Turn up the heat

Last issue, we discussed just how important it is for a healthy home to keep your home warm and dry. But with so many options available, and the inevitable expense of installation and ongoing heating costs, how do you choose the right heater for your home?

top tip

Before you invest in heating, look at insulating first. Insulating your house is one
of the most effective things you can do to get a warm, comfortable and healthy home. If your house was built before 2000 you can get up to $1,300 (or 33%) towards the cost
of ceiling and under floor insulation under the Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart programme. Once the insulation has been installed, you will then be eligible for an additional $500 grant for an efficient heater.

what sort of heater do you need?

Firstly, you need to work out exactly what sort of heater you need (for example, heat pump, wood burners, flued gas heater, etc). That consists of going through the different heating options (see below for a rundown of each system’s pros and cons) and deciding whether they will suit your needs and budget.

You also need to consider how you use the rooms that you want to heat as this often determines the type of heater that you should be considering. For example, for rooms that you regularly use, it is well worth investing a little bit more upfront in efficient, fixed heaters which enable you to heat them effectively and cheaply. Clean, efficient forms of heating include modern wood and wood-pellet burners, heat pumps and flued gas heaters. Alternatively, for rooms that only get used occasionally and for short periods of time, electric heaters which are cheap to buy but expensive to run can often be sufficient. There are different types to suit different needs.

what size heater do you need?

It’s important to match the size of the system to the space you want to heat. The size
of heater that you need is determined by a number of factors, such as size of the room, insulation (floor, wall and/or ceiling etc), size and number of windows, number
of external walls, etc. You should also seek professional advice about heater sizing
from a heating supplier before committing to anything.

running costs

Note that actual running costs can vary a lot depending on several things, including how well insulated your home is and how you use your heating (for example, running a heat pump at a very high temperature won’t heat up your room any faster, but it will be far less energy-efficient; and learning to use the timer features and regularly cleaning the filters will also ensure you use your heat pump more efficiently).

This is a brief overview of the most common types of heating options:

heat pumps

good for:

  • low running costs when used properly.
  • producing instant heat.
  • convenience - you can control the temperature and timing with the thermostat and timer controls.

be aware that:

  • it must be sized correctly - for the space and the climate - to work well (if you live in a colder area, ask the supplier to size the heat pump based on its “H2” performance).
  • some are a lot more efficient than others.
  • it won’t work during a power cut.

modern woodburners

good for:

  • low running costs, especially if you have access to free or cheap firewood.
  • the environment - it produces very little pollution and uses renewable wood energy as a fuel.
  • heating large spaces.
  • heating hot water in winter through a wetback system.

be aware that:

  • firewood must be dry to burn most efficiently so you need to plan ahead and store it undercover, ideally for at least 12 months.
  • building consent approval for installation is needed and, unless your property is larger than two hectares, you need to use a woodburner on the Ministry for the Environment’s list of approved wood burners.

wood pellet burners

good for:

  • the environment - the pellets are made from waste products and burn very cleanly.
  • heat control (better than a wood burner).
  • heating large spaces.
  • heating hot water in winter through a wetback system.

be aware that:

  • it won’t work if your electricity isn’t working (it uses a small amount of electricity).
  • building consent is needed for installation.
  • in areas with air quality issues only authorised burners can be installed - see the Ministry for the Environment’s list of approved wood pellet burners.

flued gas (natural or LPG) heaters

good for:

  • convenience - you can control the temperature and timing with the thermostat and timer controls.
  • heating larger areas for
    longer periods.

be aware that:

  • you may have to pay a fixed charge for reticulated gas supply.
  • choose one that has a minimum 4-star rating for efficiency and complies with AS 4553 (AG 103) Gas Space Heating Appliances and which is currently listed in the Australian Gas Association Product Certification Scheme - ask your supplier or go to www.aga.asn.au to check.
  • gas heaters must always be installed by
    a registered gas fitter.

electric heaters

good for:

  • heating a small room infrequently and for short periods only.

be aware that:

  • they are more expensive to run than most other heating options.
  • there are different types but they all have the same efficiency (i.e. the same amount of heat output per unit of electricity).
  • there are different types (e.g. radiant, convection, fan) that deliver heat in different ways.
  • many have built-in thermostats, but some aren’t very accurate.

central heating

good for:

  • providing whole-of-house heating.
  • convenience - you can control the temperature and timing with the thermostat and timer controls.
  • zoning - many are zone-controlled so you can control the temperature in different parts of the home.

be aware that:

  • heat can be supplied by a gas or wood pellet heating system, or a heat pump - see information on these different forms of heating above.
  • it is worth choosing a system that has an individual thermostat for each room.

unflued gas (natural or LPG)

good for:

  • back-up heating during power cuts, if your normal heating relies on electricity to operate.

be aware that:

  • there are health risks - it will pollute air with toxic gases and large amounts of water vapour, so you must keep at least one window open when it is in use and never use it in bedrooms. In fact, NZ is one of the last countries in the western world to still allow unflued gas heaters, due to serious health concerns about their use.
  • it can make your home damp by putting moisture into the air.
  • unflued LPG heaters are the most expensive form of heating (except for some open fires).
  • portable LPG heaters can be a fire risk, as anything too close can catch
    fire quickly.
  • For unflued gas heaters, 30% of the heat produced is assumed to be lost due to the requirement to leave a window open.

For all options, note that fuel costs canvary greatly depending on location, retailer and plan.

Information supplied by EECA Energywise. For more handy tips and detailed info, check out their website: www.energywise.govt.nz

 

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