Central Heating Choices in Australia and Do You Need It?

With temperatures touching 27°C today here in Brisbane, it might seem a little ridiculous of me to start talking about central heating in Australia. But elsewhere around the country both Adelaide and Melbourne have had their coldest July in 20 years and Hobart is covered in a blanket of snow right now…

So, whether you need central heating or not largely depends on whereabouts in Australia you’re going to live, but I can assure you that even here in Brisbane it does get substantially colder when the sun goes down. So some form of heating in the house is a very good idea, even in Brisbane and many places further north.

Heating usage in Australia

Being from Brisbane though, as I am, I’m not all that up on the various choices for heating your home, so I’ve had to rely on research on the subject of which there is precious little.

Here’s what I did find out:

  • 77% of dwellings across all of Australia have some kind of heating
  • Non-ducted gas heating is the most popular at 26%
  • Next is reverse cycle split system air conditioning at 18%
  • Around 13% use a heater for less than one month a year
  • Between 25 and 30% use a heater for one month to less than three months
  • Almost 45% use a heater for between three and six months
  • Slightly more than 10% use a heater for six months or more

Source: ABS

For the record, I have ducted reverse cycle air-conditioning and use it between one and three months of each year. It is a modern system, I only had it fitted about a year ago to replace the 25-year-old unit we inherited with the house.

The outdoor unit…

Ducted unit

And an indoor duct…

ductingIt’s hugely efficient, the first hour probably costs around 60 cents as it warms up the house from cold, and then it seems to tick over at between 30 to 35 cents an hour after that. It’s not a stuffy heat either; it’s very comfortable to be in.

Of course, the same system gets around five weeks of use in the summer as an air conditioner to help us get through those sticky humid nights.

Heating choices in Australia

The main forms of heating used across Australia include:

  • Electric heating, including portable heaters
  • LPG gas non-ducted heating
  • Mains gas ducted heating
  • Mains gas non-ducted heating
  • Reverse cycle ducted heating
  • Reverse cycle non-ducted heating
  • Wood heating, both open and closed

Here’s what wood heating, both open and closed, can look like. First, open…

The Christmas FireNow closed; these sort of stoves are quite common here in Australia…

stovesThey are romantic and fun but also a lot of work and not very cost efficient, unless you can get hold of an endless supply of wood for free, which most people can’t.

Piped gas is more common in Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Canberra. It’s not quite so common in Sydney with around 50% of households having gas. Gas is not at all common in either Queensland or Northern Territory simply because these states are both significantly warmer.

Source: energyrating.gov.au (PDF)

Why Tasmania doesn’t have much gas though, I don’t know, they certainly need it. When we were in Tasmania four years ago, we turned everything on trying to heat up the room…

Heater 1

Heater 2

Clothes heater

heaters…we were still cold.

When I lived in the UK, my heating of choice was gas fired central heating with water filled radiators. Here is one of those radiators:

UK radiatorHere in Australia it seems that kind of central heating has a fancy name; it’s called hydronic heating.

Very posh.

And what of those 23% of households that have no heating whatsoever?

A small percentage of those houses are probably in the far northern part of the country and simply don’t get cold enough. For the others though, where it does get quite chilly, it’s not uncommon for people to snuggle up under a blanket to watch the TV and keep warm that way.

What heating do you use where you are?

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{ 15 comments… add one }
  • Geoclimate Systems July 5, 2016, 10:15 pm | Link

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    • BobinOz July 7, 2016, 12:57 am | Link

      I’m intrigued; I assumed your system was probably something like installed under floor pipes filled with heated water or maybe oil, so I wonder, how can it be used to cool a house?

      I’m currently using reverse cycle air condition (ducted) which can obviously heat and cool my house, which is important here in Australia. In the UK, for example, people only really care about heating systems, air conditioning really isn’t necessary.

      Here it is though, so how does the cooling thing work?

  • Zuzana March 22, 2016, 8:27 pm | Link

    Hi Bob!
    Thank you for your article, which I found very useful for me and my purpose!
    Our company is going to export to Australia infrared heating panels, which the company produces and this article has just confirmed, that we can help local people to have healthy, efficiant and low cost heating and house without humidity at the same time!

    Thank you Bob and greetings to all your readers!

    • BobinOz March 23, 2016, 11:56 pm | Link

      Glad to have helped, but do be aware my article didn’t cover absolutely everything and we do have some companies supplying infrared heat panels here already. I’m sure you have already looked into that though. Good luck, Bob

      • Zuzana March 24, 2016, 12:47 am | Link

        Thank you, Bob, we have put onto account all of those facts and the research has shown the best results for us and our clients.

        Wishing you a nice day and more and more readers!

  • Muhammad Rafique November 12, 2015, 12:47 am | Link

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  • Todd August 9, 2015, 5:00 am | Link

    It is a lot of work. I fill it 2 times a day when it is below freezing. 10 cu ft of wood each time. The firebox is a 4′ cube and the door opening is 28″. If you can lift it, you can burn it.

    We are definitely looking forward to Geelong. The Border department has requested a couple more documents for my wife and 1 more for me for the visa; we are taking that as progress. Now, if only I could sell the house. Doesn’t look like anyone on this site will be moving to Upstate NY from Oz, lol.

    • Todd August 9, 2015, 5:05 am | Link

      It is relatively efficient, but the most important part to us is the cost effectiveness. I have spent under US$500 on wood in the last 15 years. In 2000, to heat the place with propane ran US$800 month during a harsh winter. We quickly added in the wood stove at that time. I live in a heavily wooded part of the state. I had a tree removal business for a period of time and help neighbors with wood lot improvement projects. Costs in dollars have been low, but cost in time and effort is very high. Looking forward to trading that time in the woods for time on the ocean.

      • BobinOz August 9, 2015, 8:06 pm | Link

        Crikey, wood is very cheap where you are, here you will pay about $180 for a medium sized cage trailer full of wood. Not sure how many cubic feet of wood that is, but you would definitely use more than three of them in 15 years!

        By your description of how this thing burns up wood, I reckon three would last no more than a couple of months.

        Fair amount of work involved though, as you say. For me, the work involved is picking up my smart phone, selecting my air-conditioning controller and switching it to on whilst it is in heating mode 🙂

        Good luck with your application, Bob

  • Todd August 8, 2015, 10:39 am | Link

    Much like Virginia G, we heat with a radiant system. We have an outdoor woodfurnace with a 500+ gallon water jacket. The heated water comes into the home by circulation pump, hits a heat exchanger and is sent by different thermostats to each heating zone. On the first floor, the tubing runs through the slab floor. Most of the winter we sit on the floor and dry our snow gear on it as well. The second and third floor have baseboards (hydronic) heat. It does take a while to get it humming, but warm feet all winter are appreciated here in upstate NY. This past winter the mean temperature for February was -12c and we received our typical 3+ meters of snow. Can’t wait to get to Geelong.

    • BobinOz August 8, 2015, 8:19 pm | Link

      Sounds like a lot of work though Todd, what with having to go outside to chop and chuck more wood into that furnace. Do you have to do that every couple of hours or so? Is it an efficient and cost-effective system?

      You won’t be needing it in Geelong so much, that’s for sure.

  • WA August 5, 2015, 5:00 pm | Link

    Here in Dubai, we dont have/use any heating systems , The options are only whether to switch On/OFF the Air Conditioning Or which units to be On/Off.
    In summer time (May to end of Oct.) , In day time , all AC machines are ON, in night times the bed rooms ones are ON.
    In winter time (Nov. to April) , we switch ON one Machine only to get a blow of chilled air 🙂 , pretty easy ha !
    I have worked in Azerbaijan as well , and the story is different there , there are 4 seasons , and in winter , the majority using the gas/radiator system which is nice and clean with approx monthly consumption (for 2BR flat ) , of around 30 USD .

    • BobinOz August 5, 2015, 9:08 pm | Link

      Ha ha, I’m not surprised WA, the temperature in Dubai rarely drops below 30°C, anyone using a heater would be stark raving mad!
      🙂

  • Virginia G August 5, 2015, 2:50 pm | Link

    Here in Korea, we use “ondol” which is a style of floor heating that was a Korean invention hundreds of years ago. The oldest palaces have outdoor wood furnaces that piped the exhaust underneath the floor boards of the king’s chamber. These days, the apartment building has a supply of hot water that runs through pipes in the floors. Each individual household adjusts the valves (using a computer interface) to heat floors in individual rooms. This is one reason why many Korean families still sit on the floor, eat on the floor, and sleep on the floor (on a thin mattress).

    It takes a while to warm up, but then it stays warm for a long time after you shut it off. We’re on almost the top floor, so we only use it for about a week each year…I guess the heat from all the other apartments rises up to us! Summer air conditioning is sadly another story…as we are experiencing now. Energy bills in the summer are about 30 times higher than in the winter!

    • BobinOz August 5, 2015, 9:05 pm | Link

      Sounds like a very comfortable, even and efficient kind of heating Virginia, especially for you being on the top floor. I once lived in a second-floor apartment in the UK and I was convinced I got the benefit of the heating paid for by the people downstairs.

      Sounds like summers are expensive though, and if I knew how to do a sad face, I would 🙂

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