This is the real reason Australian homes are so cold in the winter – and what you can do about it now

Low temperatures, the cost of living crisis and poor home design are leading to many Aussies feeling the harsh winter cold more than ever this year.

Dr Nicola Willand of the RMIT University School of Property, Construction and Project Management spoke to FEMAIL about the ‘big freeze’ sweeping the country and the flaws that make homes Down Under colder than the WHO-approved 18C.

She believes it’s down to a combination of factors – namely that the Australian regulatory standards are below the rest of the world and a lack of awareness about the link between cold weather and health.

‘Firstly, historically, energy has been abundant and relatively cheap, so householders and regulators were less concerned about the affordability of heating than they are now,’ she told FEMAIL.

‘Countries such as Europe have had energy crises, such as the oil crisis in the 1970s, that have threatened energy security, increased energy costs and triggered energy efficiency measures.’

Insulation is key whether you are looking for a cooler or a warmer home

Secondly, she said, there is still little awareness around health and cold homes in Australia. 

‘By contrast, the term “fuel poverty” was coined in Britain because the excess winter death rate was so much higher in the United Kingdom than in other, much colder, countries,’ Dr Willand continued. 

‘Research found that British homes were less insulated and colder than Scandinavian ones. In Germany, for example, the first insulation requirements were introduced in the 1950s to mitigate the risk of mould. 

Dr Nicola Willand is from the RMIT University School of Property, Construction and Project Management

Dr Nicola Willand is from the RMIT University School of Property, Construction and Project Management 

‘These findings triggered a concerted effort to improve the thermal performance of housing in Britain. The first residential insulation regulations were introduced in Australia in the 1990s.’

Finally, Dr Willand said regulators need to ‘balance demands from stakeholders with housing supply and affordability’. 

‘Australia has a housing affordability crisis and energy efficiency measures may increase the cost of housing, partly because many of the products must be imported,’ she said.

Dr Willand’s advice is to work on crafting a well-insulated home as best you can – something that will be helpful both in cold and very warm weather.

‘Shading of windows through fixed shades or clever planting will also stop the sun from entering the home in summer and skillful placement of openable windows and doors will allow cross-ventilation for natural and cost-free cooling,’ she said.

‘Flyscreens and security doors will also encourage keeping windows open at night to take advantage of the cool night air.’  

Heating is becoming less affordable with the cost of living crisis

Heating is becoming less affordable with the cost of living crisis

Draught sealing products are available at every hardware store. They are affordable and can be installed by householders themselves.

The topic has been hot online of late, with much of Australia shivering through extreme lows and ‘polar blasts’. Many compared their homes to ‘sieves’ with lots of gaps compared to the properly insulated homes in the northern hemisphere. 

A Redditor said he believed Australian builders are drastically cost cutting when building new homes – which leads to ‘skimping on things that are unseen like quality insulation’.

What are Dr Willand’s top tips for a warmer home in Australia? 

1) Plug the holes 

Houses are draughty because there are gaps in the building envelope. Some of them are visible or noticeable, such as gaps around windows, underneath your doors, wall vents, around timber floor skirtings and even permanently open bathroom windows that only have a bit of fly screen. Door snakes are a good start but can be a tripping hazard. Draught sealing products are available at every hardware store. They are affordable and can be installed by householders themselves.

2) Put a lid on it

Heat rises up, so most of the warmth escapes through the ceiling. Ceiling insulation is a very cost-effective insulation measure and not very intrusive. Your reader should look for a qualified insulation specialist.

3) Cover the windows

Many older homes have single glazed windows, which can be the coldest part of the building envelope. Thick curtains and pelmets in front of the windows can provide insulation. However, these curtains need to be opened and aired regularly, as otherwise mould may form on the surfaces facing the windows. Another option are magnetic plastic panes that are fixed to the inside of the existing frames. The still air between the two window panes acts as an insulator.

Those who can’t afford traditional heating or insulating measures such as double glazed windows are turning to more simple heating solutions. 

Electric blankets use much less energy and are a cost efficient alternative to traditional heaters. 

Draping all windows and using door snakes can also help seal up a house and stop cold air coming in or hot air going out. 

One Aussie said she cooks more with her oven during the winter months and then leaves the oven door open afterwards for the warmth to distribute throughout her home. 

Some also suggested purchasing clear insulation film which is relatively cheap to put on all window panels. 

***
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk