Melbourne was recently named the coldest city in the world, the criteria being a city, and the temperature at that particular time.
It got me thinking about how in denial we are in Australia about how cold our winters are in the southern states. We freeze through them and count down the days until it's warm again, like some sort of endurance test. We all know diehard Aussies still wearing shorts and thongs!
While we tend to hibernate, Europeans cater for the cold much better than we do. They expect it, they dress accordingly, and have a lifestyle built around the winter months. The Danes call this hygge, roughly translated to mean cosiness, they embrace the winter months with wood fires, fur throws and tactile fabrics, having friends over for mulled wine and hearty winter fare.
Meanwhile in OZ, we hibernate. Our heating is often patchy, our insulation in older homes particularly, before energy ratings came in, can be nonexistent or old and ineffective.
Very few homes have double glazing, one of the most effective ways to combat the cold, approx 10 per cent of heat is lost through glass. In lieu of tearing out our windows, heavy drapes can be effective in the evenings, especially if closed pelmets are included to trap the cold air. Put your hand on any window at night and you realise how hard your heating has to work. Often overlooked, one of the single most important aspects of energy efficiency is the orientation of your home. If windows are protected from summer sun with deeper eaves they will also allow winter sun to enter and warm up interiors. Simple design changes can make so much difference to the overall livibility of our homes. Family living areas that face due north, make our homes a pleasure to be in.
Some efficient heating options include;
A double brick blade wall around a two way wood heater. This can act as a heat bank, radiating warmth into open plan designs, which can be expensive to heat. They also act as a visual divider to living areas, for instance between the dining and family rooms, they are not only a practical solution but they look stunning.
In-floor heating and hydronic heating options are at their most effective when orientation is factored in. In passive solar building design, windows, walls, and floors are made to collect, store, reflect, and distribute solar energy in the form of heat in the winter and reject solar heat in the summer.
Passive solar design simply means making use of the winter sun – when you factor in our cloudless skies and lack of smog, we are one of the sunniest on the planet. While heating and cooling are at least 40 per cent of our household energy bills, it makes sense to plan for the colder months and not just wish them away.
And who knows, we'd probably enjoy them more.