Energy efficiency means using less energy to provide the same service. When it comes to heating that means finding a heating solution that makes your home nice and warm without sending the power bills skyrocketing. Here we’ll review the best most common options plus give you a few tips on how to maximise the heat you get from it.
According to Consumer NZ’s heating and energy specialist, heat pumps are cheaper to run than any other form of heating. For every kilowatt of power in you get out 3 to 4kW! Heat pumps work by taking heat from the air outside and using it to warm the air inside. Variations in type include a single or multi-split system (this means you have one outdoor unit and one or many indoor units) or a ducted system (central heating) and can be mounted on the floor, wall or in the ceiling. A heat pump (of the right size) is the best option for heating those large open plan spaces we’re fond of in modern Kiwi homes.
Gas heaters are good for heating smaller to medium-sized single rooms and can be good value for money depending on your gas supplier.
Flued gas heaters offer further potential energy savings if they have an electronic ignition and not a pilot light running all the time. Plus you can control the temperature settings and fan speeds and programme the timer for even better energy savings.
Un-flued gas heaters provide LOTS of instant heat (un-flued gas heaters have the capacity of up to 25 MJ/h, the equivalent to more than 6kW of electric heating, that’s three 2kW electric heaters!) but come with a major safety warning as they create bi-products of moisture and dangerous carbon monoxide.
Many modern gas fireplaces have 5-star efficiency ratings! They heat a room quickly, burn fuel efficiently and some models offer even more benefits by having add-on vented heat transfer systems to heat additional rooms.
There’s a bit of debate around whether a wood-burning fire is energy efficient or not. Here’s why - they are very powerful heaters and for the money you have to invest in fuel, you can get a whopping 8kW of heat out of it! However, this heat cannot be controlled; once it’s hot it will remain so until the fuel is burnt out. A wood burner used in conjunction with a heat transfer system to spread the heat throughout the home boosts its energy efficiency.
Pellet fires, fuelled by pellets made of compressed organic matter such as sawdust, are incredibly energy-efficient. They’re also pretty good for the environment, being considered carbon neutral because the pellets are recycling waste and because they burn so hot and clean leaving little ash.
There are differences in how quickly and evenly different models of electric heater will warm a room, which directly affects how energy efficient they are. The oscillating tower style of fan heater came out top in testing run by followed by micathermic heaters. Radiant electric heaters, fan and column heaters are the least effective as they provide heat that rises and doesn’t drop until it cools. Convection and panel heaters heat air in a room evenly and quickly but can be comparatively expensive to buy.
The right sized solution
Choosing the right heating solution really depends on the size and shape of the space you want to heat and how you want it to operate so at this point it’s really important that we talk about the power of your heating solution. Whatever you choose, it must be powerful enough to do the job. In New Zealand, on average we need at least 2kW of electricity (or 6 to 8MJ input for a gas option) for a medium-sized living room. You might think a less-powerful heater will be cheaper to run but in actual fact, it takes so much longer to heat the room any potential savings are lost.
Tips to get the most out of your heating solution
Using a ceiling or desk fan helps circulate warm air. In fact, in the testing run by Consumer NZ, placing a small fan on the floor facing an oil column heater raised the average room temperature by 5°C three times faster.
The best defence is a good offence, right? Ensuring your home is well insulated is the very first step in getting the most energy efficient performance from any heating solution.
Double-glazing is the same. It can stop heat loss out glass by up to half!
Quality, thermally lined, floor-length curtains will also help heat loss out windows.
Block draughts coming from under doors using a door snake, and close off spaces you don’t need to heat.
Dry out your home using a dehumidifier. Any moisture in the air will make your heat source work harder and cost more to run.
Heat smarter by setting your heat pump to the temperature you want (eg, 23°C) and letting it do its thing. If you’ve come home to a cold home, turning it on and blasting it at 30°C won’t warm your home faster. And only leave it on all day at a moderate temperature if your home is airtight.
Adjusting the amount of wood in a fire helps it burn smarter and more cleanly than fiddling with the air control. Make sure you use dry firewood that’s not too huge (no bigger than 11cm in diameter) to maximise log surface. And shop around for the best price supplier as they vary greatly.
Energy efficiency isn’t the be-all and end-all of choosing the right heating solution for your home. Part of the decision will be personal preference and part could be driven by the purpose and frequency of use a room gets. You’ll find more information on the different types of heating solution in our free guide. Download a copy now.