A warm and dry home can help keep you and your whānau healthy over winter, but for some, the cost of having a cosy house might break the bank.
Many homes in New Zealand are damp, cold and unhealthy. In winter, they are on average 6°C below the World Health Organization’s recommended minimum indoor temperature of 18°C. A cold and damp home can increase the risk of respiratory illnesses such as asthma and serious chest infections.
Damp, draughty and poorly insulated homes are more expensive to heat.
Image credit: Canva
Here are some simple tips to keep your home warm and dry without breaking the bank:
1. Insulate your house
Insulation in the roof and under the floor keeps your house warm and dry in winter, but it’s expensive and may not be an option if you’re renting or on a budget.
If you’re on a low income, you may be able to get financial help for home insulation through the Ministry of Health’s Healthy Homes Initiative. Some local or regional councils offer insulation deals and the Winter Energy Payment is available for some people. Insulation is also now compulsory in all rental homes.
If you don't have insulation, there are other ways you can insulate to help make your home warmer:
- Window films – these kits have a clear plastic film that sticks to your window framing and acts like double-glazing
- Bubble wrap – added to your windows, bubble wrap provides an extra layer that helps insulate your home against the cold outside air.
- If you have a wooden, tiled or lino floor, add a large rug to cover as much of it as possible.
2. It's curtains for cold
Having snug-fitting curtains helps keep your house warm. Floor length curtains keep the heat in better than shorter ones. Adding a rolled-up towel on top of your curtain track also stops warm air escaping behind the curtain.
The heat from the sun is free, so make sure you open your curtains in the morning to let the sun’s heat in and close them just before sunset to keep the cold out.
If you don’t have curtains, there are several curtain banks that provide good quality, second hand curtains, or you could try pinning a blanket up to stop the heat escaping.
3. Draught-proof windows and doors
Check there aren’t any draughts coming in through any windows or doors, as this will make your house cold. A draught stopper across the bottom of a door (or a rolled up dry towel) helps keep the cold out. Other options include a pool noodle that’s been cut so it fits snugly on both sides of the door, or self-adhesive brush strip draught excluder strips available from hardware shops.
4. Reduce condensation
Condensation, or water that’s collected on windows and walls, makes your home damp and can cause mould to grow. A damp house is also more expensive to heat. To reduce dampness in your home:
- put lids on pots when cooking
- use an extractor fan in the kitchen and bathroom or open a window
- close the bathroom door while showering
- dry your clothes outside (or in a garage or carport).
If you do have condensation, wipe it off each morning with a towel.
5. Get a good heater
Electric heaters are cheap to buy and safe to use. Get a heater that's the right size for the room you're heating. A heat pump with a thermostat is also a good option as it keeps the cost down. Keep doors closed to rooms that aren't in use.
Note: portable or unflued indoor gas heaters release dangerous toxins and increase moisture.
6. Move furniture
Where you have your furniture in your room can make a difference to how easy it is to heat. It may feel good to sit close to your heater or fire, but your furniture can block the heat from spreading, which means it will take longer for the room to heat up.
7. Air your house
Make sure you air your house out, even in the colder months. Open the doors and windows on fine days and let the fresh air in to help dry out your home and reduce mould.
8. Get rid of mould
Mould loves to grow in damp and wet places and can cause health problems. Almost half of all homes in Aotearoa New Zealand have mould issues. If you see mould, get rid of it as soon as possible. You can use a bleach solution (2 teaspoons of bleach to 1 litre of water) or white vinegar (without any added water) to remove it.
- Healthy environments Auckland Regional Public Health Service, NZ, 2019
- Warmer, drier homes Ministry of Health, NZ, 2020
- Healthy homes initiative Ministry of Health, NZ, 2020
- Funding for heaters and insulation Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, NZ
- Types of heaters Gen Less, NZ
- A renter's guide to a warmer home Consumer, NZ
- Renter's guide – dealing with mould Consumer, NZ