Story by David Renwick
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Prepping for the colder seasons? Unfortunately, warming up your home isn’t as simple as just buying a wall heater. Here’s all you need to know
In fact, according to Consumer NZ, New Zealanders spent over $600 per household on electricity between the months of July and September 2016, quite a step up from summer month spending.
To help you survive the colder months, we’ve put together this guide to heating your home – without breaking the bank.
Understanding the basics
A warm dry home is more than just a wall heater or fireplace; you’ve got consider insulation, ventilation, dampness and heating equally. Each of these has a role to play in keeping your home warm and dry.
Here’s how it all works.
If your home isn’t properly insulated, much of your generated heat is simply going to up and leave through your ceiling/roof, windows and doors, walls and even the floor. Effective insulation should start with your roof, followed by the walls and then the floor. Lastly, use curtains to form seals around your windows.
With your home nice and insulated, it’s time to turn our attention to dampness. As you likely know, this can be a serious problem, leaving your home uncomfortable, unhealthy and just generally unpleasant.
Most dampness comes from the bathroom, when you run a shower or bath in a bathroom without proper ventilation. But it can also come from cooking – and even breathing contributes to it.
To largely solve the dampness problem, make sure you run an extractor fan in the bathroom (or use a shower dome) and dry clothes outside whenever possible. Use a rangehood in the kitchen to whisk away steam.
For living areas and bedrooms, dehumidifiers are one of the best ways to reduce moisture in the air.
The more moisture in the air – relative humidity – the more energy it takes to it heat it up and keep it warm.
Natural ventilation may not be a problem if you have an older home (thanks to tiny gaps in the construction), but modern homes will almost certainly be sealed up. The solution? It’s an easy one – open your windows daily to get some air flow through the house.
This helps reduce moisture build up – making your home healthier and easier to warm up.
Home ventilation systems are another good (albeit expensive) option.
With your home insulated, the dampness taken care of (or at least mitigated), and ventilation sorted, it’s time to assess heating. In this section, we’ll go over the most effective heating options.
Effective, effortless and affordable to run, heat pumps take ambient heat from outside and transfer it inside. Using a fan, they then distribute this warm air throughout the space. You can choose small units for apartments and bedrooms, and larger units for living areas.
Heat pumps can also reverse their operation in winter, thus cooling your home and saving you buying an air conditioning unit or other cooling system. Note that heat pumps can be expensive to buy and install.
Plug-in electric heaters are one of the most popular home heating options, largely because they’re so cheap and readily available. They do come with a few downsides, however.
Unlike a heat pump, they’re not capable of uniformly heating large spaces. Consumer NZ found that with electric oil fin heaters did a poor job heating areas closer to the floor.
So where should you use them? We’d recommend a plug-in electric heater for guest rooms or the home office.
The sky’s the limit when it comes to gas heating, with mock fireplaces, wall-mounted units and even large central heating systems available. Using gas heating, however, will depend on whether you can actually access it, as not every home has piped natural gas.
If you’re already hooked up to natural gas for your hot water and cooking, you’ll likely find this is an affordable option.
Alternatively, you can use bottled gas in temperate climates.
For all you traditionalists out there, the fireplace is the oldest home heating option there is – but they’ve come a long way. Modern fireplaces are stylish, better at distributing heat and, of course, they’ll mean your electricity bill is substantially lower.
They’ve also come a long way technically from the old open fire – with double burning systems, and the potential to add in a wetback to heat your hot water system.
Many local authorities now ban open fireplaces or old wood burners because of the pollution caused by their inefficient burning.
Downsides of a fireplace – stacking the firewood, cleaning out the ashes, and coming back to a cold house and needing to get the fire going!
Ducted systems also mean you can send this heat throughout the home if you’re willing to commit to the installation.
Helpful guides and information
Home renovations can be stressful, so head to some of our other articles if you’re still feeling a little lost. If you’re ready to get underway with your new kitchen, read the ‘Getting started’ guide. You can also get the answers to your specific renovation or new home questions in the Q&A section.
First published date: 13 December 2017