Heating and cooling options. What’s best for me?
When I was growing up I can recall us kids vying for the best spot in front of the gas wall furnace in the lounge room, our only form of heating. I guess my parents would have a similar memory, but in front of a briquette or wood fireplace.
Unlike days gone by when we had very few options to choose from, choosing the right heating and cooling system today can be a daunting task. With energy costs on the rise, and heating and cooling costs making up about 40% of our home’s running costs, it’s important to make the right choice for your lifestyle and budget. Let’s take a quick look at what’s available.
The most common and an energy efficient form of heating is gas ducted heating. It can be installed below your floor in the sub-floor space, or above in your roof space, and ducted throughout your home. Gas ducted heating systems are cost effective and require very little maintenance. An added bonus is the ability to add on cooling, however, this needs to be designed and built into the system at the design stage.
Another popular option to consider is individual room air-conditioners. Units consist of an external condenser unit and room wall-mounted air distributor and are usually reverse cycle, meaning they can cool as well as heat. These systems are also available as multi head units if you have the budget.
The next step up is fully ducted reverse cycle air conditioning. These systems – generally top of the range, and at the higher end of the budget – allow you to either heat or cool your entire home. Running costs can be expensive depending on the amount of time you have the unit running.
Many people like the ambience of either a gas log fire, or a traditional wood fire, but these are often installed to enhance a heating system, and to create a wonderful, warm cosy atmosphere, rather than as a total heating option.
By far my favourite heating is hydronic heating, but it comes at a cost. Hydronic heating works by circulating heated water (usually via a gas furnace) throughout the home either through your concrete floor slab, or through wall panels. The concrete slab needs to be specifically designed to accommodate the pipes, and while the cost of hydronic heating is at the top end, the results are a lovely warm floor slab under your feet, very cosy on those chilly days. Generally hydronic systems are reasonably inexpensive to run. It’s also a great option for people with allergies and asthma as you’re not blowing air around your house. Like ducted heating, you’ll also need to consider your cooling needs.
And on that note, if you don’t like the idea and cost of refrigerated cooling, another option to consider is evaporative cooling. Evaporative coolers work by way of a pump circulating water from a reservoir on to a cooling pad (located on the roof), which in turn becomes very wet. A fan draws air from outside the unit through the moistened pad, as it passes through the pad the air is cooled by evaporation. You’ll need to have windows open to allow the cool air to circulate throughout the house. Evaporative cooling systems are cheap to run but are limited on their ability to cool a home, particularly in hot humid conditions.
As you can see there are many options to consider, all of which have varying supply, installation and running costs. However, having your home designed to work efficiently using Passive House principles from the start ensures your home will heat and cool more naturally. By using quality insulation including double glazing, controlling drafts and leveraging nature’s free energy source, sunlight, good design will have a dramatic effect of the performance and efficiency of each of these systems delivering year round comfort for your home. If you would like to find out more, join us for one of our free Sustainable Home Rebuild Seminars or contact Comdain Homes for advice on the heating and cooling option that’s right you.