Which Heater Is The Most Efficient?

If ever there was a time to seek advice from a home heating expert, it's on the question of efficient heating. The question isn't which heater is the most efficient. It should always be which heater is the most efficient heater for my needs! The "…for my needs" bit is critical as heating is not a one size fits all proposition - your circumstances will be unique. What may be efficient for one person is far from efficient for another. Efficiency is subjective because geography/location, home design and lifestyle play a determining role relative to heating efficiency.  

Once upon a time, and not so long ago, efficiency was simply a measure of the lowest costs, including outlay, running and maintenance, to reach minimum heating requirements. In a carbon-conscious world, efficiency is now including an emissions profile.

Even though this has complicated affairs, Australian standards have gone a long way to help the baffled consumer make sense of efficiency technicalities. Everyone will be familiar with efficiency ratings on everything from vehicles to home appliances. But how meaningful are efficiency ratings without the context of your unique circumstances?

How do we grasp which heater is the most efficient…for our needs? Let's check it out. The aim here is not to identify the most efficient heater because this will vary relative to people's circumstances. We want to equip you with the basics required to understand the heating efficiency assessment process. Then, with advice from professionals, you can refine style and brand choices that will meet both lifestyle desires and efficiency demands.  

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What is Meant by Efficiency, and is it Important

Efficiency is borderline meaningless with a limitless supply of money and a careless attitude about carbon footprint. However, most of us care deeply about ongoing heating costs and how our heating choice impacts the environment and carbon footprint. Australian standards give us an efficiency indication that allows us to refine our selection for the greatest efficiency. But this is useful only once we've decided on a heating mode such as wood, gas, or electricity. Wood, electricity, and gas will compete and vary inefficiencies relative to the home's circumstances. Factors other than an efficiency rating on a heating appliance will determine which fuel will be more efficient. Appliance efficiency ratings are not quite as useful as a starting point for selecting a heating fuel type. Let's unpack that a little with the help of examples.

An Argument for Electricity

These days, countless suburban homes are fitted with solar arrays. Some people have such efficient solar systems, including batteries, that their electricity bills are negligible to non-existent. The most efficient fuel choice is obvious for such homes. Selecting electric flame heating offers affordable outlay, easy maintenance, and significantly reduced carbon emissions. The cost consideration will be the outlay relative to the number and size of rooms requiring heating.

With this established, it is then time to compare electric fireplace brands. Although brands are highly competitive in terms of efficiency, you will find that there are differences between brands and models. This is when we check efficiency ratings on each appliance on our shortlist.

An Argument for Gas

Jenny, Rob and their five kids have purchased a large period home on the outskirts of town. Fitting it with solar was a desire; however, overshadowing from large established trees ensures solar will be impractical. 

There are many rooms in the home, all separated by walls and doors, and they're particularly large rooms. The house is connected to gas, and there are gas bayonets already conveniently located in some of the bedrooms and the main living spaces. Functional yet unused fireplaces are a feature in most rooms. While they have no desire for wood heating, established fireplaces will make an excellent option for gas-fired flue heating.

While several heaters will be required, the outlay will be reduced owing to the existing gas infrastructure. This should be factored into the overall running costs over time. Gas is an excellent selection for large rooms due to the quality of the heat.

With gas established as the most efficient fuel overall, Jenny and Rob can compare efficiencies between brands and models to achieve the most economical and environmentally sound gas fireplace. It's at this stage of efficiency deliberations that Australian standards efficiency ratings become helpful.

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An Argument for Natural Wood Heating  

Lisa lives in a small miners' cottage in a rural setting several hours from the city. The brick house is small, with the living rooms/kitchen being open plan owing to a previous renovation. There is no piped gas available; however, she uses cylinder gas for cooking and hot water. She has a solar array on the roof, but it's only a tiny 1.5 kW array owing to the small roof area.

She loves the romance and ambience of fire heating and has the benefit of easy wood supply owing to the hardwood forest on her property and a local commercial supply she can collect from the timber yard with her trailer.

The quality of wood fire radiant heat is perfect for this situation. The fire heats the room and is retained in the brick walls sending ambient heat into her bedroom and bathroom. Much of her living takes place in the main living spaces anyway. 

Modern wood fires are incredibly efficient and, when fuelled appropriately, produce fewer greenhouse gases than any other heating method. It's an entirely renewable source and carbon neutral. The outlay for a modest wood fire unit is highly affordable, and her location provides affordable access to hardwood fuel. In Lisa's case, the efficiencies argument for natural wood heating is nigh on unbeatable. The path forward now is for her to select the appropriate size heater for the space and to compare efficacy ratings between brands. 

Research and Advice

The scenarios listed above are designed to be obvious and are pretty everyday situations. No doubt, your circumstances may be more nuanced and a little more complicated. However, what we have done above is illustrated in plane terms that which constitutes the process of determining heating efficiencies. 

The overriding inputs for determining the most efficient heater for your home are:

  • Your home location. Latitude and longitude. I.E. climate. 
  • The geography surrounding your home
  • Your home design and construction materials, including window sizes and numbers, the number and sizes of rooms, and the layout.
  • The number of people living there, and their routines
  • Access to heating fuel sources.

Once you have made an assessment based on these inputs, it is far easier to decide on a heater type or fuel type. With this determined, you can look to the heating efficiencies inherent in each of the appliances you're considering. While you can find significant differences, by virtue of competition, you will discover efficiency similarities between heater styles and brands.

Armed as you now are with the basics for determining which heater is the most efficient, now is a great time to call the heating experts at The Home of Fire. Our specialty is understanding how to fit your home with the most efficient heating for your individual needs.

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Call us on (08) 7123 2806 for a consultation and some friendly heating advice. 

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