When did heating become a luxury?

1 May


There’s a dance I do each night. I call it the “Switching On and Off of Heaters” dance.

Each night my sleep is broken into increments as I wake every hour or two and either switch a heater on or off in my children’s bedrooms. Forget turning it on in my room…three heavy blankets and three layers of clothing is all I get.

When did heating become a luxury? We now live in a country where adequate heating is a luxury of the reasonably affluent. Us low and middle income families are left to push towels against the bottom of our doorways and use heating sparingly all to avoid the increasingly astronomical electricity bills we’ve been receiving for the past couple of years.

Just after electricity prices increased and before we all started turning lights on and off with the desperation of people whose finances could be ruined by one bill, I won our family competition to see who would get the highest electricity bill. It was $1600.

We are renting an old house. It’s full of drafts, there’s no insulation and its boiling hot during summer and freezing cold during winter. The year I received that ridiculous bill was the year I was home with two little babies. We rarely left the house due to the sleeping and breastfeeding that newborns require every couple of hours and it was a very cold winter that year.

The previous year I’d been hesitant to turn my heaters on because I was so worried about a house fire. There seemed to be quite a few that year and I found I couldn’t sleep if the heater in the babies room was on, so I left it off. My seven-month-old little boy developed a lung infection in a matter of days.

It was the scariest time in my life, to watch my robust, beautiful little boy grow quiet. We were at the doctor for something minor and after listening to his chest the doctor grew quiet himself and then told me my son was seriously ill. It took two courses of antibiotics, frequent trips to the doctor and lots of rest in a warm room to get him better. It only cost me $1600 to get my little boy’s health back..

I have three children but it’s my middle child who has the family ‘weak chest’. Without fail he is the first one to get sick each year and he’ll always get sicker than the others and it takes him longer to get over it. Ironic seeing as he is big for his age where as the other two are small.

We had our first cold night a few days ago. I dressed them in layers and added extra blankets to their beds. I was reluctant to turn their heaters on just yet because we’ve been trying so hard to keep our electricity bill down, which is a challenge in this house. The next morning he woke up with a cold and he’s been coughing at night ever since.

I’ve been turning his heater on each cold night and I keep it on low. His health is improving. I get up and down to turn my eldest son’s heater on and off – he has a sniffle but nothing major.

In an ideal world we’d all have insulation, we’d all live in houses built to maintain reasonable temperatures in our homes and we’d all develop better habits when it comes to saving electricity. As a family we have improved and it was necessary for as all to start being more aware of how much we use. Everything in our house is turned off at the power point now, lights are turned off as soon as we leave the room. We use our heaters sparingly (except in the kids rooms) and we save each week for our upcoming electricity bills which are now more than half the amount of our highest bill, but still a burden and hundreds of dollars more than they used to be.

So heating is now a luxury. For those of us living with little children and the elderly, winter can be a stressful time. I didn’t think people died or became seriously ill from the cold in Australia. It’s a new world…and we’d better get used to it.

La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi

One Response to “When did heating become a luxury?”

  1. Anxiouschica May 1, 2012 at 7:36 pm #

    Sorry about your stress and your little boy!


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