14 September, 2008

The end of central heating?

Question: does central heating make any sense in these days of global warming and high fuel costs?

Last autumn, we moved from a three-storey terraced house heated by an efficient condensing combination gas boiler. We moved into a large barn which is very very long, all on one floor apart from two rooms and over the top of unheated storage space. Lovely house, but nightmare to heat by comparison. Oh and the boiler is oil-fired. As we discovered it is a difficult space to heat and oil is expensive. As a cost comparison, we spent under £500 per year on heating, water and some of our cooking in London. We spent nearly twice that much on the oil for heating and water in six months in Wales.

The barn is also a very large space to heat and perhaps because it is spread out on one level rather than one floor on top of the other, it somehow seems ludicrous to put on central heating in this enormous space. After all how many rooms can a person occupy? Indeed how many can a family of four occupy at once? Certainly not all of them.

This year we are going to try to manage for as long as possible without the central heating. New double-glazed windows are about to be fitted which is bound to help and we are having the parts of the house that have a loft insulated. Which should keep the cold out.

As for heating, we will use the wood-burning stove in the sitting-room much more as it is the best and cheapest way to heat one third of this barn. And for the rest we now have three oil-free freestanding thermostat controlled electric radiators. The idea is that we move them to heat the space we're actually occupying. (Cue picture of new heater in front of now dormant radiator).

I guess you could call this "going green" or you could call it "zone heating" or you could call it "meanness" which is what my uncle calls his moves towards a greener lifestyle. Ultimately it makes a lot more sense to use energy to heat the parts of the house you are in, and not all parts of the house.


Anonymous said...

That's a good point, i've been looking at buying valve regulators for each radiator in our house so as not to heat rooms tha are empty.

Buddhist in Training said...

My oil tank is empty and I am dreading having to fill it. I think I may have to remortgage the house!! We have a ridiculous electric fire in the lounge but that's it. A woodburner is definately on the cards.

Don said...

I love reading about your new life in Wales. My ancestors may have been from somewhere in that area.

I have a farmhouse in Michigan USA and we face the same heating issues. We have a wood stove and it really helps out. I like your idea of heating where you are living.

Have you ever tried Fried Green Tomatoes? I slice them less than 1/4" and dredge them in flour and fry them in olive oil and butter with a little salt and pepper. Make sure they get nice and brown!

Anonymous said...

Know what you mean. I'm very conscious of the financial and eco cost of heating these days.
Thought: Given that you have the land and the space, have you considered geothermal heating, ie cables underground that convey heat to the house at no cost? It's supposed to be very efficient and good these days... plus free after installation.

Eliane said...

I would, and I think our landlords did when they converted their barn. Can't remember why they didn't do it.

But we don't own this house so are limited in what we can do. I would certainly think about such options if we ever do get around to selling the house in London and buying here. Not going to happen right now though for obvious reasons...