Durban – With the cold season fast approaching, many of us are already relying on our heaters, using the geyser more for deeper and hotter baths, and eating a lot of hearty, oven-cooked meals.
But there are ways we can stay warm and toasty this winter while still doing what is right by the environment – and our electricity bills.
Although temperatures may not often drop below zero in South Africa, Yael Geffen, chief executive of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty, says it can still get very cold, and most homes are built for enjoying long summer days, not for keeping the winter chill at bay.
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“South Africans like to believe that it’s all sunshine and braais, and that other than occasional rain, we don’t really have bad weather in this country. But the truth is that it can be really cold for at least three months of the year.
“And in winter we do tend to stay in more often, spending time at home with family and friends or snuggling up with a good book or movie.”
Thus, she says, it makes sense to winter-proof our homes so that we can enjoy them as much during the colder months as we do in summer.
“Additionally, with the cost of electricity now being what it is, I think we’d all prefer to stay warm and comfortable in winter without having to face a huge monthly bill.”
This is not to mention the impact that extra energy consumption through the use of heaters, stoves, and other appliances has on the environment.
Geffen offers some suggestions on how we, as South Africans, can keep snug and warm this winter without relying too much on electricity:
- Layer on the blankets, throws and cushions: Nothing says cosy like warm fleecy throws or woolly blankets, and extra pillows ensure additional comfort when snuggling in front of a movie on a cold winter’s day.
- Include area rugs: Rugs will add warmth and style to your living spaces, especially next to your bed where you have to put your warm feet onto a cold floor. Choose textured materials with thicker weaves and vibrant colours for extra warmth and charm.
- Change out your curtains: Curtains are more than merely decorative drapes which get closed at night as they also contribute to the retention of heat in the home. So, when the nights start to get chilly, replace your lighter summer curtains with heavier drapes to ensure warm, cosy evenings.
- Soften the lighting: Add a few candles and buy a table or standing lamp for softer evening lighting.
- Go for gas: Gas heaters are a great investment as they really heat up smaller areas quite quickly and they can also be moved from room to room. And, with load shedding a regular feature of our lives, they offer both heat and light.
- Invest in winter bedding: Cotton flannel, velvet flannel or heavyweight Egyptian cotton sheets are wonderfully warm alternatives to crisp lightweight cotton sheets and will make your bed a whole lot cosier and more comfortable.
- Bulk up your towels: A new, plush set of towels will not only keep you warm, but make the prospect of getting up while it's still dark, a whole lot easier
- Outdoor heating: If you like spending time outdoors regardless of the weather, consider adding a fire pit to the patio or buying a standing gas heater.
Not only should you be thinking about alternative ways to keep warm in the coming months, but Graeme Steen, chief operating officer at Kandua.com says a little cost-effective maintenance to winter-proof your home now could save thousands of rands in unnecessary heating or repair costs.
He says professional service providers have seen first-hand how preventative maintenance – and lack thereof – can make a big difference in the long-term, and shares some of their top maintenance tips to winter-proof your home:
- Your roof is the best place to start: Whether you are coming out of the rainy season, or entering it, check your roof for leaks. Unchecked water damage can even lead to structural issues, which can cost a fortune to fix. Check ceilings and cornices for damp spots and ensure all the damp proofing measures you’ve implemented previously are still in place.
- Insulation is a game changer: Adequate insulation will help keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer. If your insulation is insufficient, your heating system will have to work overtime this winter, which means higher utility or gas bills.
- Mind the gap: Another thing that will make your heating system work harder than it needs to – and cost you more money – is when cold air creeps in under doors and through gaps around windows. It is best to get someone to install rubber seals on existing frames or choose doors and windows with weather seals. This will also keep dust and rain out.
- Don’t get left in the dark: A generator is noisy, and with the petrol price increasing, has become incredibly expensive to fuel. An inverter and battery backup system is a great alternative, depending on your needs.
Steen adds that now may also be a good time to start saving up for a green alternative such as solar power.
“Some of the banks and leading financial service providers are providing loans for solar power so it’s advisable to investigate this.”
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Carha Anderson of Leapfrog Durbanville agrees that you should ensure your property can withstand the upcoming winter weather.
“Preparing your home for winter not only ensures that you and your family stay warm and cosy, but also that your house is kept in good condition.”
To do this, Anderson offers the following tips:
- Ensure that your gutters are clean: With trees shedding their leaves in autumn, there tends to be a lot of build-up in gutters over this period. Clearing this out will help protect your home from damp as water from the rain will be redirected down clear gutters instead of landing on your house.
- Check all of your windows: Sometimes there might be a small crack or a faulty window fitting that you don’t know about. Walk around your house and check on all your window panes and frames to ensure that they are in good condition.
- Prepare the fireplace: If you are lucky enough to have a fireplace in your home, now is the time to get it ready. Clean out the catchment tray and check that your chimney doesn’t have any blockages.
- Wrap your geyser in a blanket: A great investment for winter and beyond is a geyser blanket to insulate your geyser and retain the heat without the use of electricity.
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