Did you know in Australia, 40% of a household’s energy usage typically goes to heating and cooling? In a day and age where Melbourne has been declared a climate emergency, it’s time we assessed the heating and cooling options for our homes. Since heating and cooling consumes so much energy, it makes sense to use efficient heating and air conditioning systems that help save the planet while potentially saving you money too.
With so much technical jargon used in the heating and cooling industry, how do you select the right heating and cooling options for your home? It all depends on a few key factors, which we will discuss in this article.
Heating options for your home: room size matters
When reviewing heating options for your home, please take note that there are two types of heating to consider. Radiant heaters are those that radiate heat directly to your body or to the objects in the room. Convection heaters on the other hand, warm and circulate the air throughout the room.
When considering a heater for a specific room, you need to factor in the room size and ceiling height. Smaller rooms will benefit more from convection heaters, as they heat up the room by circulating warm air. It may take more time for warm air to circulate throughout a larger room and that warm air will rise to the high ceilings where it’s ineffective. Larger rooms with higher ceilings will be more economically heated if you install a combination of radiant and convective heaters.
In renovated warehouses or other instances where the ceilings are extremely high, radiant heaters are likely to be the most viable option. Radiant heating is also suitable for outdoors living spaces such as alfresco living. If you love to entertain using a mix of indoor and outdoor space, radiant heating is also a good option for you. Relying on warm air circulation may be futile if the doors are always open, as the warmth will escape fast.
Gas, solar or wood heating?
Another factor you need to weigh up when selecting heating for your home is its fuel source. Of course electric heating powered by the grid is an option many Melbourne households still use however it should be your last option due to the cost to the environment and also your bank account. This leaves us with three popular alternatives for heating. Will your home use gas, solar energy or heat from burning wood?
Of these three options, heating that uses solar energy is the most eco-friendly and also most economical. After all, energy from the sun is free. Of course there are costs associated with installing a suitable solar system that must be considered. The efficiency of these systems also depends on the presence of sunshine and in a cold Melbourne winter, you’ll likely need the heating when the sun’s down. In these instances you’ll rely on storing your solar energy with batteries, which is an additional expense to install.
This may sound counter-intuitive however wood burning heaters are considered to be carbon-neutral. This is because the timber used for fires has absorbed a significant amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while growing and only emits that same amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when burned. This means if you’re only burning sustainably harvested wood, you’ll be doing your bit for the environment. Unfortunately the reality is most of us don’t use sustainably harvested wood and wood heaters do pollute the air despite the carbon-neutral claims. The other downside to wood burners is they can be a fire hazard and are a lot more work to manage than other fuels. Also, if your home is in an urban setting, your neighbours may report you to council if they believe your wood fire is producing too much smoke and impacting there health and quality of life.
Gas heaters are popular in many Melbourne homes since they are much cleaner and cheaper to run than electric heaters. However, if they’re not installed correctly, they can create condensation problems in your home. They can also draw in exhaust gases that can be hazardous to your health so make sure they are installed professionally and are regularly tested for safety.
Cooling options for your home
Just like with heating systems, you need to consider room size when choosing cooling systems for your home. Smaller rooms are easier to cool down, while larger rooms take more time and energy to reduce the temperature.
The cheapest and most eco-friendly cooling option for your home is the electric fan. Electric fans don’t use much energy however they’re not going to be enough for Melbournians through the summer heat. They’re capable of bringing down the feeling of the room temperature by a few degrees which isn’t much on a 40 °C day.
Another cheap and environment-friendly cooling option is the evaporative cooler. These coolers sit on your roof and absorb water in large pads. Outdoor air is drawn through the wet pads, cooling the air as it enters your home through ducting and flushing through your home out the open windows or doors. The downside to these coolers is they only work in low humidity. While Melbourne historically has very few humid days each summer, this humidity certainly seems to be increasing over the last few years making these system less attractive.
Ducted or split system air conditioning units are the most expensive and the least eco-friendly choice of cooling system available. The good news is they are becoming more efficient, especially those designed with inverter technology. If you choose to install refrigerated aircon, make sure the type and size you select is appropriate for your space. Split systems are best for smaller rooms because they cool down small spaces quickly. If you have larger spaces or if you want a cooling system for your whole house, consider installing a ducted aircon system.
The right kind of heating and cooling are important decisions to consider, particularly when planning a Melbourne home extension, revamping your home or re-build. There are also a number of design considerations that we can discuss that will make your new home more energy efficient and require less heating and cooling. A well designed home will help keep your home cool in summer and retain the warmth in winter, which all helps to save the environment and your bank account! Contact XL Built today to discuss your options.