With energy costs on the rise, it pays to think carefully about your home heating options. Here are some things to consider.
Before you choose
- Before you turn on any heating, make sure you insulate the ceiling, exclude draughts around doors and windows and add curtains or blinds to large areas of glass.
- A one-bar radiator is not going to warm a large family room! Choose the right size of heating appliance for the job.
- Think about the safety of whatever you choose. Appliances with exposed radiant elements can be a fire hazard, particularly if you have small children.
- If you’re building or renovating, you might be able to build in a heating system: underfloor or hydronic (water-based) heating, ducted gas or electrical central heating. While these systems have a fairly high set-up cost, they can be cheaper to operate in the long run than stand-alone options, so talk to your builder or architect.
The right gas heater can provide good value for money, as it will heat a reasonable-sized space efficiently in a fairly short time and, relatively speaking, is cheap enough to leave on for long periods of time. Burning gas, however, does produce some fumes and also condensation, so this needs to be taken into account when choosing your heater. Gas heaters can be flued (fumes are directed outside via a pipe or flue) or unflued (vapours remain in the room, so there must be adequate ventilation). Obviously, flued heaters are fixed in place, whereas unflued heaters can be moved around, as long as there is a gas supply fitting. Gas heaters that look remarkably like open fires can also be built into new or existing fireplaces, combining ambience with efficiency.
There is a huge variety of portable electric heaters, ranging from very cheap to quite expensive – but it is the running cost that is the more important consideration, so always check how much power they draw. Small radiant heaters are good for heating small areas, such as bathrooms or bedrooms, but a slightly larger space would be better served by an electric fan heater, which can heat the air much more quickly and efficiently. Solar power is making electric heating a more economical option.
Reverse cycle air conditioning
For larger rooms or open-plan areas, one of the most efficient methods of heating is to install a reverse-cycle air conditioner: cool in summer and warm in winter. The initial outlay is more than a stand-alone space heater, but the running costs for heating are cheaper, and it is very safe.
Everyone loves a cosy open fire, but in terms of heating, they are very inefficient! A fully enclosed, slow combustion wood stove is many times more efficient than a fireplace, but you still need to consider the cost, supply and storage of fuel (wood), as well as the environmental impact of the smoke. Some metropolitan councils no longer allow the installation of wood-burning appliances.