Feeling The Heat – Part 1
by Lisa De Silva
In part 1 of our heating feature, we take a look at the more traditional methods of keeping your home warm and cosy during the winter months, from central to underfloor heating.
On a cold winter’s day there’s nothing as lovely as coming back to a warm and cosy home. Yet with the high and fluctuating cost of gas, oil and electricity, it’s important that we heat our homes in the most efficient and energy saving way possible.
To help you achieve this, we’ve put together a two part series on staying warm and snug this winter. This month we look at traditional types of heating based on non-renewable energy, such as gas and oil and next month, we’ll explore ways to reduce our carbon footprint and energy bills by heating our homes using renewable forms of energy, such as wood and solar power.
One of the most efficient and cost effective ways to heat your home is gas fired central heating. However, around 4 million homes in the UK are not connected to the gas grid and have to rely on other forms of fuel, such as oil and liquid petroleum gas (LPG), which have to be delivered by road and stored in a tank. To ensure your household never runs out, there are now systems that monitor the amount of fuel left in your tank and automatically contact your supplier when more is required.
Regardless of the type of fuel that fires your boiler, the choice of a standard or combi boiler will depend on your lifestyle and how much hot water your household uses. A standard boiler heats water which is stored in a hot water tank to be used when needed, while a combi boiler doesn’t require a tank but heats up water instantly whenever the hot tap is turned on. For small families, a combi boiler can be more cost effective, however they are not as efficient at heating water as a standard boiler and so a large family using lots of hot water might find a standard boiler with an insulated tank works out cheaper to run.
Whatever type of boiler you choose, be aware that an A rated condensing one will be cheaper to run than an older non-condensing one, although there are many factors which will influence energy bills, including the level of insulation in your home and the age of your house. As a general rule of thumb, newer properties are built with much better insulation than older homes, but there’s much you can do to improve poor insulation, including loft insulation, double glazing, draught excluders and window and door drapes.
Depending on your personal taste, the range of radiators now available in terms of styling, colour and size, means your heat source can double up as anything from a sculptural work of art, a nostalgic reminder of your school days, to a longline mirror. Even if you’re stuck with conventional radiators, there are now a whole range of covers available to help them blend in with and reflect your home decor. A good tip to save both energy and money, is to fit individual thermostatic radiator valves, as this allows you to control and lower the temperature in rooms which are not used during the coldest months.
Electric heaters are one of the most expensive forms of heating, but using night storage heaters which run on a cheaper night time rate of electricity (Economy 7) can lessen the cost. These work by using heat retaining bricks which are warmed during the night and gradually release heat throughout the day. Stylistically, night storage heaters are much thinner and more streamlined than in the past and today many look like conventional wall mounted radiators.
However, if your only choice is to use portable electric radiators, try to ensure the room is as insulated as possible to improve their efficiency.
Underfloor heating can distribute heat more evenly throughout a room than conventional radiators, which tend to heat isolated areas and is a modern, high spec addition to any property. It reduces the need for radiators and is a pleasure to walk across. If you’re considering it for your home, while it’s a flexible option for an extension or new room, fitting it retrospectively can be expensive and disruptive. In fact, not only can it be expensive to install, but also to maintain and run and be aware that smaller systems may still need supplementing with radiators to keep you warm in the depths of winter.
There are two main types of underfloor heating; electric or water based systems. Electric underfloor heating is often supplied as a ready to roll electrical mat and is relatively straightforward to fit retrospectively, but once fitted is expensive to run. Owing to the running costs, electric underfloor heating is not recommended for large rooms.
Water underfloor heating systems are more complicated and expensive to install, because they involve laying pipes which connect to the boiler. If the room you want to install it in is not close to the main heating system the cost and disruption will increase, making it a more suitable option for new build properties. However, once fitted it is less expensive to run than an electric system.
HEAT STORAGE STOVES
Heat storage stoves, such as the Aga and Rayburn, add both warmth and character to your home, making the need for an extra radiator in the kitchen redundant. They run on energy which is low intensity but continuous, which heats up the heavy cast iron framework until it is hot enough for cooking. Originally designed to run on coal, newer models are more adaptable and can run on gas, electricity, diesel or wood. New technology also means that some models are now programmable allowing them to be turned on and off, giving you more control and flexibility over heat production.