Tess Nichol is the Consumer Affairs reporter for the Herald.

Winter is coming, here's how to keep warm as temperatures drop

Ceiling, wall and underfloor heating was key to keeping homes warm and dry over winter. Photo/Supplied
Ceiling, wall and underfloor heating was key to keeping homes warm and dry over winter. Photo/Supplied

As winter's icy grasp draws nearer, there are several simple things Kiwis can do to keep their homes warm and themselves healthy.

Insulation, moisture levels and decent curtains were the three things people should focus on to stay warm and dry over winter, said Auckland council eco-design adviser Adrian Feasey.

They were all key in keeping heating at the "magic number" of 18C, he said.

Taking measures to keep heat in and moisture out would also reduce bills as winter drove up energy use.

When temperatures dipped below 18C, the chances of developing respiratory illnesses, which New Zealand is overrepresented in among OECD countries, rose.

Keeping temperatures at or above that magic number could be helped by making sure there was proper insulation in the walls, ceilings and under floors, Feasey said.

A 2010 nationwide study of Kiwi homes by the Building Research Association of NZ (BRANZ), found about 80 per cent of rental houses and 45 percent of owner-occupied homes had little or no wall insulation.

In 2015, the next BRANZ survey showed the gap between rental and owner-occupied homes was still present, with rental properties about twice as likely to be rated ''poorly maintained'', although no specific reference was made to insulation.

"What you should be looking for is that at least the insulation is covering the timber in the ceiling," Feasey said.

If your home was without insulation, get a couple of quotes and get it done, or ask your landlord to get it done, Feasey said.

The second thing people should take care of was their curtains.

"What you're really looking for is having a lined curtain," he said.

The lining trapped hot air between the curtain's two layers and stopped heat escaping out the window so quickly.

People should also make sure the curtains were closed off at the top as much as possible and make sure they reached all the way to the floor.

Finally, mould should be kept in check by keeping moisture levels down as the country headed into winter.

"The most common thing I don't see that should be done, is if you've got an area underneath the flooring and you've got soil, put a ground sheet down."

Black polythene, which was available at any hardware store, was a good option for laying directly over soil in the gap beneath the house, as it was impermeable and would stop moisture rising into the floor.

Using extractor fans and airing the house were also important in the fight against moisture.

Auckland council offered a range of programmes to assist homeowners and renters with making their homes warm and dry.

Free eco-design advice and various grants for Aucklanders can be applied for through the council's website.

Government grants for insulation under the Warm Up New Zealand: Healthy Homes scheme could also be applied for online.

HEATING YOUR HOME - WHICH KIND OF HEATER IS BEST?

Some heaters were better than others and it all depends what kind of space you want to keep warm, Consumer NZ said. Photo/File
Some heaters were better than others and it all depends what kind of space you want to keep warm, Consumer NZ said. Photo/File

Consumer NZ has tested a range of heaters and, using a temperature-controlled room, found that fan-powered heater raised temperatures the fastest and the most evenly.
Heaters were not the best option for every kind of space however.

Here's what Consumer NZ recommended to heat each part of your home:

Lounge/family room areas need background warmth. Heat pumps are the best long-term choice, but panel and other convection heaters are also suitable.

You might also want some specific spot heating, say if you're watching TV or standing at the kitchen sink. A portable fan or radiant heater will do the job.

Bedrooms require less heat than living areas: You only need to keep the chill off. Choose from a panel or oil-filled column heater with thermostat and maybe a timer. A night-store heater in the passage is also an option.

Service or workshop areas are best heated by portable fan or radiant heaters.

- NZ Herald

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