with the door closed, will ensure the room is warm by the time you go to bed and switch it off.

“Also, electric blankets use less energy than heaters, so you can switch on an electric blanket a few hours before you go to bed and know that it will be warm by the time you are ready to sleep.”

Draught-proof your home
Draught-proofing your home can save your heating costs by up to 20%. Common sources of draughts include around skirting doors and architraves, sealing around wall vents and around external doors.

“Draught proofing your home is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to reduce your energy bills and keep your house warm,” adds Aaron.

“In combination with an energy-efficient heating system, you will ensure you stay warm this winter.”

What are your best tips for staying warm during the colder months? Comment below.