What are the best options for heating your home, both for your family and the planet?
Those of us who have spent time skiing in the snow-clad mountains on a sunny winter’s day will have experienced something quite surprising: sitting in the sun in freezing air temperatures you can be quite comfortable wearing just a t-shirt. How can that be? The answer lies in the wide spectrum of energy radiated by the sun heating the bodies it encounters rather than the air surrounding them – with the effect that for bodies to feel warm the surrounding air does not have to be heated to the same level.
Add to this the fact that radiated heat is healthier than the other alternative, generating convection heat in the form of warm air, and we have a solution which can serve both us and the environment well in the heating of our homes. With a radiant heat source we are able to keep the indoor air to a lower temperature, saving energy in the process, and still enjoy a comfortable and healthy living environment.
The savings can be considerable, as 29% of the energy consumed in a typical New Zealand home is used for heating. And yet, research has shown that the majority of our homes are under-heated by international standards. The World Health Organisation recommends that living areas are heated to 18 ˚C , with 16 ˚C overnight in the bedrooms.
In new house designs the use of passive solar principles can help to meet these temperature levels during much of the winter, using thermal mass floors (concrete, tiles etc) to store heat from the sun and give it back in the evening as healthy, radiant heat. Unfortunately we don’t have this option in our existing homes as they usually lack thermal mass. So what are the best options for heating our existing homes, creating warm and healthy living conditions and helping the environment in the process by reducing emissions and air pollution?