What kind of heating is best for my health?

There are a number of things to think about when considering the type of heating source that might be best for your home:

    • First you need to think about the size of the area that you want to heat – is it large or a small room?
    • How cold does your part of the country get?
    • When and how often you want to heat each space – only for short periods?
    • Do you want instant heat or can you wait for a wood burner to heat up?
    • The costs of the appliance and running it are also important considerations.

Some options should be avoided if at all possible:

    • Open fires are inefficient, polluting, expensive and hard to control.
    • Portable or bayonet fitting unflued gas, kerosene or LPG canisters and heaters release pollutants and water vapour into your home - don’t use these unless you absolutely have to and particularly not in bedrooms or small unventilated rooms.

Energy efficient and cost-effective heating

For larger rooms that you want to heat regularly, like a living room, it’s worth paying a bit more upfront for a fixed heater with lower running costs and more heat output than a small electric heater can provide. This could be a modern wood or wood-pellet burner, an energy efficient heat pump, or a four-star qualified flued gas heater.

Electric heaters may be enough for smaller rooms and rooms you only heat occasionally, like bedrooms. Avoid unflued gas heaters (with pipes fixed to the walls or portable) which release toxic fumes and moisture, and open fires which are draughty and inefficient

Find out if you qualify for a Warmer Kiwi Homes grant for an efficient fixed heater for the main living area warmerkiwihomes.govt.nz

(information sourced from EECA)

Heating options

Heat pumps

Heat pumps are an efficient form of heating although there are significant differences between appliances. It is important to get one that is a good fit for the size of the area that you want to heat and if you live in one of the colder parts of the country, check that it will work effectively when the temperature drops below 10 degrees Celsius.

Wood burners

These can be cheaper and produce a lot of heat. Newer models create little air pollution and are relatively efficient. It is important to use dry, well-seasoned wood from sustainable sources (dried for at least a year).

Gas heaters

Flued gas heaters are an effective form of heating. They are also healthy because the products of combustion are removed from the house. Unflued gas heaters, by contrast, should be avoided if at all possible. They emit nitrogen dioxide which is particularly bad for people with asthma and also water vapour that will make the house damp and more difficult to heat.

Wood pellet burners

Wood pellet burners are an efficient and environmentally friendly form of heating. They burn pellets made from waste wood, in a controlled manner and have a low level of emissions. They only use a small amount of electricity.

Electric heaters

Electric heaters include radiant, fan, convection and night store heaters and underfloor heating. All of these operate differently and have different pros and cons. A portable heater can be useful for heating a small room for a short period or where the heat is for one person.

Central heating

Central heating heats up either water or air that is then used to heat the entire house. Hot air is distributed in a series of ducts while hot water systems may involve radiators or pipes built into the floors. The heat may be generated by gas, a wood pellet-fuelled boiler or heat pumps. Many of these systems have controls that allow you to control the temperatures in different parts of the house, for example, bedrooms can be kept a little cooler than living areas.

The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation acknowledges the use of the EECA energywise action sheet in preparing this information.