Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Short But Miserable Winter

It is the end of the school term. It's winter, and we Australians find ourselves huddling under lap-blankets at night, sucking on hot lemon drinks and cracking open the antibiotics to treat our hacking, phlegmy coughs. Winter doesn't go on for very long (3 months at most) but when it happens, as it does every year, we seem woefully unprepared.

"This is unfair!" we wail, "How can this cold weather be happening to us?"

The thermometer stands at 8 C (46 F) overnight. It reaches 15 C (59 F) by day. Come mid-winter, it will be min 5 C to max 13 C (41-55 F).

If you are thinking, "Gosh, these Australians aren't as tough as they look," bear in mind that we do not heat our houses adequately! So, now you would be correct in thinking, "These Australians are not as smart as they look."

Unless you are very wealthy (and somewhat wasteful) you DO NOT INSTALL central heating in your home. At my place we just have the one gas heater which heats the lounge room. We have a couple of electric oil-filled radiators for the kids rooms when it is very cold. But that is pretty much it.

As for insulation? Some people have proper insulation in the ceilings. I'm not sure whether we do or not, I haven't been up there to look. In the walls, it seems to be an optional extra. We are having new room built on at the moment, and I had to specifically ask our builder to make sure the walls are insulated. Other than that, it would be just drywall, empty space, foil-paper to seal out the rain, and weatherboard. I am horrified!

I have a Canadian girlfriend, Heather, who lived in Australia a few years ago while we were at University together. Heather described our living conditions in winter as 'positively barbaric'. She slept in a full tracksuit, thick socks, and she wore a woollen cap to bed which she called a "toche". (We call it a beanie, but there you go.) Heather was so rugged up, her boyfriend (now husband) wondered if "everything was OK" between them.

The only good thing about our tendency to underheat our home is that our energy bill is low compared to what it could be. For our household of 4, it costs about $1750 in total per year, for all our electricity and natural gas consumption. I gather this is pretty light.

(I have to add that I don't use the electric oven much because it sucks power. We have a clothes dryer, but we rarely use it. Same reason.)

Do you find heating/cooling to be essential? What can you live with? What can't you live without??


  1. our electric bills are about the same as yours, we run a/c or heat all year, mostly a/c of course being here in south florida. i keep it on 71 year round. we run ceiling fans (4) on low to move air around. we have two walls that are mostly all floor to ceiling glass but they are sealed good and don't seem to leak air.

    i've been meaning to ask you something. you could even do a post about it if you want to. what is australian food? i know what chinese is, and mexican, and italian, etc. but have no idea what y'all eat.

    smiles, bee

  2. 3 months of winter!?!?!?! 41 degrees at it's coldest!?!?!?! I am SOOO jealous.

    We need our heat for sure, couldn't live without it with our winters here in Michigan. My air conditioner is broke now, and it sucks. It is 88 degrees right now :( But I CAN live without it... I guess lol.

  3. 1. I visited Australia 20 years ago and was shocked at how cold it was, but yes, if you build your house without insulation or put louvered windows in the bathroom, which my friend and I thought they did just for tourists so we couldn't shave our goosepimpled legs, then it will be cold inside despite a not too cold temp outside.

    2. Our house is not insulated, either, but the temp drops below zero here. Did they not know about insulation in 1928? We close half the house off in the winter, use space heaters, and wear a lot of clothes.

    I hate winter.

  4. When it hits 45 degrees, I break out the shorts!

    BTW, its over hundred at the moment. I need my a/c.


  5. We use the heat from Nov - Mar [gas heat] and the A/C from June until Sept. Our winters can be mighty cold for VA [in the teens at night and 20's/30's F during the day] Our summers are humid and right now we are approaching 100 F with the added humidity.

    Our electric bill runs about $2400 a year and the gas about $600 - but it used to be incredibly high! But we changed out our dryer from gas to electric and it didn't effect our electric bill too much. And our house is insulated - but there are three floors to cool/heat - I am still looking for that smaller home. :)

    We loved when we could hang our laundry outside to dry but where we live now we can't - themz da' rulez [stupid] but I am glad we changed the dryer out. I hate my gas company.

    I can honestly live without A/C as I hate being cold - but I cannot live without heat and especially my lil' space heater in my bath because that room gets COLD - as in don't touch the porcelin cold. heehee

    I don't get why your homes aren't insulated - it just makes sense and really doesn't cost that much. Well, it shouldn't.

  6. Speak to me of winter when your high temp is 10 degrees F. The heat is cranked up high and there are never enough layers of thick woolen handknits at times like those. I would love a more moderate winter like yours.

    My heating bill makes me weep.