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It's getting cool outside - home heating solutions this winter

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It's getting cool outside - home heating solutions this winter

by Megan Macpherson

Winter is here, and in some parts of Australia, the temperatures are dropping substantially. A forgotten issue over summer, home heating has suddenly become relevant. If you don’t have heating in your home, or the current system is still leaving you cold, then investigate the best options for home heating. Several issues need to be considered, including effectiveness, energy efficiency and cost. With careful research you will not need to compromise on any of these factors.

According to the Australian Greenhouse Office as part of the Department of Environment and Heritage, starting off with passive design principles in the home, or building envelope, reduces the need for heating, and makes heating more energy efficient. This includes adequate insulation of the walls and roof, double glazing windows, letting sun in during the day, and closing blinds or curtains at night. When deciding on what kind of heater you need for your home, consider the size of the rooms you will be heating, and whether you will heat all of them or just a few.

Gas heaters produce only one third of the amount of greenhouse gases as electric heaters. However, gas heaters can affect indoor air quality, due to the release of carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. Ensure your home is ventilated to enable fresh air to circulate inside the house. In winter, open windows during the warmest part of the day. High efficiency natural gas heaters release the least greenhouse gases, and also have the lowest running cost, out of all space heating options. Of course flued heaters are the best option, but sometimes are not possible. Unflued gas heaters can create condensation problems, so take care that mould growth does not occur.

Wood heating is another option, used by approximately 20 per cent of homes. It is a renewable energy source, if it is obtained properly, but most homes use wood from unsustainable sources. Wood heating also produces the most amount of pollution. Be careful not to use green or treated timbers, and burn wood in high efficiency heaters. Open fireplaces are the least efficient heaters, with 90 per cent of the heat going up the chimney. Slow combustion heaters and stoves are the best option, as long as they comply with AS 4013 for flue gas emissions.

The efficiency of central heating systems is difficult to ascertain, as their effectiveness depends on the specifications of the home in which they operate. They can be a waste of energy if heating space in the house which is not used. However they can be more effective than space heaters, such as a portable fan heater, as they can redistribute hot air, and heat an entire room more quickly.

The appearance and comfort of a fireplace style heater is something that may be desired by a lot of households, but is incompatible with a modern home, as well as being an inefficient heater. One brand of heating solutions is Designer Fires who have both natural gas and wood burning fire products for the modern home. Their products are glass open fires, which mean that the flames are visible through the glass, and the heat is transmitted through glass surfaces instead if being lost through brickwork. They have several types; a wall mounted fire, a wall fire between two rooms, a fire in the corner of a room, and also a freestanding fire which can be seen on all sides. There is also a product which has natural gas flames that appears to be burning on pebbles in the bottom of the fireplace. This is a design feature which is now a popular option in modern homes, which still has the appearance of a fireplace, but without the by-products of a wood fire such as ash and smoke. Designer Fires have variations in design, to fit into the existing living space.

If you are still stuck with what kind of heater to use, then check out the Australian Consumers' Association website. They have a great online calculator which helps you estimate what size heater you might need according to the specifications of your home.

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