Decision 1 – Central Heating or Space Heating?
Firstly, it is important to establish which areas of the home you need to heat, how large the areas are, and how long you need to heat the areas for.
Creating zones in your home can allow you to heat each zone individually, giving you flexibility – the key to energy efficiency.
Decision 2 – What size do I need?
Heaters should be sized to maintain a comfortable temperature in a room on an average cold day in winter. This 'heat load' is determined by room dimensions, insulation levels, window areas and covering, indoor and outdoor temperatures etc.
The size of your system should be determined by your supplier, particularly when sizing central heating systems
Decision 3 – What type of heater?
Central heating systems are large heaters capable of heating most of your home at the one time. To help control your heating and reduce running costs, all central heating systems should be zoned. They can also be supplemented by installing a high efficiency space heater in the main living area, to be used when whole house heating is not required.
The most economical central heating systems are either:
- zoned, high efficiency, natural gas ducted heaters;
- zoned, natural gas hydronic systems; or
- zoned, off-peak electric in-slab heating.
Space heaters are designed to heat a zone, rather than a whole home (although some wood heaters can produce enough heat for a whole home). Installing individual space heaters in different zones of a home according to your needs gives you greater heating flexibility.
In general terms, space heating is more economical to run than central heating, essentially because of the smaller area being heated.
The most economical space heaters in terms of running costs are either:
- high efficiency (5-6 stars) natural gas heaters;
- high efficiency (5-6 stars) reverse cycle air conditioners; or
- off-peak electric storage fan heaters.
Portable heaters are generally small units designed to heat small areas. They are most suitable for short periods of heating such as in bedrooms, bathrooms or infrequently used rooms.
Typical portable heaters include electric radiators, electric fan heaters, electric natural convection heaters such as oil-filled heaters, portable gas heaters and kerosene heaters.
- Ceiling fans: useful to bring down to floor level the hot air that builds up at ceiling level
- Heat shifters: a simple ducted system using a fan to move warm air. Useful for moving heated air that has collected in an upstairs area down to the ground floor, or for taking residual heat from a living area to bedrooms when retiring at night.
- Programmable timers: devices which automatically turn heaters on and off at pre-selected times. Useful to pre-heat rooms in the morning or evening, to avoid running the heater continuously.