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Gab Learns Heating

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Lesson One: Heating

I thought I knew a thing, or two, about heating. Well the basics, at least. I’m one to feel the cold, so knowing how to get warm quick went hand in hand in winter months. I knew if the heater was on it would heat the surfaces and area of that room. I knew if I added another layer of clothing I’d feel warmer. However, it wasn’t until I started working with the team at Oculus that I realised how I was heating my home, and how I was keeping myself warm was all wrong. And so my lesson in heating began..

The best way to heat your home

The best (and only) way I knew to heat my home was to add heat to the room that required warmth, or to put more layers of clothing on. And while this is one way to heat a home, or to keep warm it isn’t the best way.

Ideally the best way to heat your home is to maintain a consistent temperature inside at all times – not only making the home comfortable for you, but also healthy for the building – preventing mould and other contaminants from finding a home in your house.

If you are able to maintain the internal temperature of your home throughout the day (contrary to the belief this will increase your electricity bill) the heating device isn’t forced to work harder, as it would be if you return home at night and crank the heater full bore. If the latter is more your style, your heater is having to work twice as hard to heat the air temperature to a comfortable level, and this is where you will see spikes in electricity bills – makes sense right?

So what is the optimum temperature we should be aiming for? Based on the seasons and on how much you feel temperature around you, you should aim to keep the temperature between 18-25degrees.

The trouble is, (typical) Kiwi homes aren’t built to allow continuous, consistent heating. Heat loss occurs due to factors such as poor insulation, substandard windows and aluminium joinery. So without a properly enclosed building, we are forced to heat our homes with what we have, and the best we know how.

An example of what I am doing with what I have, and the best I know how

My bedroom has some insulation, it has wooden louvres instead of glass on two windows and two large single glazed windows covered with wooden venetian blinds. If I don’t heat my room in the evenings it is cold, really cold. However if I leave my heater on throughout the night I’m too hot.

So, to mitigate this I use both heating and ventilation systems available to me – the heater runs throughout the night and I sleep with the levers open.

This might sound crazy to you, but this method allows CO2 and moisture to be removed, and fresh air to ventilate through. The heater rises the temperature of fresh air coming in to a comfortable temperature, and keeps the room dry. No waking up hot, or cold, and no waking up to condensation on the windows!

Heat pumps vs heaters vs fireplaces

Fireplaces for life? Right. As weird as it might sound, in terms of carbon, fire places are the most efficient way to heat, however if your home isn’t well insulated it is likely you will only feel the heat when standing directly in front of the fireplace.

Heaters provide a good source of heat (some more than others), but without the air being circulated to other areas of the house, heaters will generally only heat the room they operate in. You could have a heater on in every room of your house, sure – but how efficient is that?

Heat pumps, the most common heating device in Kiwi homes. The best way to utilise these is to maintain the heat throughout the day, and aim for consistent temperature between 18-25degrees. But remember, if your home isn’t well insulted or doesn’t sport quality windows and joinery the heat will struggle to circulate, and will likely be lost. Make sure your heat pump is fit for purpose, there is no need to install a large heat pump for a small room!

How moisture affects heat

Moisture occurs in our homes from living and breathing. If that moisture is not ventilated (removed) properly it can cause build-up of moisture and then condensation becomes more of an issue. The more water in the air makes temperatures more apparent – the more you feel. Therefore, if there is moisture in the air but the air is cold it will feel notably colder and similarly in a warm room, the temperature of the room will be felt more. To ensure moisture doesn’t become an issue in your home, use ventilation systems – have bathroom and kitchen fans running for at least 30mins – 60mins after you’re done.

How does heating affect condensation?

Condensation on windows might be considered normal for most Kiwis, because typically this is how a NZ house is built – with single glazed windows, aluminium joinery and little-to-no insulation. We try to keep the heat inside by closing curtains and blinds but this actually traps air flow. The windows stay cold (from the air temperature outside) and moisture then forms settling on the joinery because the curtains block the air from circulating. Thermal curtains? Sure, they do their job in making you feel warmer in your house, but this won’t stop condensation from forming on your windows. To help mitigate condensation use or install a better ventilation system to remove the moisture from the source.

In summary

Heating your home is more complex than I thought, however not hard to manage right.

If you are not in a position to replace windows and joinery or insulate the house, then understand what method of heating you are using and how you are using it. Ventilation does not mean your home will be cold, so understand how you can help your house breathe, it needs to – just like you.

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