Wednesday, 15 June 2022: During the winter months, many parts of South Africa become very cold. A large majority of South African homes have tiled floors, open plan designs and large windows to keep cool in summer. When temperatures drop, the cool designs could become freezing. Keeping your home warm and cosy can take away the winter chill and lift your spirits, but it is about understanding which heating option will not break the bank.
So, what is the most energy efficient and appropriate heating option for your home? Understanding the various heating options, will help you make an informed decision about how best to keep your house warm whilst still being energy efficient.
First and foremost
- Insulation is the single most important factor when it comes to heating a home. An insulated room requires 51% less energy than an uninsulated room.
- Insulating your home’s ceiling is the simplest and most effective way to prevent the warm air generated by the heaters from escaping.
- Close exterior windows to contain energy, and inter-leading doors to rooms not needing heating.
According to energy experts, underfloor heating is the most ineffective way to heat your home. Some people only install underfloor heating in specific rooms such as the TV lounge or their bedroom, however the floor must be heated before the temperature influences the warmth of the room and even then, the warm air continues to rise to the ceiling. So, in homes without roof insulation, underfloor heating will fight a losing battle.
Most wall-mounted heaters are low in heating capacity and for them to heat up a room to a comfortable temperature requires them to be left on for a long time. To feel the heating effect the heater must be mounted close to where the heat is needed but even then, the heat it radiates is partially absorbed into the walls and heats up the bricks.
Gas vs electric heaters
Then there is the battle of the heaters. While many people use gas heaters, they are not necessarily more effective than electrical heaters. Given the cost parity of bottled gas versus electricity, and the frequency at which one has to replace the gas bottles, electric heating is more convenient and controllable. The one advantage of gas heaters is that they can give off heat at higher heating capacity rates and can warm a room almost immediately – but remember that you pay for the rate at which heating energy is produced. Should you only have an electric heater, then ensure that you insulate the room by closing windows and blocking all possible draughts coming through. Once the room is warm, switch it off and use only what you need.
When looking at options to heat your home this winter, one of the options to consider is an oil heater equipped with a thermostat. Oil heaters are most effective in contained spaces such as a single room. Open-plan living areas are simply too big for an oil heater to make a real impact. These do take a little longer and a fair amount of energy before the effect of the heater is felt because the oil and metal take time to warm up. However when the set temperature of the oil is reached, the thermostat will maintain the temperature of the oil at the rate at which the heat energy is being radiated.
A typical fan heater is another option to consider. Fan heaters provide heat and comfort immediately and can be directed to where the hot air is most needed. Fan heaters have various temperature settings to select the quantity of elements to be switched on and most of them come with a small container that can be filled with water to prevent the air in the room from drying out.
An air conditioner with a heating cycle can be very effective and cost efficient. Typically, an air conditioner would use about half the power of an electric heater. However, as the temperature drops below 5ºC, the efficiency of the air conditioner would drop as there is not enough heat to be absorbed from the ambient air.
An alternative to space heating in the bedroom is to use an electric blanket. There is something to be said for being enclosed in a layer of warmth when going to bed. Electric blankets have thermostats, so that you can vary the heat setting and need to be switched on 30 minutes before going to bed.
Consider your needs, your room, your budget, and your energy costs when deciding how to heat up your home. The right choice will mean you are warm, cosy and safe – without blowing your budget.
Remember to keep an eye out and respond to the real-time Power Alert messages on SABC, eTV and DStv to help manage the strain of the electricity system. Together we can make a difference and keep the lights on.