We have now been in our ‘new’ house for four months. This one still does feel a little ‘new’, being only 5 years old. It even incorporates some radical features (for New Zealand): proper insulation, double glazing (though I note that the frames are still aluminium) and well engineered drainage from what otherwise would be a swamp.

The house came with some built-in heating.  A heatpump does the main living area (very nicely) but there is also a gas fire in the separate lounge. The gas fire is hopelessly overspec-ed turn it up full and it’s capable of turning the lounge into an oven even on the coldest day. But now that we’ve worked out the remote control on it and can set it to a particular temperature, it does a lovely job.  [Gas fire, gas hot water heating – lovely to have but are they sustainable? – that’s another question]

In the bedrooms we have flat Econoheat panel heaters. I don’t usually put in brand names in my blog, but I will in this case because it is a lie. There is nothing ‘econo’ about them. The main problem is that there is no thermostat. If the night isn’t too cold (but cold enough for us to need some heating) the heater will slowly but surely send the temperature in the room well above what we want. If we don’t get up at 2 am and turn it off, we end up wasting electricity. But also, on a cold night the heater simply isn’t powerful enough to get the temperature raised in a sensible time (it does get there in the end, but it might be halfway through the night). As a consequence, we have to check the weather forecast, and decide at what time in the late afternoon we will turn on the heater so that the temperature is about right later on in the evening. And then we have to decide whether or not to turn it off when we go to bed.

I note that the instructions recommend leaving the heaters running. Ha ha. I think not. The one in the main bedroom, I believe, is 600 W. Run that for 24 hours a day, and we have consumed 14.4 kWh of electricity. At about 30 cents a kWh, that’s about $4.30 a day to heat one room – including to a silly temperature in the middle of the day.

Far better would be a more powerful electric heater with a thermostat. Better still would be to transfer some of the cosy air in the living spaces to the bedrooms. Unfortunately the design of the house doesn’t help make that happen. Some external ventilation equipment might be useful here.

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