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Keeping warm is usually the largest energy user (and cost), especially in Southern Australia. Accordingly, it is a good place to start for saving money, improving comfort and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
If you were outside and you wanted to keep warm on a cold day, you would wrap yourself up in warm clothes, stand out of the wind and try and catch the sun if there is any. As a last resort you would light a fire. Fundamentally, this is what you do to a house to keep warm. For a house the warm clothes are the insulation (ceiling insulation, curtains etc), standing out of the wind is weatherstripping the home so cold drafts don’t come in, catching the sun is having north facing windows to get warmth from the winter sun and lighting a fire is having some form of heater. As in my analogy, lighting the fire is the last resort because that produces greenhouse gases and is an ongoing expense.
Let’s look at these elements. The first is insulation. If you have an older existing home, it is unlikely that your home is well insulated. The order of importance of insulation is generally:
Your options may be limited by renting or financial constraints. However, look at your insulation needs in the above order.
For your clothing in winter, ensure you have long sleeves and either long pants or tights to keep your legs warm. More on this in Winter Comfort
If the insulation in the ceiling doesn’t at least come up to the ceiling joists, I recommend that you add more. In cathedral ceilings or flat rooves, consider blown in insulation if lifting the roof to get batts in is too hard.
More on ceiling insulation including faults that may be reducing the performance of the insulation you have, can be found in Get Insulation Right
Window insulation options are extensive, and should be considered with both summer and winter in mind and depend a lot on the direction the window faces. Basically, in winter you want to keep the heat in, but let sunlight in when it is available, but in summer you want to keep heat out, in particular direct sunlight and at night allow built up heat to escape. Window options can include blinds, curtains, add on glazing and even replacing windows with double glazing if the frames are deteriorated. More on this in Winter Comfort
Insulating walls is generally something that can only be done by a professional unless you are replacing either the external cladding or the internal lining. This means it can be expensive and it may be worth getting a professional energy efficiency report before committing any money to verify if that is the most cost-effective approach.
Floor insulation also tends to be expensive and whether it is worthwhile depends on the performance of the rest of the house, so again I recommend a professional energy efficiency report if you are contemplating it.
For information on weatherstripping, refer stop-air-leaks-in-your-home