More fires less heat pumps

More Marlborough homes are heated by electricity and wood fires than in 2006.

Census figures from Statistics New Zealand show that 12,108 homes used electricity for heating in 2006. But by 2013, that number had increased to 13,347, an increase of 1239.

Over the same period, the number of homes that used wood fires for heating increased from 9588 to 10,029, a rise of 441 homes.

Heating Marlborough owner Peter Cairns said the increase in the number of people using wood fires as their main heat source did not surprise him because these days people focused on efficiency.

"I think people are going back to that wood," he said. "The cost of power is not going down, it's going up."

His business had been busy over the past month or so installing free-standing fires.

He believed many people had reconsidered their home heating after the earthquakes in Canterbury and Marlborough, in part because they wanted heating if the power went out.

"Since the earthquake we have been quite busy. A lot of our chimneys in Seddon were pulled down so they took the opportunity to install free-standing ones."

"It gives people a bit of security."

At a Marlborough District Council meeting last week, council building group manager Bill East said his inspectors had noticed that while more people were having heat pumps installed in new homes, they were later installing fireplaces, probably after seeing their increased power charges.

The Statistics New Zealand figures showed the number of homes in Marlborough using solar power increased from 228 in 2006 to 498 in 2013.

Homes which used mains gas as the major heating source had also risen, from 75 in 2006 to 114 in 2013.

People relying on coal to heat their homes fell from 897 in the 2006 census to 573 in the 2013 census.

The number of homes using bottled gas for heating fell from 4179 in 2006 to 2469 in 2013.

However, Elgas South Island regional manager Rodger Smith said their company was seeing an increase in the number of people who wanted bottled gas to heat their homes.

"We have not seen a decline in the Marlborough region. In fact we have more customers now than ever before.

"However, I do understand the statistics with the penetration of heat pumps."

Often people viewed LPG as an expensive option, he said.

"That is a misconception. More often than not it is less expensive than electricity."

The number of homes with no heating remained steady; there were 153 homes without heating in 2006 and 150 in 2013.

New builds would have accounted for some of the increases.

From 2006 to 2013, the number of occupied private dwellings increased from 16,842 to 17,943. When filling in the census, people could tick more than one heating option.

The Marlborough Express