How to stay warm without burning through your cash
A five-step guide to keeping cozy, wealthy and warm this winter.
It must be almost winter. I know this because my dad has grudgingly retired his stubbies, and hardly anyone gave me the side-eye when I wore my Kmart Ugg boots to the supermarket.
Our household is too proud to put the heater on yet, but it’s only a matter of time until someone cracks.
Staying warm is an expensive business in New Zealand. We not only have some of the world’s highest power prices, but a damp and drafty housing stock with hardly any insulation – the relic of a bygone era when fuel was cheap and plentiful.
Here are some practical strategies to get you through winter without burning through a massive pile of cash.
Cranking up the heat is futile when most of it escapes through the walls and ceilings. Retrofitting insulation costs several thousand dollars, but there are grants available for low-income folks. Starting from July, an even more generous subsidy will cover two-thirds of the cost of ceiling and underfloor insulation, as well as ground vapour barriers.
If you’re renting, ask your landlord to get on it – they have to comply with new laws by next year, anyway, so they might as well beat the rush. If you’re a landlord, please be a decent human being and give your tenants a warm and healthy home.
2. CLOSE THE GAPS
Seal up open fireplaces, put draught-stoppers along the bottom of doors, plug any gaps and make sure you have lined curtains. In most parts of the country, there are ‘‘curtain banks’’ where struggling families can get help for free. Double-glazed windows might be out of the question but hardware stores sell stick-on plastic insulating kits that do a decent job. Alternatively, you can just put bubblewrap over your windows. Yes, it’s ugly. No, no-one should have to do this. But it works.
3. LAYER UP
At the risk of stating the bleeding obvious, put more clothes on. Trapping heat close to your skin makes a huge difference. A pair of thermal base layers from The Warehouse only costs $20, and gives you the equivalent boost in warmth of turning the heat pump up by 4 degrees.
4. FREE FUEL
If you’re lucky enough to own a woodburner, and they haven’t been banned yet in your area, go scouting for free fuel. After the recent storms, the hills were alive with the sounds of chainsaws. Sacks of pine cones also make for good burning, as does driftwood from rivers (not the sea).
5. BE SELECTIVE
123RF The cheapest way to stay warm is to point a small radiant heater straight at you. If you want to heat a whole room and be able to move around, convection heat is a better choice. Keep the doors closed, and don’t heat parts of the house that aren’t being used. A review into electricity prices is underway. Superannuants and beneficiaries will start receiving the new Winter Energy Payment from July, which is also when the new round of insulation subsidies begin. By 2019, the grants will also be extended to heating appliances, and insulation standards will come into force for rental properties.
It might be cold comfort right now, but things are definitely moving in the right direction.
In the meantime, focus on the elements within your control and stay healthy and warm this winter. Got a burning money question? Email Budget Buster at richard.mead[email protected]dish.org, or hit him up on Facebook, where you can also find links to previous Budget Busters.
Wrap up warm and stick the fire on – but don’t burn through your savings.