Things you can do

These ideas and investments will help you put the heat where you want it — and keep it there.



They switched off their electric heaters this winter and switched on to new – and old – ways of keeping warm.


They’re keeping out the cold by closing doors and windows, covering windows with thick curtains, blocking draughts with weatherstripping sealing tape, and installing a thick layer of Saint-Gobain Isover insulation above the ceiling. They’re adding warm layers of clothing and using winter bedding. Instead of an open fireplace that sends heat up the chimney, their home is now cosy with heat from a closed-combustion fireplace by Calore that burns renewable energy in the form of pellets of wood waste.


And in preparation for a more comfortable summer, their green home makeover included heat-reflective paint from Breathecoat on their roof.


Watch the webisode to see how they did it.

What about you?

Below are some ideas of things you can do. If you have more ideas, join the conversation and share!

  • No cost

    Change habits to save at least 10%
  • Low cost

    Spend under R1000 to lift savings to about 30%
  • Invest to save

    Invest more to take savings up to 50% or more
  • Put your windows to work

    Any north-facing house is already built for passive solar heating, but you have to help. As soon as the winter sun is shining, open all curtains to let the warm sunshine in. But leave windows and doors tightly shut until temperatures peak in the afternoon. That’s the time for fresh air. Seal up again before it gets cool in the evening, with heavy curtains or blinds on windows so you don’t lose precious heat. In summer, close curtains of western-facing windows against the hot afternoon sun..

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  • Dress for winter success

    Cottons are cool, but consider putting them away for the winter. Wool, fleece, down and insulating synthetics trap heat much better. Use layers for added warmth and control. Slip on another layer before you switch on the heater. We lose a lot of heat through our heads, so get  hat covered. Scarves also make a big difference. Why spend money heating the whole room, when it’s just your body that needs to be warm?

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  • Give your air conditioner a winter job

    Though air conditioners are best avoided if possible, they do have a quirk that you can put to use in winter if you already own one: they are more efficient at heating than at cooling. Compared to ordinary electric heaters, most air-conditioners can generate 2 or 3 times more heat per watt. If located high on a wall, make sure their louvers direct the air toward the floor

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  • Put heat where you need it

    If you must use electric heat, make sure it goes only where you need it. An electric blanket, hot water bottle or fan heater all direct the heat to warm you up quickly. Infrared, or quartz bar heaters are also efficient as long as you are in front of them. They don’t heat the air, so switch them off as soon as you move away. Avoid underfloor and wall heating, which waste by warming indiscriminately. If you need to keep a room warm, an oil fin heater works well—with the door closed. Buy heaters with timers and/or thermostats to avoid wasting energy.

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  • Dodge the draft

    If you like fresh winter breezes, leave your windows open and bundle up. If you prefer a warm house, hunt down the drafts blowing under doors and around windows. Trace their edges with a burning stick of incense or the palm of your hand to find air leaks and block them with self-adhesive ‘weatherstripping’. Attach a ‘sweep’ to the bottom of a door to close the gap to the floor, or use a beanbag ‘snake’ or ‘sausage’. Check the ceiling for gaps where heat escapes, such as the attic hatch.

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  • Give your fireplace a window

    Open fireplaces may look charming, but you can’t see the heat and pollutants whooshing up the chimney. Modern, closed-combustion fireplaces and wood stoves retain the charm while vastly improving efficiency by controlling the flow of air. Wood pellets from scrap or firewood from suburban tree fellers are also sustainable fuels. Choose a wood-burner if the romance of building a fire inspires you; pellets are for those who value convenience.

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  • Protect your home with adequate insulation on top

    Poke your head into the ceiling. If you don’t see a thick coat of insulation, you’re losing too much heat in the winter and gaining too much in the summer. A layer of glass wool or blown-in cellulose made from recycled paper can cut heating costs by a quarter. If summer’s heat is your problem, foil insulation under the roof can help reflect heat away. Roof paints specially formulated to ward off the sun’s heat are also available.

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  • Save in summer and winter with ceiling fans

    If summer’s heat is tempting you toward air conditioning, try a celing fan first. Not only are ceiling fans much less expensive than air conditioners to buy, they use as little as 1/10th of the electricity to run, while lowering the apparent room temperature by a few degrees. But fans don’t cool the air, only the skin of the person in their breeze, so turn them off when exiting. In winter, use them in brief spurts or in reverse at low speed in heated rooms to push warm air down from the ceiling.

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  • Allow summer’s heat an escape route

    If you are renovating and want a cooler house in the summer, look up. Heat gets trapped at the ceiling. Installing high exterior windows and ‘transom’ windows above the doors between rooms can help heat flow through and out of your home. Whole-house extractor fans suck the heat out and draw in cool breezes at night. If mosquitoes cause you to close windows on summer nights, invest in screens.

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Sponsored Products

Products used in the Ngewana green home makeover. Please note that this is not a product endorsement.

  • Piazzetta P936 wood pellet fireplace from Calore
    This closed-combustion fireplace offers programmable and remotely controlled heat, burning pellets of scrap wood.
  • Aerolite ceiling insulation from Saint-Gobain
    Isover ‘Think Pink’ glasswool insulation adds to comfort and savings, reducing winter heat loss and summer heat gain.
  • Ceiling fans from Eurolux
    Two-in-one ceiling fans provide both light and cool breezes, using less energy than an air conditioning.
  • Winter bedding from Woolworths
    Warm winter bedding, made from recycled material that traps air in for extra warmth.
  • Roofguard - roof paint from Breathecoat Nanotek
    Reduces global warming, natural insulator, zero volatile organic compounds (voc), 100% eco friendly.