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Heating your home
« on: December 10, 2011, 08:44:19 AM »
What is the norm for heating homes where you are? We've had threads where people have complained that things are too hot or too cold when they visit someone, and it also seems that completely different systems and cultures operate.

I am in the UK, and I would say that the most common form of heating is a gas boiler that moves hot water to radiators in each room. This is controlled by a thermostat, which is usually set to a timer that turns the heat on or off at specific times of the day. Mine is a digital control that I can programme for different temperatures during the day , with different programmes for weekdays and weekends. Most people (that I know) let the heat go off at night (very hard to sleep in a warm bedroom), with daytime room temperature set to between 17 and 20C (63 to 68F).

My house is old and hard to heat, so my thermostat is usually set at 16-17C during the day. We also have a woodburning stove in the sitting room which gets lovely and toasty in the evening. Since we don't need the rest of the house warm after dinner, the central heating goes off by about 7 pm.

Some older homes might still not have any central heating system, just using a gas fire in the main room. Other options, particularly in areas that are not connected to the mains gas system,  are oil furnaces, or electric storage heaters, which absorb electricity to heat up during the off-peak night hours, and give off heat during the day.

Air conditioning (ie cooling for summer), incidentally, is extremely uncommon.


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Re: Heating your home
« Reply #1 on: December 10, 2011, 09:14:30 AM »
My house is a typical older New England house, built in 1900. We have an oil furnace that sends hot water to baseboard radiators. The house used to have the big old cast iron radiators, but an earlier owner removed those. We have a programable thermostat, so we can turn the heat down to 55 degrees at night (13 C) and then have the house warm up before we get up, to about 65 degrees (18 C). The oil furnace also heats our hot water.

I'm sure there are a few houses without central heating, but for the most part it's safe to say that nearly every house in northern New England has some form of central heating. (The main exception being houses built as vacation homes.) The very oldest houses, built before central heating was invented, have usually had central heating installed at some point.

When no one's home during the day, the heat goes down to 60 degrees (15 C).  At night in the winter, the outside temperature drops to about 5-13 degrees (-15 to -10 C) so we need to keep the heat on at night or the water pipes could freeze. The daytime highs here during December, January and February hover right around the freezing point.

Oil heat is pretty standard for older homes in New England, but not as common in other parts of the US. Newer homes here might have gas or electric heat. Many have forced hot air heat, with duct work to send hot air throughout the house. The duct work can also be used for central air conditioning in the summer, which makes it a popular choice.

In my area, the summers can be a bit hot and very humid. We have two window air conditioners and frankly, we use them as much to reduce the humidity as to get cooler air. It usually cools off enough at night so that we can just run window fans. But day after day of temperatures between 80 and 90 (26-32 C) with 90% or higher humidity can start to take a toll. You're just hot and sticky with sweat all the time and it's not fun, and hard to do things around the house.
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Re: Heating your home
« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2011, 09:18:03 AM »
Wood fire here.  We're on a property, so have no problems with sourcing plenty of wood.  Wood fires seem to be relatively common in this part of Australia, but in city areas, reverse cycle airconditioning, or gas heating seems to be the norm.

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Re: Heating your home
« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2011, 09:37:26 AM »
I'm in a typical California 2-story tract home, so we have central air/heating from the mid 1990's.  What typically happens is, in spite of the "central" nature, it gets warm on the 2nd story and remains cold on the ground floor in winter.  In summer, it will cool down on the ground floor, but still remain beastly warm upstairs.  One has to continually adjust the thermostat to reach some sort of medium in comfort or stay in the part of the house that is warm/cool, depending on season.


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Re: Heating your home
« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2011, 10:06:20 AM »
We live in an old factory that was built in the 1860s. 

In the early 1980s, it was converted into apartments and we moved in.  One of the things we liked about the place was that each apartment has it's own furnace.  We can keep the place as cool or as warm as we like.

We like things cool and, in the winter, keep the house between 65 and 68 degrees fahrenheit. 

When we go away on vacation in the winter, we turn the furnace down very far.  We don't worry about frozen pipes because the apartments surrounding us provide enough insulation.


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Re: Heating your home
« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2011, 10:25:46 AM »
We have gas powered, forced-air, central heat.  But we also have a wood stove.  The wood stove heats the house very quickly and more efficiently than the furnace does, so we tend to use it more when it's really cold.  The only draw back is that when you fall asleep or aren't home to tend the fire, the house cools, so we use the furnace as a back up.
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Re: Heating your home
« Reply #6 on: December 10, 2011, 10:27:29 AM »
America here. We live in a home that was built in the 30's, but we installed a new HVAC system this year - our old one died three years ago. We keep ours at 70 degrees because Mom likes it toasty.

Right now, the HVAC is on manual heat, because it's really cold outside. Unless Dad's running the fan, I could run around in summer clothes all the time.
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Re: Heating your home
« Reply #7 on: December 10, 2011, 10:30:16 AM »
We have a gas furnace, but most of the time our home is heated/cooled by our heat pump.  Only when the temps outside drop below 35 F does the gas furnace kick in.  Our heat pump heats and cools our house for practically nothing.  Just the cost of electricity to run the compressor and fan (electricity in the PNW is cheap cheap cheap!).

We also have a gas fireplace that does a nice job of heating the upstairs (it is located downstairs!).  When the fireplace is on, we have to keep the doors to the bedrooms closed so they don't get too warm to sleep in.

Our thermostat is kept at 68 F.  That feels just right to us.  We keep the fireplace on in the winter (when we are home) for those moments we feel a chill.  We just go stand by it for a few moments to take off the chill. 


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Re: Heating your home
« Reply #8 on: December 10, 2011, 11:05:02 AM »
We live in Northern Ontario- the house has an enormous gas furnace and big old floor-standing, cast iron hot-water rads. We also have a gas fireplace in the living room that was retrofitted over the original fireplace at some point.

However that is completely against the norm here- most newer homes are gas or electric forced air furnaces with floor vents. Cheaper apartments from the 60's and 70's and some offices use those long, low electric floor rads.

« Last Edit: December 08, 2012, 01:43:33 AM by Rohanna »
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Re: Heating your home
« Reply #9 on: December 10, 2011, 11:53:50 AM »
In South Africa it's very unusual to have any kind of central heating. Some houses have underfloor heating, but it's not very common. It doesn't really get cold enough here to justify spending a lot of money to heat a house for a few days each winter. When it does get very cold we just buy electric heaters - you can get bar heaters, fan heaters, parabolic heaters or whatever. I have a five-fin oil heater (there's oil in the fins; it's still electric) that heats up my two-room downstairs flat without a problem.

Schools have the radiator-boiler heating systems, but they very seldom use them. I think the school I work at put the heaters on twice this past winter.

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Re: Heating your home
« Reply #10 on: December 10, 2011, 12:18:07 PM »
I live in Texas, and my neighborhood doesn't have gas.  So, we have an electric furnace original to the house.  If it weren't for the expense I'd keep it 78 year round.   


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Re: Heating your home
« Reply #11 on: December 10, 2011, 12:26:40 PM »
I don't think there is anything consistent about the way Americans heat their homes, and I don't think there ever will be.  Each region has such different weather that, while there might be consistency within a region, it's unlikely to match a region with drastically different weather concerns.

My brother and SIL live in New England in a house built maybe 30-40 years ago (so relatively new and definitely modern).  They have a furnace that runs on oil, because they live in a small enough town that there's no way to get natural gas.  An oil-powered furnace ends up being cheaper than paying for it with electricity.  The furnace heats water that is fed through copper pipes throughout their house.  Radiant heat works far better for heating their home, because it's probably more efficient, but it also doesn't dry the air out.  They used to keep their house in the neighborhood of 60 degrees in the winter (and perhaps as low as 55 at night), although now that they have a baby, I imagine they're keeping it a little warmer.  They don't have air conditioning, and mostly don't need it.

I, on the other hand, live in the PNW in an apartment.  I have basically 3 small forced-air heaters in my walls -- one in the living room, one in the bedroom, and one in the kitchen.  They are controlled separately, so I almost never use the one in the bedroom.  I don't really have a thermostat, per se, so my husband and I have indoor thermometers.  He's not allowed to turn any heat on until it's colder than 68 degrees.  Although over the past few weeks, the temperature has been more like 64 or 65, and we've both been comfortable.  We also do not have air conditioning, and if we were in a house that had ceiling fans and the possibility of a cross breeze, it would probably be unnecessary.  As it is, there are a few weeks every summer where we are very uncomfortable and wish we had it, but we've never been able to justify buying a window unit.

And then my parents live in Houston, where air conditioning is practically required.  Because they already have all the ductwork set up for central air conditioning, I'd imagine that most homes in the region also have forced air heating.  It doesn't get used nearly so much (maybe a couple of months out of the year), but it's probably easier to add on to a central air conditioning set-up than to find another way of heating the home.  Plus, in a place like Houston, nobody is ever really concerned about too little humidity. :)  Their furnace happens to be run on gas, although I think it's equally common for furnaces to be run on electricity.


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Re: Heating your home
« Reply #12 on: December 10, 2011, 01:27:33 PM »
Yeah, in Texas a furnace is there to blow the cold air into the house.  The fact that it can also heat is a bonus for days like today.  We thought we'd have to replace the furnace this summer.  I was seriously considering an heat pump without the heating element. 


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Re: Heating your home
« Reply #13 on: December 10, 2011, 03:31:18 PM »
We've lived in the mid-Atlantic, New England, and the Midwest.  We've had electric heat, gas heat, used space heaters only, and currently we generally try to use the fireplace for most of our heat, but at the moment we've been using the regular electric heat because we had flooding and we need to dry things out.

Generally, during the day, we set the heat to 66-68 F.  It depends a bit on the day, what we're doing, etc.  Sometimes we let it go as low as 64, but not generally lower than that during the day or I begin to find that my hands are too cold to type and work.  I tend to run cold, so I need it a bit warmer than some others.  I'd generally prefer the heat to be higher, more like 68, but we try to conserve energy.  We turn the heat off entirely at night, as we don't live in a region where we're likely to have pipes get cold enough to burst if the heat was on during the day.

During the summer, we generally turn the AC to about 78.

Both of these temperatures will vary a bit.  We're more cautious with the kids, especially when we have a very young baby, so we'll use a space heater or an AC just in the baby's room to keep her room a little warmer in winter/cooler in summer.
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Re: Heating your home
« Reply #14 on: December 10, 2011, 04:14:13 PM »
Here in Australia I have gas central heating. I keep it at 21C or below.