An efficient heating system can cut your costs and your carbon footprint.
When it comes to heaters, don’t be lured by low purchase prices alone. “Basically, the cheaper it is to buy, the more expensive it will be to run,” warns Mick Harris, technical advisor for the Alternative Technology Association.
So which heating options are energy-smart and eco-friendly (besides an extra jumper)?
Generally, space heaters are more economical than central heating. “To be efficient, it’s ideal to heat your main living areas rather than your whole house,” Harris says. “Put a super-efficient gas heater in your living area and keep little electric heaters in the bedrooms to turn on for twenty minutes at the start or end of the day.”
Among space heaters, high-efficiency natural gas models and slow-combustion wood heaters both score low ongoing costs and low greenhouse emissions. Top star-rating reverse-cycle air conditioners are energy efficient, but produce more CO2 if they use coal-fired electricity from the grid.
Power-hungry portable electric heaters fare the worst, so use them sparingly. Oil-filled column heaters normally use less energy than comparable bar radiators or fan heaters (which cost about 40 cents per hour, according to Harris).
With central heating, ‘zoned’ systems are best, because they allow you to heat only the areas you need. For long-term frugality, go for high-efficiency, ducted natural gas, or a hydronic system powered by gas, solar or slow-combustion wood. Some existing central heaters can be retrofitted with zoning – ask a heating specialist.