Healthy Heat

What are the best op­tions for heat­ing your home, both for your fam­ily and the planet?

Element - - Living - By Jo­hann Bern­hardt

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?

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