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Choose the Right Heating for Your Home

By Silvia Wei

When looking to heat a home, it’s important to consider the wide variety of heating methods on offer. An under-heated home can lead to illness and poor health. Creating a warm, dry and comfortable home should be a top priority.

Heating options are far now greater than they were a generation ago. Electrical, gas, new super-efficient wood fireplaces, gas fires, in-concrete floor hot water or electrical heating units, central hot water heating, heat pumps and air conditioning units and home ventilation systems are just some of the popular heating options to choose from.

Because the heating needs of every dwelling are different, you need to undertake heat loss calculations based on: the size of your home, the materials used for construction, whether your home is north or south facing, the size and number of external walls and the number of windows and doors.

The World Health Organisation recommendations for room temperatures are:

  • 21 degrees Celsius in living areas
  • 18 degrees Celsius in bedrooms
  • 22 degrees Celsius in bathrooms

Start with insulation – keep in the heat you have, then add heaters to warm you up. Insulation will also reduce temperatures in the summer.


  • Ensure you have an abundance of insulation – remember, building code requirements are a minimum.
  • It’s important that whatever system you install is of sufficient capacity to heat your home properly – too small a unit will result in expensive bills and insufficient heating.
  • Some heating system installations require a building consent and registered installer.

The modern approach to heating is ‘whole house heating’. Good insulation and an energy-efficient heating system will heat all areas of the house at a reasonable price and help keep your family healthier through cold months.

Central heating

Central heating can be fuelled from gas, diesel, solid wood pellets or hot water heat pump, can work through warm water underfloor heating or slim water radiators (and sometimes both), with the possibility of adding domestic hot tap water and even swimming pool heating all from the one heat source.

Modern wood burners and wood pellet burners

  • They are inexpensive to run, energy-efficient and surprisingly environmentally friendly.
  • They have the advantage of being able to be connected to a wetback, which will provide hot water at no extra cost apart from the installation.
  • You’ll need a building consent to install a woodburner or pellet burner, and have these installed by a specialist installer.
  • The council will have to inspect the burner before issuing a code compliance certificate.

Underfloor heating

These work with any floor type but care should be taken with wooden overlays as there is potential for shrinkage. Electrical systems are cheap to install but the running costs are higher. The high cost of gas in the South Island also makes these systems more expensive to operate there. Running pipes in your concrete floor slab even if you don’t intend to use them initially, will future-proof your home and may add resale value.

Heat pumps and air conditioning

Correct sizing is crucial for long-term trouble-free and economical running of your heat pump. If it is too small in capacity (kW), it may be cheaper to buy initially, but it will struggle to heat the area, resulting in the unit having to work much harder, making it less economical to run, and dying early. Options run to wall units, floor units, ceiling units or fully ducted – choose the most suitable for your space and house design. You don’t need a building consent to add a heat pump to your home but this must be installed by a qualified installer.

Modern ventilation systems

These are not usually heating systems, unless those add-ons are included, but may help heat your home through replacing moisture-filled atmosphere. Modern construction seeks to seal a home to increase energy efficiency which means you may need to have a system installed. “Heat Recovery Ventilation” refers to having warm, stale air being removed and replaced with fresh. This aids energy efficiency but works better when it’s already warm, which is just when you don’t want more heat.


Solar panels provide essentially free hot water. Any excess can be diverted to heating a pool or added into a floor heating system. During winter months solar will require back-up heat supplementation. Power and gas prices are continuing to rise and are forecast to increase sharply as demand increases – solar is renewable, sustainable, efficient and reduces hot water heating costs.

Gas heaters and fires

Fast, convenient and easily regulated heat, gas can bring a moderately sized room to a warm comfortable temperature in about 10-15minutes. Energy Star rated flued gas heaters are the most efficient and won’t release moisture or harmful gases into your home. Glass-fronted gas fireplaces are significantly more efficient than open fronted and create much smaller carbon footprints. If you live in an area that has no gas supply, you can have tanks that are delivered to you, last for months and only get changed out as required.


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