Keep your house warm in winter with no harm to the planet or your wallet

When winter comes knocking, we are all faced with a challenge: how to keep our homes warm and comfortable. According to Eurostat data from 2020, over 35 million people in the EU struggle with energy poverty because of high energy prices.

Heating the house, and the places where we spend most of our days, is a priority in winter, but the most common heating systems are not that sustainable, both economically and environmentally.

Although, in 2021, about 40% of the electricity produced in the EU came from renewable sources (wind, hydro and solar power, and biofuels), the carbon emissions from electricity production are still significant and still pushing our planet to the brink. There are also consequences for EU households’ finances, as the costs of electricity and fossil fuel (such as natural gas or bottled gas) skyrocket.

We’re on the right path, though. Houses, too, can rely on cleaner energy. Some changes are low cost, simple, and immediate – albeit temporary. Others are more costly and permanent, an investment in sustainability that will carry your home to a greener, warmer future.

How to keep your house warm quickly in winter

Want to see immediate changes? Follow these simple and practical tips to make your home more comfortable in the short-term.

Draught stopper in a door
  1. Fix draughty doors with door draught stoppers

Thermal insulation is key in keeping warm air indoors and avoiding high energy consumption. The logic could not be simpler: the better insulated a house is, the less energy is needed to keep the house warm despite the cold outside. One of the most practical ways is to use door draught stoppers.

Draught stoppers can be made of fabric, a sort of sand-filled snake-shaped cushion, or made of polyethylene foam, cotton or polyester, in somewhat tubular shapes. A draught stopper blocks the cold draught under the door and keeps the room warm. Draught stoppers are effective and easy to install, simply needing to be placed on the floor against the door or tucked in the gap with the flooring.

Living room with big thick curtains
  1. Use thick curtains

If your windows aren’t the most efficient, curtains are a great help. Heavy ones, such as velvet, will help block cold air coming through closed windows, and prevent hot air inside from getting into contact with glass, thus reducing heat loss.

Warm fur rug
  1. Use carpets and thick rugs

Carpets and rugs make your home more welcoming and help retain heat. They’re also decorative.

Opening the curtains
  1. Close the blinds and curtains at night and open them during the day

During the night, one way to keep your house warm without wasting energy is to prevent the heat to escape during its coldest hours. As such, always close the blinds and curtains when you go to sleep. The next morning, and especially if winter in your country is somewhat sunny, open the blinds and curtains and leave them open throughout the day, so you can take advantage of the warm sunlight coming in through the windows.

Person applying insulating wallpaper
  1. Remedy poorly insulated walls with thermal liners and insulating wallpaper

If you like decoration and handiwork, you can get some thermal wall liners or insulating wallpaper at any DIY store. Both are easy to apply directly to the walls.

Applying insulating foam tape in a window
  1. Insulate draughty windows with insulating foam tape

DIY stores are also home to rubber seal strips and insulating foam tapes specially dedicated to insulating inefficient windows, i.e. windows in which the material and existing insulation make it more difficult to preserve the temperature inside the house.

Oven with the door open
  1. Leave the oven open while it cools

Winter invites you to spend more time in the kitchen. After making a delicious roast or a baking a cake, do not let the heat that has accumulated inside the oven go to waste. Keep the oven door open while it cools down—and don’t forget to turn off the kitchen fan.

How to save energy when heating the house

The vast majority of people use electricity to heat their home. And while electric heating methods are immediate and effective solutions, they’re also immediately expensive – because the price of electricity is high. If electricity-powered heaters are your only solution at the moment, check these tips on how to keep your house warm, and save energy.

  1. Avoid electric heaters and oil-filled radiators

These are the cheapest solutions, especially the fan heaters, but also burn through the most electricity. Electric heaters and oil radiators are very inefficient as they heat the surrounding air, but only for a little while. Such equipment should only be used from time to time. Do not leave them on for long, nor when you leave.

  1. Use the fireplace or wood-burning stove

If your home has a fireplace or a wood-burning stove, enjoy its warmth and comfort, considering evert safety measure. Make sure smoke extraction is working, and that the chimney is clean. Use dry firewood, since moist wood generates more carbon monoxide (CO) when burned.

  1. Invest in a pellet stove or heat recovery unit for your fireplace or stove

Pellet stoves work similarly to wood-burning stoves, but are more practical and more efficient. Heat recovery units can be wood- or pellet-powered, but as a rule of thumb, the latter are more effective and safer than fireplaces. The disadvantage of these two options is the high initial cost of equipment and installation—nevertheless, it will eventually pay off in the medium term.

What are pellets?

Pellets are compressed, cylindrically shaped solid granulates made of wood waste or feedstock. For this very reason, pellets are a great source of renewable energy (biomass).

  1. Get rid of excess humidity at home

Much of the cold sensation indoors stems from high level of humidity. To prevent damp and mould at home, consider using a dehumidifier during the day. Dehumidifiers are electrical devices that consume a lot of electricity but help extract excess moisture (water) from your home and into a removable container. With drier air, it is easier to keep your house warm in winter. For that extra bit of sustainability, use water recovered by the dehumidifier to nurture your plants.

What is the ideal relative humidity indoors?

Relative humidity indoors should be between 40 and 60%. Below 40%, the air is too dry, which can lead to dryness and irritation in the airways. A reading above 60%, means there is excess humidity, which can lead to the development of fungi and bacteria, causing mould and respiratory problems.

  1. Take a chance on an efficient air conditioning

Air conditioning is one of the most efficient long-term electric heating methods, providing heat in the winter, and cold air in the summer. Choose one equipment with a high efficiency rating to keep energy consumption low and avoid excess carbon emissions.

How to keep your house warm in winter in the long-term

As the saying goes, better safe than sorry, and having good insulation at home is the safe choice. Insulation prevents the house from becoming cold and humid, making it much easier to keep warm during the winter months. However, good insulation doesn’t just happen. It’s a serious investment, and it takes time. This is a more permanent tip and, although more difficult to put into practise this winter already, the sooner you do it, the more comfortable next winter will be.

  • Windows and doors: double-glazed windows and doors with efficient frames have better thermal resistance.
  • Walls: improving the insulation of the walls does wonders in the cold months. However, it is an expensive option and requires hiring a professional.
  • Roof: A roof with bad insulation can be losing heat and letting in too much moisture. Like replacing windows and strengthening insulation on walls, a roof renovation is an option with a high cost, but worth it in the long run.

And if good insulation is the first step, the next is to invest in a sustainable heating system using renewable energy, such as solar energy, to heat the house. Just as insulation, this solution requires high initial investment, and may be more difficult to implement. However, consider the investment.

Solar energy can be used for home use in essentially two ways: through photovoltaic panels (solar cells), which convert solar energy into electricity, and through solar panels, which convert solar energy into thermal energy (heat). The technology is already widely available for home use and solar-powered energy systems are likely to become even more relevant in the coming years.