Weighing up Your Best Heating Options

Last week I wrote about the balance between time and money in life and in renovation, and which heaters are good, bad and okay. To review, most of us trade our time for money and our money for time. (More on this later.) The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) recommends that homes have at least one energy efficient fixed heater with a low running cost. These may include a flued mains gas heater, a wood burner, a wood-pellet burner, or an Energy Star rated heat pump. On the other hand, what EECA does not recommend is the use of unflued gas heaters be they mains tied (usually in the hall) or LPG tank heaters. If you know anyone who uses these heaters please share the following sentence: These heaters make homes damp and release toxic gases, and LPG heaters are a fire risk and are THE MOST EXPENSIVE FORM ON HOME HEATING IN NEW ZEALAND. EECA sees no problem using plug-in electric heaters for short periods of time in bedrooms, bathrooms and other rooms that are used periodically. In my opinion it is better to use a dehumidifier in a bedroom on the south side of a home than an electric heater if there is an efficient heater in the lounge. Of course no heating decisions should be made for a home without first topping up ceiling insulation and addressing the huge heat loss from windows and glass doors. (More on these in the weeks to come.) EECA’s EnergyWise website lists the pros and cons of fixed heaters. Here are some highlights:

Screen shot 2015-05-22 at 10.00.45 AM

Modern woodburners are good for:

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

However, be aware that:

  • firewood must be dry to burn most efficiently
  • building consent approval for installation is needed

 Screen shot 2015-05-22 at 9.57.38 AM

Wood pellet burners are 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

However, be aware that:

  • they won’t work if your electricity isn’t working
  • building consent is needed for installation

 Screen shot 2015-05-22 at 9.59.10 AM

Flue gas heaters are good for:

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

However, be aware that:

  • you may have to pay a fixed charge for reticulated gas supply
  • EECA recommends choosing  an ENERGY STAR qualified model
  • gas heaters must always be installed by a registered gas fitter Screen shot 2015-05-22 at 9.56.28 AM

Heat pumps are 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.

However, be aware that:

  • they must be sized correctly – for the space and the climate
  • some are a lot more efficient than others – look for the ENERGY STAR® mark
  • they won’t work during a power cut.

What all of these heaters have in common are low running costs but a higher installation bill. In most cases these heaters will pay for themselves over time and afterward represent ongoing savings for you year after year. This is known as ‘payback period’ and can be applied to everything from LED lightbulbs to Energy Star refrigerators to heat pumps. After the initial investment they save you oodles of cash over the long run. See, time really is money.   Peace, Estwing

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