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living room with lounge and a window
Making the right choices can benefit your health, the environment, and your budget.

Heating your haven

A toasty dwelling not only feels nice, it’s important for your wellbeing. The World Health Organisation suggests homes should be at least 18°C, or slightly higher for children, elderly folk or people with illnesses, as cold rooms can increase the risk of respiratory and cardiovascular issues¹. Follow our guide to learn how to efficiently heat your home.

Assess your needs

Before you invest in heating options, do an audit of your home and your needs: which rooms need improved heating? Do you want an option that costs less to use, or something that’s cheaper to purchase? Do you want the system to be better for the planet? And is it important for heating to complement the decor of your home?

Interior designer Shannon Pepper suggests writing a checklist. “If you're building a new home or doing a big renovation, then you’ve got more options because a lot of heating types are easier to install then,” she says. “Otherwise you may need to choose something you can retrofit, like heat pumps (also known as reverse-cycle air conditioners). For smaller spaces that don’t need to be heated all the time, like bedrooms, plug-in electric heaters can be a good choice.”

Plump for pumps

Heat pumps are the most popular form of heating in New Zealand homes, according to a study conducted by Environmental Health Intelligence New Zealand².

One of the main reasons is because their efficiency makes them so economical, says Robin Doyle of Carrier. “Heat pumps use inverter technology and the laws of thermodynamics to produce more heat than the electricity they use,” he adds. “Compared to conventional heating sources, heat pumps are three to four times more efficient.”

Georgie Ferrari at the Sustainability Trust agrees. “Standard plug-in electric heaters produce 1kW of heat for each kW of energy you buy. With heat pumps, the ratio is 4kW of heat per kW of energy purchased,” she says.

According to the Energy Efficiency & Conservation Authority, it costs between three and 16 cents per kW per hour to run a heat pump in winter³. “With 87 per cent of New Zealand’s electricity generation coming from renewable sources⁴, that gives Kiwis even more reason to choose this type of heating,” adds Robin.

Choose electric

Installing a heat pump may not be an option, in which case you might want to look into electric heaters. Not all heaters are the same, says Georgie, who recommends researching different models. “One of the most important things is that they have a good thermostat that is really temperature sensitive. That way it will switch off when it gets to the temperature you want, rather than continue to produce heat you don’t need,” she says.

Convection heaters heat the air and circulate it in the room. They are better for larger spaces but it can take a while for the room to warm up. Appliances with timers can start heating the space before you get up in the morning or return from work.

Radiant heaters generate a more direct heat, so they warm up surfaces rather than the air. “If you sit in front of a radiant heater, you’ll feel warm much more quickly than using an oil column heater,” says Georgie.

Size vs space

Your heater should provide adequate heat for the size of the room it’s in. The Sustainability Trust offers this advice: for radiant heaters, one kilowatt (kW) is suitable for a 15sqm room; a 1.5kW one is needed for rooms that are 15-20sqm and a 2kW heater is best for 20-25sqm spaces.

As convection heaters heat the air, work out the best one for the size of your room in cubic metres (m3). To calculate this, multiply the length of the room by the width and the height. A 1kW convection heater is suitable for a 15m3 room, while you’ll need a 1.5kW heater for a 23m3 room, a 2kW one for a 31m3 space and a 2.4kW convection heater for a 39m3 room*.

You can work out how much it is going to cost to run your heater by checking how many kW it is, says Georgie Ferrari. A 2.4kW heater generates 2.4kW an hour, and given the average electricity plan is about 30 cents per kW**, it will cost around 72 cents for every hour a heater with that output is switched on. Having it on for eight hours a day will cost roughly $5.80 a day.

Living room with white and grey fabric and furniture, a light grey sofa and gold coffee table

Ambient attraction

Some people wouldn’t be without a wood-burning fire – they create a wonderful ambience, heat large spaces, can be cheap to run and may be particularly effective in cold regions. But before you buy, you need council consent to install or replace a woodburner, and there might be regulations concerning air quality.

Keep heat in

Make sure your home doesn’t allow heat to easily escape, advises Georgie: “Obviously good insulation is important, but draught seals around doors and windows, and well-lined curtains that drop from the pelmet to the floor, can make a big difference.”

Bedrooms often get overlooked. Keeping heat within sleeping areas is especially important, as temperatures 16°C or less in winter months can cause health issues. “There’s this Kiwi attitude of ‘suck it up’ and get into bed to stay warm,” says Georgie. “But your head is sticking out and you are breathing in cold air, and that’s not good for you.”

Take it outside

Decks, patios and courtyards can be warmed with purpose-built heaters for all-year alfresco entertaining. Options include electric strip heaters, portable electric heaters and wall-mounted gas heaters. Shannon Pepper says many of her clients opt for strip heaters mounted under eaves or on a pergola. “They like to be able to integrate them into the ceiling space where they’re not so obvious, and these devices can pump out a lot of warmth,” she says.

Backyard with an outdoor glass dining table surrounded by grey chairs. A drink cart sits closeby and fresh yellow flowers and a grey jug sit on top of the table

Bathroom bliss

Install exhaust fans with heating for a warm bathroom with good air quality. A budget-friendly option is a discreet wall-mounted heater offering instant heat, but remember to open a window to let steam escape. If you’re after a touch of luxury, install heated towel rails – nothing beats a warm towel awaiting you after every shower.

Sold on a heat pump?

Here’s how to choose the right heat pump for your home.

Sources:

1. WHO Housing and Health Guidelines, 2018;

2. ehinz.ac.nz/indicators/air-quality/types-of-home-heating;

3. energysmart.co.nz/resources/ are-you-using-your-heat-pump-efficiently/;

4. Energy in New Zealand 2023, Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment, 2022.

*sustaintrust.org.nz/blog/heaters-heating. **Cost of residential electricity in New Zealand 2013-2022, L Granwal, Jan 5, 2024, from statista.com

 

Photo Credit: Belinda Merrie, GAP Interiors/Bureaux, James Moffatt

Health & Safety

Please make sure you use all equipment appropriately and safely when following the advice in these D.I.Y. videos. You need to be familiar with how to use equipment safely and follow the instructions that came with the equipment. If you are unsure, you may feel it is safest to consult an expert, such as the manufacturer or an expert Bunnings Team Member.

Grave health hazards are linked to asbestos, which may be in homes built up to 1990. Health hazards may result from exposure to lead-based paints in older materials and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer. You can also use a simple test kit from Bunnings to indicate the presence of lead-based paint.