Heating bills in the winter can take a chunk out of your monthly budget, but staying warm is important, especially if you've got kids around. Winter time can be a budget buster, and not only that, it's a time when fire safety becomes important too with all those heaters around. If you're looking to keep your family safe and warm this winter, then read on for our top five ways to keep your home warm in the winter- including the pros and cons of each!
1. An Open Fire
An open fire can be a very cheap way to heat your home, as long as you have a fireplace already installed and a cheap source of fuel. For those that have wooded land, for example, keeping an open fire can cost next to nothing. Plus, the heat from a fire lasts a long time, making it even more efficient.
There are downsides, of course. Fires aren't very environmentally friendly, and if you don't have a source of fuel then they can get pricey. The biggest disadvantage though is that open fires just aren't very safe, particularly with small kids around.
If an open fire sounds like a great heating plan to you, then you'll need to think seriously about fire prevention. That includes having a regulation fire guard to stop sparks flying out and igniting your living room carpet. For those with little ones, think about installing a child safe fire guard if possible (these generally screw to the wall or fireplace and can't be moved accidentally).
2. Heating with Your Air Conditioner
We tend to think of air-con as something to keep us cool, but if you have a heat pump air conditioner you can reverse the device to heat your home in winter. This could be an advantage as long as you've already got the air conditioner installed. It's relatively low cost to run the air-con as a heater (when compared to electric heaters that will also be using electricity), and air-con heat warms a room surprisingly quickly too.
The down side of this is that air-con heat also dissipates quickly, meaning that you'll need to run the air-con for longer periods of time to keep the heat steady. And if you don't already have a heat pump air conditioner installed then the cost of the device plus the difficult installation will probably mean this isn't the choice for you.
Of course, fire protection isn't really an issue with this method, and air-con heat is one of the safest methods of heating your home. You will need to make sure that the air-con is cleaned regularly (including the filters and any ventilation that leads out of your home), as the one risk is that dust collected inside the machine can be a fire hazard.
3. Heating with an Electric Heater
Electric heaters have a few advantages. They tend to be portable, so you can move them where they're needed, they're relatively cheap to buy, they don't need fuel nor much maintenance. Also, heat from an electric heater tends to last quite a long time, so once a room is warm it will stay warm for a while.
There are a few disadvantages though. Electricity is pricey, so the cost of running an electric heater can be high. An electric heater also takes a long time to heat up a room, so you might be sitting in the cold for a while! The biggest disadvantage for most people though is that electric heaters get very hot. You might not think this is a bad thing in a heater, but it is. It's easy to burn yourself on an electric heater, and it's also easy to start a fire if you stand the heater too close to curtains or other furnishings.
If you think electric heaters are the choice for you then you'll need to think about fire protection. This includes standing the heater in a clear area- away from walls and furniture. Also, look into regulating heaters, since these automatically switch off once a certain temperature is reached and are therefore safer.
4. Heating with Gas Heaters
Just like electric heaters, gas heaters are usually portable so you can move them to where you need the heat most. Relatively inexpensive to buy (though usually a little more expensive than electric heaters), gas heaters work quickly to heat a room and the heat can last a fair amount of time. One big advantage of a gas heater is that because it's not dependent on electricity you can use it during power cuts, or in areas without an electrical outlet (such as in the garage while you're working).
However, gas heaters need gas, which can be pricey, and they also need a fair amount of maintenance and cleaning as well as refilling from time to time. And if fire fighting is a priority, depending on the kind of gas heater you buy you might be at risk. Some gas heaters still have open flames, which is obviously fairly dangerous. Not only that, but fumes from gas heaters are also risky.
If you opt to go for gas then you'll need to make sure that you have great ventilation to prevent poisoning, and also look into getting carbon monoxide detectors installed in the areas where you use your heaters. This will add a little to the cost of heating with gas, but you'll be a lot safer.
5. Solar Heating
Solar heating can be a great option in South Africa, since there's plenty of sun and temperatures don't tend to drop too much. Heating with solar power is cheap in the long run, it's environmentally friendly, and pretty efficient too. Sound like a great plan? Not so fast…
The cost of installing solar heating is very high, and you'll need to have solar panels on your roof, which can be an eye sore. In many cases you'll also need a back-up heating system in case you can't get enough heat from solar energy (though modern solar heating systems are able to store heat for later use).
Solar heating is incredibly safe though, and there should be no worries about fire prevention or fire safety for kids. Once you're set up and running solar heating is pretty worry free.
Keeping it Warm
No matter which heating method you go with, keeping your house warm once it's heated will lower costs and be more efficient. There are a few things that you should keep in mind if you want to lower your heating bill:
- Solid insulation can keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It might be worth looking into re-insulating your home, since the cost of doing this may be off-set by the savings you'll get on heating and cooling bills;
- Double glazing your windows is another excellent way to keep heat in and cold out, and again the cost of installation can be made up for with savings on bills;
- Window sealing is a cheaper option. This simply seals the gaps around windows to prevent air coming in or going out and therefore keeps rooms warm. Do be careful that you still have adequate ventilation if you choose to do this and you have gas heaters or an open fire;
- If you live in a large home and there are spaces that are not often in use then turn off the heat in these rooms and close them off for the winter. There's no point in heating rooms that no one's using, and closing the doors tight will give you a smaller space to actually heat and therefore save you money;
- Think about weather protecting outside doors, either by installing double doors or by installing draft excluders on the bottom of doors to keep outside air outside;
- Use heat only when you need it. Whilst some heating solutions don't lend themselves to using a thermostat that can time control when the heating is on, many do. You can also use timer plugs to make sure electric heat goes on and off at the right time.
Keeping warm and safe is a big priority for most families in the winter time, and there are plenty of great options for doing this, though some are safer than others. Make your choice carefully and you could end up saving a fair amount of cash, but winterising your home by sealing windows and doors will also go a long way to saving on those heating bills!
Main subject: fire safety