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Heating solutions for your home: The good, the bad and the price tag.

With winter hitting us hard recently, keeping warm is the first thought on many people’s minds. Most of us are fortunate enough to have a number of options available, and are especially glad to have them on those sub-zero degree nights. However, the strain of several hundred thousand heating appliances on our infrastructure is making itself felt via the return of rolling power black-outs, so we’ve been looking into some of the various heating solutions available and considering the costs of each.

It’s a gas

Gas heaters are a popular solution in South Africa as they are very effective and come in a wide variety of styles, sizes and colours, making it easy to select the model that best accommodates your specific needs.

The good:

The best thing about a gas heater in South Africa is the fact that you’ll still be warm when load shedding happens. Then, there’s also the relative speed with which it can warm a space, and the relatively low running cost of a heater with a 9kg gas bottle, which seems to be the average.

The bad:

When your heater runs out of gas, you may find yourself braving the frost in search of a refill, which is the exact opposite of what you’d rather be doing when it’s -3°C outside. And if your installation or appliance is faulty, gas leaks may cause serious problems before they’re detected; Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s installation and usage instructions at all times!

The price tag:

You can expect to pay between R800 and R2500 for a gas heater, depending on the brand and model you choose. A 9kg gas cylinder costs around R600 to R700 new, and roughly R200 to refill. How often you’ll need to refill your cylinder is highly dependent on how frequently you use your heater, at what setting and for how long. However, your appliance should have a g/hr (grams per hour) rating. If you divide the cylinder’s capacity in grams (i.e. 9kg = 9000) by the appliance’s g/h rating (e.g. 191 g/hr), you’ll get the average number of hours’ worth of heating you can expect from your cylinder.

Eternal flame

Despite the portable convenience of most modern solutions for warming the home, man’s love affair with fire persists and home, it seems, remains where the hearth is.

The good:

There is no denying that few things beat the almost hypnotic draw of a roaring fire on a cold night. And there are so many more choices available today than just a coal or wood-burning fireplace, although those still remain an option. But for those who prefer a slightly less rustic atmosphere, the romance of a good blaze is still attainable, without the smoke, firelighters or next-day clean up, thanks to the wide array of contemporary fireplaces on the market, including closed combustion, flue-less, double-sided and even automated and freestanding fireplaces.

The bad:

Whether you choose to install a classic, wood-burning fireplace or a fancy, vent-less one, ventilation is a potentially dangerous issue; traditional fireplaces that aren’t correctly ventilated can smoke badly, while gas fireplaces left burning for hours at a time can lead to high humidity and cause mould. And, of course, if you have a chimney, you’ll need to ensure that birds and other small animals don’t nest in there and cause problems.

The price tag:

Prices can vary wildly on this one. Many old houses have beautiful traditional hearths that require nothing more than to have a new fire built of an evening. If you’re having a fireplace newly installed, however, you could pay anywhere from around R4500 to upwards of R35 000 for a freestanding unit, and more for an old school, built-in type of fireplace.

What lies beneath

Next on our list is under floor heating – an excellent option if you’re in the process of building your house and have not yet installed your flooring, and still a great option even if you’re retrofitting it, because heating a room from the floor up is highly effective.

The good:

The best thing about under floor heating is the fact that it is pretty much invisible once installed, so there is no compromise on either the amount of space available for living in, or the appearance of your home. And since you now have a choice between electric and hydronic (liquid heating/cooling) systems, load shedding and power cuts need not be a concern when deciding on this solution for your home.

The bad:

Electric systems are still subject to the typical issues that plague our beloved country in regard to power supply – not to mention the rising cost of electricity! Also, it doesn’t help that the electricity capacity being allocated to new developments is lower, so you’re far more likely to have to endure the cold when load shedding strikes.

The price tag:

The cost of installation and running of your under floor system will vary depending on whether you opt for a DIY installation, the size of the room/s to be heated and the day-to-day usage of the system. It will also depend on whether your system is electric or hydronic, and in the case of the latter, how the water is heated.

Electric dreams

As we have seen, there is a host of home heating solutions to select from. However, electric heaters remain one of the most commonly used options in South Africa.

The good:

One of the best qualities of an electric heater is that it starts to warm a space almost instantly when switched on, and most units are small and portable, allowing the user to set it up and enjoy its warmth just about anywhere.

Fixed air conditioning units, in turn, although not portable, are highly effective and an attractive option all year round, since they can also be used to cool the home in summer. Modern units are also very sleek and stylish, and can blend beautifully into the aesthetics of just about any home.

The bad:

The supply-demand woes that plague our power utility are, of course, the biggest detractor from the value of electric heating systems. Then there’s also the fact that they tend to dry out the air, which plays a significant role in the stuffy noses, dry skin and other winter niggles we all experience.

The price tag:

Small radiant bar heaters and fan heaters are available on the market for under R200, with other options like panel heaters, oil fin units averaging at around R650. A compact, free standing air conditioning unit will set you back anywhere from R1500 to R25 000, while fixed units start from around R2800 and can cost up to R30 000.

The jury’s out

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which option is best suited to your needs and your budget, so we would recommend thoroughly researching all your options before settling on any particular one.

Ideally, the heating and cooling of a home forms part of the planning before the house is built, so that the installation of systems is part of the building and finishing process. But if you’re renovating an existing property, it’s also a great time to consider adding items like fireplaces or under floor heating. Either way, we can help you to source the best quality products from reputable suppliers and installers, ensuring that you’re not left in the cold when it comes to keeping comfortable in your home all year round.


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