Here’s why your home is so cold this winter

Jarrod Brown
By Jarrod Brown
6 Min Read

Australia might be known for its scorching summers and sunny skies, but one major flaw is making our winters feel colder than some snow-covered countries. 

A recent temperature dip has seen Aussies – including migrants from colder climates – taking to social media to ask why it’s colder inside some houses than it is outside.

Alexandra Tuohey, a Canadian content creator living in Australia, says Victoria’s winter snap feels even colder than that of her icy homeland.


Australia – we dont have to live like this 😭 #australia #cultureshock

♬ original sound – alexandratuohey

“The worst part about living in Australia is that I am always cold, even when I’m inside,'” Touhey says in a TikTok video.

But RMIT University senior lecturer Dr Nicola Willand says Aussies aren’t just imagining this year’s indoor winter chill and claims poor insulation and inefficient heaters are to blame. 

“This means that warmth dissipates quickly once heating is switched off, air movement between heated areas and the colder walls and windows make people feel uncomfortable, and it makes heating very ineffective and expensive,” said Willand. 

That was especially true for homes built before the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS) was introduced in 2004, she said, with these homes often too large for their lacklustre systems to heat. 

“Australians build some of the largest homes in the world, and bigger areas translate into higher energy demand,” added Willand. 

“Even though new homes are more energy efficient, central heating in these large homes can be too expensive if householders are burdened with high mortgage payments. 

“Restricting heating to one or two rooms is difficult, as heating control is limited, with many homes having a maximum of two zones to switch on/off.”

Being cold isn’t normal

While Aussies can always expect to rug up when stepping out the door in the middle of the year, Willand says decades of icy interiors have normalised poor building practices dropping temperatures indoors.

RMIT Vice-Chancellor Ralph Horne says Australia’s building codes have been falling behind countries with similar climates, like the US and Europe, for a long time. 

“As far back as 2005, research comparing Australian cities to those overseas found housing in compatible climate zones in North America and Europe was 55 per cent more efficient for heating and cooling energy compared to minimum standard housing in Australia,” said Horne. 

“The average energy efficiency (NatHERS) rating of all the overseas comparison homes was over seven stars, and we have yet to implement seven stars here in Australia almost 20 years later.”

Despite this year’s update to the NatHERS forcing new home builds to hit a seven-star energy efficiency rating, Australia’s current regulatory standards still reinforce underheating.

The building standards are given a passing grade under the assumption that living room heaters are switched off and thermostat settings for bedrooms sit at 15°C between midnight and 7 am – 3°C lower than the temp recommended by the World Health Organisation.

Willand says that the current rating system has made it acceptable for Aussies to be cold at 7 am when most are getting ready for work or school. 

“That ‘chill in the morning’ is a certainly a widely shared experience in Australia – but it shouldn’t be,” she said. 

How to fix a chilly home

With there winter season far from over, there are cost-effective solutions that homeowners and renters alike can use to trap in more heat. 

Small retrofits like sealing up gaps and cracks and adding insulation to ceilings and walls are the easiest way to stay warm on a budget, with draught-proofing materials like tape or panelling available without the need to call a tradie. 

Heavy curtains, particularly ones that reach the ceiling, can also help stop heat from escaping through windows.

While short-term fixes might get you through the coming winter months, Willard said pricier upgrades like installing double-glazed windows would provide homeowners with the best long-term solution. 

“To make sure you get the best bang for your buck, start with a Scorecard assessment or use resources like the YourHome website and sustainability organisations like Renew,” she added. 

Rebates for home upgrades are also available in most states, with governments handing out funds to both owners and tenants for heating efficiency improvements. 

“While there is some financial support to help households retrofit, we need various levels of government to continue to find ways to make sure all households can access this support,” added Willard.

“We also need to ensure we have a strong retrofit industry to do the work. We need to complete deep retrofit of almost 50 dwellings each hour until 2050 if we are to retrofit the existing housing stock.”

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Jarrod Brown combines his background in journalism, copywriting and digital marketing with a lifelong passion for storytelling. He has a strong passion for new and emerging consumer technology within the building sector. He lives on the Sunshine Coast - usually found glued to the deck of a surfboard.