Winter survival guide: heating tips, running costs and more

April 30th, 2014

Appliance Questions Environment, Energy & Water Saving Heaters Heating & Cooling

As a certain fictional character once said, Winter Is Coming.

To help you prepare for when the mercury drops, here’s our guide to staying warm, safe and healthy this winter:

Seal and insulate your home

If you want warm air inside, you’ll need to keep the cold air outside.  Simple enough.

Here’s how:

  • Insulation throughout your home’s walls and ceilings can help to maintain a stable indoor temperature throughout the winter.  If your home doesn’t have insulation, now would be an excellent time to start looking into getting some.
  • On a smaller scale, search your home for cracks and openings that can create cold draughts, and get them sealed – be sure to check the skirting boards!  Draught excluders beneath your doors can also help retain warm air.
  • Heat can sometimes be lost through large windows – invest in some heavy curtains or drapes to further insulate your home.  However, keep north-facing windows clear to let in heat and light from the winter sun.  Double-glazing is also excellent window insulation.
  • Toss some rugs or carpets on your timber, stone or tile floors to retain more warmth.
  • Don’t get too overzealous when insulating your home and completely seal off your home’s ventilation – you’ll still want to keep your home’s air fresh.

Check and clean your heater or air conditioner

If you’re digging an old reliable heater out of storage, or swapping your reverse cycle air conditioner over to warming mode, you’ll want to give it a quick bit of cleaning and maintenance before putting it to work.

Portable heaters that have been locked away through summer may be dusty, which can be a fire hazard if heated up.  This is also true of fixed heaters that have been sitting unused.  Give them a wipe down first to remove dust and grime, which can also help remove any germs still clinging to the appliance.

If you’re using a gas heater, check its gas plumbing for damage, wear and tear before starting it back up, whether you’re using your home’s natural gas supply or bottle LPG gas.

Even if your air conditioner has been having a workout all summer, the change in seasons is an excellent time to give it a look over.  In addition to wiping away any dust and grime, be sure to clean and/or replace the filters to ensure that the air being blown through your home is clean as well as warm.

How to choose a heater

Keeping warm in the winter isn’t always as easy as following your grandmother’s advice and sticking on a singlet and a woolly jumper (though it really wouldn’t hurt, y’know).

But before you rush out and buy the first heater you see, have a think about whether it’s the best choice for your home:

Heater type

Features and benefits

Gas heaters
  • Great for living rooms
  • An energy efficient alternative to electricity
  • Offers precise and reliable heating
Electric oil column heaters
  • Great for bedrooms, living rooms and studies
  • Sturdy, durable and reliable – offering precise thermostat control
  • Extremely safe, as there are no exposed grills or flames
Electric ‘fire’ heaters
  • Great for bedrooms, studies or small living rooms
  • Safe and effective
  • Creates a cosy ambience
Electric panel heaters
  • Great for living rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms
  • Stylish and space-saving design
  • Offers excellent temperature precision and thermostat control


You can also warm your home using a reverse cycle air conditioner.  You can choose the best model and size for your home by following the guidelines found in our blog: What size air conditioner do I need?

Choose the right size heater

If you’re buying a new heater, size matters.  Big heaters can use more energy or gas than you require, and small heaters may not be able to efficiently handle heating large rooms.

To get an idea of how large or powerful a heater you need this winter, start by measuring the size of the area you wish to heat.  Multiply the length of a room by its width to get its floor space in square metres.

For an insulated room with average ceiling heights (e.g. 2.4 metres), you’ll need a heater with an output of approximately 100 watts per square metre to heat efficiently.  For example:

Area to be heated

Efficient appliance wattage

10sqm room (2mx5m) 1000w (1kW)
15sqm room (3mx5m) 1500W (1.5 kW)
24sqm room (6mx4m) 2400W (2.4 kW)


The same applies to gas heaters as well as electric heaters.  If the kW output of a gas figure is not available, you can estimate a rough approximation by multiplying the gas input in megajoules (MJ) by 3.6.  However, this is not a precise measurement, as the gas input only measures the amount of gas the heater uses – how efficiently it heats is determined by its energy rating (check the star ratings).

Area to be heated

Efficient appliance wattage

Approximate gas heater input

10sqm room (2mx5m) 1000W (1kW) 3.6 MJ
15sqm room (3mx5m) 1500W (1.5 kW) 5.4 MJ
24 sqm room (6mx4m) 2400W (2.4 kW) 8.6 MJ


There are also many other factors that can affect your heater’s efficiency, including your local climate, ceiling height and home layout, but the above tables can provide a benchmark and help get you started.

Prevent bill shock

You’re always going to use more gas or energy on heating during the winter and spend more money accordingly, but there are ways to keep your winter utility bills from bankrupting you.

One easy tip is to only run your heater when you need to, rather than all the time, and make sure it doesn’t have to work too hard.  Set the thermostat to a warm, but not hot temperature – around 18 to 20°C is a decent average – and you’ll be comfortable without using excess energy trying to push your heater too hard.  Every extra degree higher you set the temperature can increase your energy consumption by 5% – 10%.

As you’re likely to be using more energy running the heater, this makes winter a great time to put other energy-saving measures into place, such as switching to LED lightbulbs, washing laundry in cold water, and switching off electronics at the power point to avoid using standby power (which has been described by experts as “self indugent”).

To get an idea of how much your heater will cost to run, start by finding your local energy tariff.  Check your last power or gas bill or consult your energy retailer.

Multiply the heater’s energy usage (measured in kW/h for electric heaters and MJ/h for gas heaters) by this rate to get your approximate hourly running cost.

Energy prices vary around the country, but average at around 30c per kW/h for electricity and 3c per MJ for gas, according to Energy Made Easy.

Electric heater energy output

Approximate hourly running cost

1000w (1kW) $0.30
1500W (1.5 kW) $0.45
2400W (2.4 kW) $0.72


Gas heater input

Approximate hourly running cost

3.6 MJ $0.11
5.4 MJ $0.16
8.6 MJ $0.26


Estimate the number of hours your heater would be in use and multiply this by its hourly running cost to get an estimation of how much your heater is likely to cost you.  Be advised that this will vary depending on your home’s exact circumstances and energy price fluctuations in your area, including on-peak and off-peak energy pricing.

Keep the kitchen and laundry ventilated

While it is important to seal up your home to keep the warm air in and the cool air out, this actually makes it even more important to keep your kitchen well-ventilated.  Cooking, especially when using a gas cooktop, can pollute the air inside your home, creating conditions not unlike living on the side of a highway.

If your kitchen has a rangehood in place, give it a good clean and/or change the filters, to ensure that you can efficiently extract any grease, smoke or other gases from your kitchen.

In the laundry, as you may not have as much easy access to the sun available during the winter, it’s likely that you may be making more use of the dryer during this time.

If you have a vented clothes dryer, make sure that you have plenty of ventilation in the laundry room for its exhaust – cooler temperatures plus warm moist air equals condensation, which can create something like an indoor tropical storm.

A condenser dryer, which doesn’t use exhaust, is an excellent choice in the winter, especially if you choose an energy-efficient heat pump design.

Stay safe

It should be clear to everyone that heaters are hot, and must be used with care to avoid accidents.

Here are some winter safety tips from the Department of Fair Trading:

  • Do not place room heaters too close to furniture.
  • Do not place clothing, furnishings, curtains and bedding too close to heaters.
  • Do not allow children or pets to play, stand or sit too close to heaters. Supervise them at all times around heaters.
  • Gas heaters must be certified and should be serviced every two years or in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. If a gas heater produces a pungent odour, a sooty flame or the flame is yellow in colour, stop use immediately and get it serviced. Faulty or poorly maintained gas appliances can cause the production of carbon monoxide.
  • Always have a source of fresh air entering the room when using a gas heater.
  • Check electric heaters are free from dust and have intact power cords and plugs.
  • Older style heaters with rusted reflectors or frames can cause hot spots and be a source of danger.
  • When buying electrical products, check they carry the required safety approval mark. You can check these marks on the Fair Trading website.
  • Only use appropriately licensed installers of fixed heating appliances. Do a licence check on the Fair Trading website or call 13 32 20.
  • Electric blankets should be checked each winter for any faults or fraying cords.
  • Only buy hot water bottles that carry the mandatory label: WARNING – Hot water bottles can cause burns. Avoid prolonged direct contact with the skin.
  • Hot water bottles that are old, show signs of wear or are not used properly can burst or leak, resulting in severe burns. Ideally, buy new hot water bottles every winter.

Stay dry and healthy

If it’s raining incessantly in your area and your home’s air is growing damp, use a dehumidifier to prevent the growth of mould and mildew, which can lead to health problems if left unchecked.

Use an air purifier to filter the air you’re breathing and limit the impact of the winter bugs.  Many reverse cycle air conditioners include dehumidifying and air purifying feature – check your manual.

Ask for help

Need a hand?  Appliances Online can help!

Our team is made up appliance experts that know their winter products.  And our team is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, including public holidays.  If you ever need a hand choosing the right appliance for your home, we can give you the help you require – just contact us on 1300 000 500.

Mark joined Appliances Online in November 2011 and has since learned more than he ever expected to know about appliances. He enjoys looking for new and unusual ways for to solve everyday problems using typical household appliances. When he’s not toiling at the desks of Appliances Online and Big Brown Box, he tries to find time to write the next big bestseller and draw satirical cartoons, but is too easily distracted by TV, music and video games. Mark’s favourite appliance is the Dyson Groom Tool, as he loves the concept of vacuuming your dog. Google+

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