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By Emma Smith

Frosty windows, dark mornings that make you wonder where the sun’s disappeared to – yep, as Jon Snow from Game of Thrones once declared, winter is here.

With the drop in temperature comes a rise in our energy bills. The good news is, small changes and being mindful of how we use energy around our homes can help lower the costs of our bills.

Why is my bill higher in winter?

Here’s the thing, electricity and gas bills almost always increase during winter. Why’s that? Well, odds are that in winter you’re home a lot more often and using your heater and appliances to keep you entertained. Whereas in summer, even though we might be dialling up the air con, we tend to be out and about more. This means more power use and consumption in winter, eventually contributing to higher bills.

The breakdown of your energy use

According to Origin Energy, heating and cooling accounts for a massive 40% of energy bills. Household appliances like computers, microwaves, and kettles, are high up there too, taking up 23% of your average winter bill.

After that, hot water systems account for 21%, while refrigeration, lighting and cooking make up the remaining 16%. Crazy right? The good news is, there are a range of simple changes that make a big difference to energy costs.

Household appliances take up a whopping 23% of your average winter bill. Picture: Erinna Giblin

1. Glaze your windows

According to research commissioned by the Australian Government, 40% of the heat within your home escapes through your windows during winter. Glazed windows act as a form of insulation and can have a profound effect on room and home temperature. In fact, 87% of a room’s heat can be retained with double glazed windows. If it’s not possible to install double glazed windows adding some quality curtains or blinds can help retain heat.

Double glazed windows act as a form of insulation and can have a profound effect on the temperature in your home. Picture: Getty

2. Consider passive solar heating

Ultimately, the sun won’t keep you warm and toasty in winter. However, using your windows to allow for passive solar heating derived from the sun reduces the need for artificial heating sources. This makes it a cost-effective way to save on energy bills in winter. Houses with southern facing windows (usually glazed) allow for the winter sun to warm a room, while thermal mass (usually materials such as concrete or tiles) will store solar energy, and re-radiate your natural heating during the night. The result? A house that is kept toasty warm and helps reduce heating costs.

Polished concrete floors absorb winter sun and help heat the home passively. Picture: Nikole Ramsay

3. Check or replace your insulation

If you’re ready to get serious about saving on your energy bills this winter then getting your insulation checked is a good place to start. With the proper insulation installed – whether it’s bulk or reflective foil – your ceilings, walls and floors all stop heat from escaping your home during winter. Plus, they also help to keep your home nice and cool during the summer.

According to Sustainability Victoria, proper insulation in your walls and ceilings can save up to 45% of your energy bills while helping maintain room temperatures.

Proper insulation in your walls and ceilings can save up to 45% of your energy bills. Picture: Getty

4. Block draughts

A gap under the door or a crack in the floor might seem like no big deal. But, a cold draught can be a big contributor to rising heating bills. Sealing up these gaps can stop draughts and make a huge difference to the temperature of your home. Which, in turn, can save you a lot of money in power bills.

If you have a fireplace in your home, you’ll soon notice that a lot of heat is escaping up your chimney. Sustainability Victoria recommends removable chimney stoppers and balloons that will prevent heat from escaping and draughts from entering. To stop heat escaping through your doors, you can buy door draught stoppers from your local supermarket for less than $10. Plus, you may want to consider checking your window arcs to ensure they’re properly sealed

5. Isolate your heating

Although it’s tempting to keep the entire home warm and cosy in winter, the energy required to heat every room can dramatically increase your bill. Isolating heating to the rooms that you spend the most time in, such as your bedroom or communal areas, can dramatically lower the costs of your heating bill.

6. Get smart

Connected homes are becoming increasingly popular and it’s easy to see why. Smart technology can be a great help when it comes to staying on top of your energy bills. If you’re looking for a hands-on way to monitor energy usage and save costs this winter, installing smart home tools like Emberpulse can make a huge difference to your savings (potentially up to $500 each year). When installed, Emberpulse assesses your current electricity use and advises you on where you’re using the most energy and how to save on costs by recommending a better energy plan.

7. Turn down your thermostats

Instead of turning your heating off, let’s try turning it down. Every degree you reduce can save up to 10% on your energy bills. Turning your thermostats down to anywhere between 18-20 degrees will keep you toasty warm during those colder nights, while reducing the costs of your energy bills.

Every degree you reduce in your thermostat can save up to 10% on your energy bills. Picture: Getty

8. Shop around for the best deal

While it may seem like a hassle, a bit of research can go a long way, and save you a lot of money on bills this winter. It’s a fairly competitive market, with plenty of deals, discounts and resources available. Take the time to research which company can offer you the best deal to suit your needs this winter.

9. Check the energy rating of your heating appliances

When it comes to energy consumption, all too often we fail to realise that a small appliance like a portable electric heater with a fan is the biggest offender. Different heating appliances draw and consume energy at different rates, so it makes sense to check the energy ratings of appliances. By opting for more efficient heating appliances you can save on costs.

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