Winter warmers

21:58, Aug 20 2009
CHIPPING AWAY: Old-style chippies in many older homes are more ornamental than functional, although some are still in good working condition. Contemporary versions are available that are extremely fuel-efficient and can heat the water as well as the house

Turning up the heat this winter may be as simple as pushing a control panel button. LYNDA PAPESCH reports.

Keeping warm, dry and healthy during the colder months of the year means different things for different people, depending on how they heat their homes. Some will have started diligently collecting and storing firewood during the summer months; others will rely on gas, electricity, pellets and having wood delivered.

No matter what heating system is used, however, there are perceived financial, logistical, environmental and even health pluses and minuses to most home heating options.

In recent years, for instance, many councils have banned coal and wood-burning fires, while others permit only specific approved woodburners in a move to reduce environmental pollution. Arguably, modern woodburners should be designed to burn more efficiently than those of a few years ago, and if they've not been tested and passed certain standards, they should not be on the market.

A woodburner might not be the best option, however, no matter how heartwarming and evocative the sight of leaping flames can be. Wood pellet fires are now available that provide different heat outputs and are a suitable compromise for those who like flickering flames but cannot get their own wood. The pellets, made from recycled materials such as sawdust, have the advantage of being easily sourced, lightweight and relatively cheap.

Another option is gas fires, although these are not good for people with respiratory problems or in homes with high ceilings. On the other hand, they can look like the real thing, complete with burning logs.


One of the key times to look at home heating is when building or renovating.

Consider the needs of those who will be living in the house and how best these needs will best be met. Underfloor heating via pipes in the concrete is a popular choice, using gas, a diesel boiler or even solar panels to heat the water flowing through them. A variation is under-tile heating which uses electric cables laid between the existing floor and ceramic tiles. In older homes underfloor fixes include silver lining and polystyrene blocks under the floorboards.

Today's building regulations require certain insulation standards that help to ensure warm, dry homes, but with the exception of woodburner bylaws, the actual heating system is usually still left up to the owner. In addition to gas or pellet fires, many modern homes feature heat pumps and heat recovery ventilation systems which transfer hot (and cold) air from room to room. 

One such system is the HRV Whole Home Ventilation System as touted on TV by Marc Ellis. The HRV system takes the free, warm, dry air from a home's roof cavity, filters it, purifies it and then circulates it through the home via ducts.  The system, which is based in the roof cavity, costs around $2500 for a three-ducts set-up and around 10 cents per day to run.  A major benefit is that it eliminates condensation,  which also makes for a healthier home environment. While not a primary heating source, it is worth investigating as an enhancer.

Heat pumps are a primary heating source. They create warmth and transfer it from room to room via ducts and vents. Such systems are also powered by electricity with claims of heating homes for as little as 10c a day.

Other options include oil column heaters and fan heaters; the latter being one of the most expensive forms and recommended usually for small spaces and short times.

Remember  not all areas of a home nteneed to be the same temperature all the time. There's no point wasting heat in a room no-one is using.

The Marlborough Express