house_scarf16th June 2016

As we in the Southern Hemisphere move into the winter months, many of us start thinking about how we’re going to heat our homes in the most efficient but cost-effective way.

We made it through the summer months using the air-con sparingly if at all (I think ours went on three times when the humidity got above 90%) but the thought of freezing over winter has about as much appeal as a cold shower.

Many homes in this part of the world are fitted with reverse cycle air conditioners or heat pumps that we use for cooling in the summer and heating in the winter. However, how you use these for heating will make the difference between being warm and busting the bank, or comfortable and not killing your budget.

Reverse cycle air conditioners work by extracting heat from the air by passing it over refrigerated coils and transferring it inside as cool air. The cycle can also be reversed to heat the air inside the house. They can also filter and dehumidify the air for a dryer, healthier environment.

In fact, used properly, reverse cycle air conditioners are one of the most cost effective ways to heat your home, besides cutting down a tree for the log fire, and by using some simple tricks, you can cut down on power wastage.


  1. Use the timer

The first step to an efficient heat pump is learning how to use the timer feature.

Don’t leave your heat pump on all day if you’re not there, or all night. You can set the unit to turn on half an hour or so before you get home or before you get up in the morning.

Using the timer also avoids the common mistake of cranking up the heat pump when you get home or first thing in the morning.


  1. Set it to the optimum temperature

Constant toggling of the heat pump thermostat is not ideal.

It is advisable to set the thermostat to a healthy temperature of around 18 degrees Celsius in winter.


  1. Keep it clean

Clean the filters regularly to ensure your heat pump works efficiently.


  1. Look for the blue stars

Look for the blue energy star rating when buying a heat pump.

This mark identifies superior energy efficiency.

Like all heaters, heat pumps can use a lot of energy so it pays to get an efficient model.

And finally, shut doors to rooms that aren’t in use, and curtains to help keep the heat in.


More information on heating your home or choosing the right system can be found at the excellent website of Energywise (NZ).

Tell us about how you heat your home each winter? Do you notice the power bill skyrocket or do you have smart ways to keep it reasonable?

UPDATE: According to a couple of readers RC-AC units are not big in North America and I think I’ve discovered why.

According to Wikipedia “Air-source heat pumps are more popular in milder winter climates where the temperature is frequently in the range of 40–55 °F (4–13 °C), because heat pumps become inefficient in more extreme cold. This is because ice forms on the outdoor unit’s heat exchanger coil, which blocks air flow over the coil. To compensate for this, the heat pump system must temporarily switch back into the regular air conditioning mode to switch the outdoor evaporator coil back to being the condenser coil, so that it can heat up and defrost.”

So RC-AC may be more prevalent in the southern states where the climate is milder. Any comments on this are welcome.


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Thanks for that and have a great, warm day.

15 thoughts on “We’re staying warm this winter without busting the bank”

  1. Interesting, here in the States I’ve never heard of a reverse cycle air conditioner before. Not sure if they are popular here much, but on the east coast it’s very common to have a natural gas heater and we’ve benefited from low natural gas costs lately. Interesting to hear the differences country to country. Good tips though which are still applicable.

    1. Hey there GS. They may well be known by some other name in the US. They’re very common in Australia and NZ because they do the heating/cooling thing. Best of both worlds.

      I have lived in a place with natural gas heating and it is very efficient for the price but a lot of places here don’t have reticulated gas and bottles are expensive. Good if you have it.

  2. Like the swan those are something I have never heard of this heating system type. Pretty interesting though (I just did a quick read on how they work)

    All of your points still apply regardless of the heating system! Try to enjoy the winter, we were glad to get rid of it

    1. Hi there AE. Since your (and Green Swan’s) comment I did a bit more research on why you may not have heard of them. I’ve added this info as an update in my article. Makes sense especially if you’re from the northern States.

  3. Coming from Tropical North Queensland – I spent last weekend riding in t-shirt and shorts to spend a day at the beach. Our winter heating plan has involved my one light jacket, my one doonah, my one flannelette sheet, turning the ceiling fan down a notch and maybe a few more sleeps before we have to start shutting up all the windows at night.

    I’ve actually learned to crochet with my girlfriend and made a few scarves and blankets which I’ve shipped off as gifts to family and friends down south where they might actually get some use. None of this has stopped some of the ladies at work from getting out their ridiculously expensive to run space-heaters under their desks but I’m looking forward to two more quarters of sub $150 powerbills 😀

    1. Ahhhh, the benefit of living in North Queensland during winter. But….do you find you use the air-con a lot during the summer?

      I have to admit that even living in Brisbane we don’t actually use the heat pump much during the winter.

      However, I have installed them in my rental properties in Auckland to keep the house warmer and dryer during the long’ish winter. Not only do the tenants have decent heating but it helps protect my investment as well.

      Love the idea of you sitting in front of the TV at night crocheting away. Quite an image lol.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your comment.

      1. Summer is big for A/C. We’ll sweat it out in the house in the afternoons but the unit in the bedroom needs to be on for basically every night to try and cool the room to 26*C (the drying of the air is honestly the main benefit) if we’re getting a solid night’s sleep. Fortunately both my girlfriend and I work full time IT so we spend the hottest part of the day soaking up the free work A/C. We live in a four bedroom house and all of the bedrooms are A/C’d but the big unit for the shared areas is ‘broken’. This means we are only ever cooling 1-3 small rooms with the doors shut rather than a huge, poorly insulated house so that helps.

        Having housemates (or kids / partners for my work colleagues) that are home during the day can easily double our electricity bill for that extra 40 hours a week, but we tend to have penny pinching college students as housemates who are more than happy to set their room A/C to 25*C or spend those hours studying at the (A/C’d) library.

        If the crochet imagery makes you laugh, I should also mention I’m a 6’6″ / overweight guy and would often attend the local university’s crochet club meetings with her. Plenty of strange looks but I figure I’m big enough that no one will say anything and I wouldn’t care if they did.

        1. That’s the downside to living in the tropics then. Either acclimatise and put up with it or spend up large on the A/C. You’re right, it’s not so much the heat but the humidity I struggle with.

          Now my mental image of you crocheting has gone off the rails!!

  4. Hey Martin, nice topic. We live in a colder area of Australia, we just have a gas heater in our rental which works well for us and appears to be cheap (maybe it’s how we use it).

    When we do get our place it’ll be interesting to compare all the different options.


    1. Hi Tristan, gas heaters are very efficient heaters but what I don’t like about the portable ones (which is what I’m assuming you have) is that they produce a lot of moisture and carbon monoxide. So good ventilation is a must otherwise they’ll poison you. At least you’ll be warm though.

      And perhaps a dehumidifier too which would remove the moisture created making the heater more efficient and give you a healthier home.

      Whereabouts in the deep south are you?

  5. Oh man, it’s going to be 120F (49C) here tomorrow. There’s almost no humidity so we can keep our house at 82F (28C) but it still feels wasteful to have the AC running so much.
    It’s weird, though, that the malls/offices/restaurants here are kept so cold that I always bring a sweater, even in summer.

    1. Hi Julie and thanks for stopping by. Wow!! 49C is unbelievably hot. We get a few days each summer that exceed 45 but thankfully not too many. Whereabouts are you that it gets so hot?

      I know what you mean about the humidity. I can handle 40+ with low humidity but 28C with high humidity kills me.

      Interesting what you say about the malls and other public places. I went to the mall yesterday and they now have the heating cranked up. It was awful, and still everyone was wearing long pants and jackets.

      I’m still wearing shorts and t-shirt most of the time cos it’s not really cold people lol.

      I hope you manage ok through the heat.

  6. It’s interesting to read just how different life is half way around the world. I think I speak for all of North America when I say this: We are jealous of your winters! 🙂

    1. Hi there FSH. We are pretty lucky here in Queensland. It does get pretty cold (below 0C) in the more remote areas but is generally so dry it’s like being in a chiller. here on the coast, it gets down to maybe 10C at the coldest.

      You know, plenty of people here have never seen snow. I kid you not!!

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