Heating and cooling systems can vary widely and the type that is installed can be largely dependent on the climate in the area where you live. This is our comprehensive moving guide to getting the temperature right when you move into a new home
Wherever you are moving to in Australia, interior climate control is a luxury that is becoming a necessity in these times of climate uncertainty. You may even be planning to move to a new place because of the increased benefits of ducted air-conditioning or conversely, because it has a fire-place or built-in thermostat for the colder months.
There are so many ways that humans have developed to stave off the effects of exposure to mother nature’s varying weather patterns, from primitive times huddling around a fire in a cave to the full-scale digital climate control systems of today, our most basic survival instinct is to not get too hot, or too cold.The architecture of our homes has evolved to reflect this need in very geographically specific and diverse ways, and so have the ways we have discovered to maximise our ability to create artificial climate comfort all year ‘round.
If you live in a more southern part of Oz then this is more important to you than in a Queenslander in the tropics of the Far North. Contrary to popular belief, there are parts of the Great Southern Land that get a bit nippy from time to time, so you may come across a couple of these home heating systems when looking for a new place to live. The type of system used will also be dependent upon what fuel is available for use and how energy efficient it is.
Conversely this will be important to you EVERYWHERE you live in Australia and you could encounter ANY of these types of cooling strategies when you move.
Gas ducted central heating – attracts air from a home into a gas furnace and sends it back into the home via fans and ducts to vents positioned in different rooms. Inside temperature control is via a thermostat. It will heat the home fast and, in some cases, can be configured to set zones controlled by different thermostats.They are gas operated but still require quite a bit of electricity to run.
Gas hydronic central heating – this gas system heats a whole house by heating water in a gas boiler and then circulates it through a radiator, a concrete slab embedded with pipes, fan-coils. The water is recycled through the system. Temperature control is via a thermostat and their main advantage is they don’t blow air around, which can be beneficial to people who suffer from allergy. This system can also be zoned to only heat the space you want to use. They can take a while to get heated and are very expensive to install (particularly the slab option).
Electric ducted reverse cycle central air-conditioning – allows whole of house heating and cooling through one set of ducts that are in the ceiling. For warming the air, heat from outside is drawn into a central processor and then forced through the ducted outlets of the house. The air is re-circulated back to be re-heated. Inside temperature control is via a thermostat and uses heat-pump technology to extract heat from the outside air, rather than generating heat itself. It is considered the most efficient option for heating, but its main cost efficiency is that is can also be a complete air conditioning cooling system as well.
Electric multi-split reverse-cycle central air-conditioning – this system uses one unit that sits outside and pulls heat from the air into it with heat-pump technology. Heated or cooled air is then sent to more than one indoor outlet which can be in different areas of the house via refrigeration piping. Each outlet can be independently controlled, used all at once, one at time or a few at a time. Inside temperature control is via a thermostat and uses an outside compressor which can be noisy. They are also quite expensive to buy and install with higher ongoing electricity consumption.
Electric in-slab central heating – this is a system that can only be installed during a home’s construction. Heating cables are embedded in the foundations that warms the slab at a low temperature and in turn, warms the air above the floor. It is generally recommended to heat the slab during the night when electricity rates are off-peak but may need another boost in the afternoon to maintain warmth into the evening. It can be zoned and each zone is controlled by a thermostat. It is most suitable to locations that experience extremely cold winters as once the slab is heated it will store the heat and stay warm for days after the electricity is turned off, so it isn’t responsive to weather fluctuation. Conversely, it can take days to heat completely and can lead to high energy usage and are possibly the most expensive system to run and worst for the environment.
Gas room heaters – these are fixed to a space and are often used for an open plan or single room. They are low cost, efficient and can run on natural gas. You can get convection gas heaters which will heat air and blow it into a room or a radiant-convection gas heater that will use a combination of heated air and radiated heat, but these tend to be less common. There is a difference between flued and un-flued gas heaters and you need to know the installation requirements for each, there needs to be acceptable ventilation for safety. Flued heaters are permanently installed and expels toxins from the combustion process outside, they can be “room-sealed” (sometimes called balanced flue) or have an open flue. Un-flued heaters can create a lot of condensation which encourages mould.
Electric room reverse-cycle air-conditioners – these are fixed to a room or open plan area and are generally either a split system or the less common older type window/wall mounted system. A unit sits outside and extracts the heat from the air outside with a ‘heat exchanger’ and blows it around the room with a fan, it also utilises heat-pump technology making it very efficient.Split systems are one of the most common systems sold in Australia because they are good for smaller homes and apartments, are affordable and don’t cost a lot to install. They can heat and cool but you will need to know the system you purchase has the right output capacity for effectively working in the area you want to acclimate.
Slow combustion wood heaters and open fireplaces – a slow combustion wood heater burns wood in a metal firebox. Air is drawn from the room into the base of the heater and passes the back and the sides of the fire box and is forced out the top with either natural convection or a fan. It will also radiate heat, because, well, it’s fire! If you keep feeding the fire wood, it can heat a large area for a good amount of time. They are much more efficient than an open fire-place but if you have access to regular supplies of cheap, good quality wood, it can be the cheapest way to stay warm. The worst thing about a fire-place is that that the smoke is really bad for the environment.
Ceiling fans – these have been around since the old days. Almost from when fans were invented and electricity was put in houses, there has been fixed forms of fans in use somehow. You already know the ones, they are fixed to the ceiling, sometimes in tandem with a light-fixture and are operated room by room with either a central control panel (for newer models) or a control box in each room, traditionally just near the light switch. Older models used to often have 3-5 speed settings but newer models may operate with more control. They can only blow air around a room to encourage a breeze, they do not condition air at all. They are however, very useful to have installed when looking to maximise the reach and range of the effects of other systems you may have installed, particularly if you have high ceilings.
Whatever climate you live in here, you also have your own body temperature to add into the mix – you may really feel the cold in the winter and sweat like hell in the summer (go figure!), but ultimately if you living with a system that was there when you moved in you will likely find it quirks and perks and the best temperate comfort zone for you. The crux of heating is age old, it has a cost to you and to the environment, so before you think about chucking on the heat, add a few more layers of clothes first and assess if you really need to turn it on. Or if it is a hot day, try other ways of keeping out of the heat like having baths and getting in a pool.
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