Experts weigh in on the cheap and easy ways to stay warm this winter

Experts weigh in on the cheap and easy ways to stay warm this winter
  • PublishedJune 10, 2024

Chattering teeth, visible breath in the morning, a mercy dash from the shower.

Whether your priority is to make life in your rental property less of Survivor-style experience, keep energy costs down, or just to be cosier, winter can be a season of challenge.

A wall and window in the afternoon sun by a domestic stairwell, with monstera leaves in the bottom left.
Jenny Edwards says to make the most of any sunny spaces.(ABC lifestyle: Anna Chisholm)

But there are simple and inexpensive ways to help.

Jenny Edwards is a scientist working to create energy-efficient and cost-effective homes.

In Canberra, on the traditional country of the Ngunnawal people, she says keeping warm is mostly following advice that “your nanna would have told you” and draught sealing and insulating your body — as well as the house.

Free and under $10

Follow the sun

Ms Edwards says to be aware of the sun.

“The sun is free,” she says, suggesting you take note of direct sunlight in your house.

“Is there potential for you to spend more of your time in the room that gets more sun?”

bubble wrap stuck to a window
Using bubble wrap on windows can work like double glazing.(Supplied: Flickr, Eric)

You might consider swapping rooms around to make the most of it, which can also be good for vitamin D.

Consider bubble wrap for windows

Heating expert Chris Barnes from consumer group Choice laments that “Australian homes can be pretty leaky in terms of air”.

Based on Gadigal land in Sydney, he says while it’s unsightly, bubble wrap can help keep your home — and you — warmer.

While it’s a bit of a “cheap and nasty” hack, he says putting bubble wrap over the windows works like “a sort of poor man’s double glazing”.

Ms Edwards says she has personally used it in rentals. 

“I’ve used in my kids’ rentals, and I’ve got staff doing it. It really does make a huge difference”.

You can save bubble wrap from packages, or a five metre roll can be found for five dollars.

Block draughts with door snakes

Mr Barnes says door snakes are another “cheap thing” that can make a big difference.

They normally take the form of a long tube shape and sit along the base of a door, with prices generally ranging from $4 to $20. 

Ms Edwards says they’re easy to pick up from the op shop and instantly solve “obvious leaks under your doors”.

Put on socks and slippers 

Ms Edwards says she gets angry at her partner who will rug up everything other than his feet.

Feet wearing sheepskin slippers outstretched on a window sill.
Jenny Edwards says to include your feet when “rugging up”.(ABC Lifestyle: Anna Chisholm)

“He’ll rug up everything else but go around in bare feet.”

Again, a seemingly little change like putting on socks or slippers can make a big difference to your comfort levels, she says.

You can find socks or slippers for as little as $5, but you can spend more and opt for a more expensive brand, better quality or a specific style. 

Make a DIY pelmet

Ms Edwards says most homes have curtains or roller blinds, but fewer have pelmets.

Dense curtains made of natural cotton material with a geometric pattern, soft pelmet and light translucent tulle.
A window pelmet sits above the curtain rod.(Adobe Stock)

Pelmets are the framework placed above a window that you might associate with traditional looking curtains, they’re often decorative (concealing curtain fixtures) but they also insulate the window.

Ms Edwards says warm air naturally rises, but when it “cools down it drops across the face of the window creating a nasty draught”, which the pelmet stops.

While a pelmet is not cheap to install, she says you can use a scarf or piece of fabric to do the same job. 

“After you close your curtains at night, lay that across the top of the curtain to create your own helmet, and you can also often create a pelmet out of cardboard depending on the type of curtain rail.”

Items more than $20

Heated blankets and throws

Mr Barnes says heated throws and electric blankets are “the same kind of concept” keeping yourself — rather than the whole room – warm while you watch television or read.

A profile of a woman with short, brunette hair and red reading glasses smiling widely.'
Jenny Edwards says resist the urge to but cheap blow heaters but they’re ineffective and costly to run. 

They’re widely available and prices range from about $40 to $100.

However, the saving is in the usage as “they’re pretty cheap to run”.

Ms Edwards says “they can actually be incredibly effective” but warns to be careful with the usage instructions and be conscious of the fire risk.

Place rugs on floorboards 

Mr Barnes also says putting down rugs can make a big difference to the temperature in some homes.

He says some floorboards might have draughty gaps you haven’t even spotted, and concrete can also “get pretty cold in winter”.

While all rugs are not created equal – in terms of materials and quality – and many are far from anyone’s definition of inexpensive, he says you can generally find them for less second-hand.


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