In recent years I have become very interested in improving the way we keep ourselves warm in our houses. After all, I live in Canberra (which can get very cold!) and I am aiming for our family to become ‘fossil fuel free’. It is extremely easy for households in many parts of Australia to use a lot of energy, and money, to keep warm over winter.
I am particularly intrigued why we in Australia are totally captivated by the idea that we should space heat our homes. Why do we try to heat all the air in our house, or maybe just in some rooms, when all we are trying to do is to simply keep the occupants warm? Going down the space heating route inevitably leads into special building design and insulation/draughtproofing. This can often be expensive and can lead to poor indoor air quality. In my view, if we are going to achieve really efficient heating in homes we will need to transition over to heating at the personal level.
Over winter 2017 my family decided to move away from space heating and to transition to personal heating. This really works! We reduced our heating energy use by about 90% compared to the days when we space heated our house with a ducted gas heating system. We were beautifully warm even though the air temperature in our living areas was generally around 13⁰C in the evenings – we simply used far infrared (FIR) heating panels complemented by low-energy personal heating devices (which pulled less than 100W). For a lot of the time most of the family didn’t feel the need to use any heating energy input – we just wore ‘sensible’ clothing and/or used passive heating devices such as blankets. As a family we went through the winter using about 1 kWh/person/day for heating.