Winter – how to keep your home warm

Lock out winter cold and mould without breaking the bank



Key points about keeping your home warm on a budget

  • A warm and dry home can help keep you and your whānau healthy over winter, but for some, the cost of having a cosy house might break the bank.
  • Many homes in New Zealand are damp, cold and unhealthy.
  • A cold and damp home can increase the risk of respiratory illnesses.
  • Damp, draughty and poorly insulated homes are more expensive to heat. 
Woodburner fire in a home
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1. Insulate your house

Insulation in the roof and under the floor keeps your house warm and dry in winter, but it’s expensive and may not be an option if you’re renting or on a budget.   

If you’re on a low income, you may be able to get financial help for home insulation through the Ministry of Health’s Healthy Homes Initiative.(external link) Some local or regional councils offer insulation deals and the Winter Energy Payment(external link) is available for some people. Insulation is also now compulsory in all rental homes.(external link) 

If you don't have insulation, there are other ways you can insulate to help make your home warmer:

    • Window films – these kits have a clear plastic film that sticks to your window framing and acts like double-glazing
    • Bubble wrap – added to your windows, bubble wrap provides an extra layer that helps insulate your home against the cold outside air.
    • If you have a wooden, tiled or lino floor, add a large rug to cover as much of it as possible.
Blue slippers on a wooden floor

Image credit: Canva

2. It's curtains for cold

Having snug-fitting curtains helps keep your house warm. Floor length curtains keep the heat in better than shorter ones. Adding a rolled-up towel on top of your curtain track also stops warm air escaping behind the curtain. 

The heat from the sun is free, so make sure you open your curtains in the morning to let the sun’s heat in and close them just before sunset to keep the cold out. 

If you don’t have curtains, there are several curtain banks that provide good quality, second hand curtains, or you could try pinning a blanket up to stop the heat escaping. 

3. Draught-proof windows and doors

Check there aren’t any draughts coming in through any windows or doors, as this will make your house cold.  A draught stopper across the bottom of a door (or a rolled up dry towel) helps keep the cold out. Other options include a pool noodle that’s been cut so it fits snugly on both sides of the door, or self-adhesive brush strip draught excluder strips available from hardware shops.    

4. Reduce condensation

Condensation, or water that’s collected on windows and walls, makes your home damp and can cause mould to grow. A damp house is also more expensive to heat. To reduce dampness in your home:

  • put lids on pots when cooking
  • use an extractor fan in the kitchen and bathroom or open a window
  • close the bathroom door while showering
  • dry your clothes outside (or in a garage or carport).

If you do have condensation, wipe it off each morning with a towel.

5. Get a good heater

Electric heaters are cheap to buy and safe to use. Get a heater that's the right size for the room you're heating. A heat pump with a thermostat is also a good option as it keeps the cost down. Keep doors closed to rooms that aren't in use.

Note: portable or unflued indoor gas heaters release dangerous toxins and increase moisture.

6. Move furniture

Where you have your furniture in your room can make a difference to how easy it is to heat. It may feel good to sit close to your heater or fire, but your furniture can block the heat from spreading, which means it will take longer for the room to heat up.  

7. Air your house

Make sure you air your house out, even in the colder months. Open the doors and windows on fine days and let the fresh air in to help dry out your home and reduce mould.

8. Get rid of mould

Mould loves to grow in damp and wet places and can cause health problems.  Almost half of all homes in Aotearoa New Zealand have mould issues. If you see mould, get rid of it as soon as possible. You can use a bleach solution (2 teaspoons of bleach to 1 litre of water) or white vinegar (without any added water) to remove it. 

Here are some tips that won't break the bank on how to keep your home warm and dry in winter. Warm, dry homes help keep you and your whānau healthy.

Video: Keep your house warm and dry this winter

This video may take a few moments to load.

(National Public Health Service – Northern Region, 2016)

Warmer, drier homes video series

Click the link to watch this series in Samoan(external link) or Tongan(external link).

 Part 1: Key tips for a warmer, drier home – 1/9 – Sleeping (English)

Create as much space as possible between the heads of sleeping children. This video may take a few moments to load.

(Ministry of Health, NZ, 2016)

Part 1: Sleeping (te reo Māori)(external link)

Part 2: Curtains (English)(external link) (te reo Māori)(external link)

Part 3: Heating  (English)(external link) (te reo Māori)(external link)

Part 4: Condensation (English)(external link) (te reo Māori)(external link)

Part 5: Windows (English)(external link)  (te reo Māori)(external link)

Part 6: Steam (English)(external link) (te reo Māori)(external link)

Part 7: Draughts (English)(external link) (te reo Māori)(external link)

Part 8: Mould (English)(external link) (te reo Māori)(external link)

Part 9: Washing (English)(external link) (te reo Māori)(external link)

Video: Healthy homes a Kiwi dream – episode 1

The first in a documentary series from Asthma NZ. This video may take a few moments to load.

(Asthma New Zealand, 2021)

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Credits: Healthify Editorial Team. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

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