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Alternative to central heating

(24 Posts)
LostInMess Fri 06-Nov-15 06:50:20

We live in a 1969-built house which still has warm air heating. When we first moved in, it was fine but increasingly isn't heating the house properly - kitchen has always been freezing due to size/external walls, and front bedrooms cooler, but now most of the house is cold or very cold except our bedroom which is insanely hot. So we need to think of some alternative.

Haven't had much luck getting even a ballpark figure for new central heating as plumbers comment was that we would need to spend a lot on alternatives to make it worthwhile. Leaving aside the cost, it would also mean a lot of work to take out the ducts/put in radiators or similar which we're really not up for due to age of DC (and also not really up for massive bill right now either!). Don't mind a bit of sorting out though, such as wall mounting. We have some plug in oil filled radiators for spot heating but am reluctant to leave them on in DCs' rooms overnight in case of fire risk (bit paranoid about this) - what I really want is something that can be timed to come on and is safe. And a warm house as I am aware how lucky we are that it's not really been cold yet and am dreading the winter.

Can anyone suggest anything??

wishingchair Fri 06-Nov-15 06:53:38

Sounds like you just need some maintenance on your warm air system. My brother in law had it in a 60s house and it was great and no ugly radiators!

wishingchair Fri 06-Nov-15 06:54:48

LostInMess Fri 06-Nov-15 06:57:40

Thanks for your reply - we have it serviced annually, wishing and there's no problem that the engineer can find - and he does specialise in warm air heating. Insulation is possibly an issue, tho we had the loft done when we moved in - but the house is freezing except our room which is too hot so it's making the heating redundant. Could always try manufacturer, I suppose.

FishWithABicycle Fri 06-Nov-15 07:05:03

I grew up in a house with warm air heating and I loved it. I also thought it was completely normal (as most of my friends lived nearby on the same estate in the same style of house) and when house-hunting was expecting to be able to have warm air heating on the list of desirable things to look for like a garage and garden etc. I was disappointed to find how ubiquitous radiators are, they are not as good.

Rather than replacing your existing system maybe there is more you could do to make it work better. Are the air ducts clean? When was the system last serviced? Are you following any advice you were given about furniture arrangements to encourage free air flow?

A radiator works by getting hot enough to warm up the air immediately around it and then passively relying on convection currents to circulate that air around the room. That's why they are often positioned under windows, so that the cooler air sinking down from the window will encourage that convection. Warm air heating directly heats the air to a much higher temp than the radiator and blasts it out with a fan so that it is actively forcing that convection rather than passively hoping for it. From an engineering point of view it ought to work much better than radiators unless you have sofas in front of the vents or a broken fan or some such.

FishWithABicycle Fri 06-Nov-15 07:12:21

X post regarding servicing etc but furniture positioning still a suggestion. Also insulation.

If you go round the house when the system turns on in the morning and put a hand right by the grille in each room, does it come out with a similar temp and force in each room? You'd expect a slight drop for rooms further away from the heater obviously but it shouldn't be a huge difference.

shanghaismog Fri 06-Nov-15 07:16:17

You could spend the money insulating your house instead, meaning that less heat is lost. You might find you can even get a grant for this. There are both internal and external options.

LostInMess Fri 06-Nov-15 07:19:44

Hi, thanks for all the replies. I have no issue with the heating per se just the fact that it isn't working as jt should, despite annual servicing. No problem that the engineer can find and I do trust him - insulation may be an issue as might the fact that the vents upstairs are in the ceilings so the heat doesn't seem to get into the rooms properly - although none of that explains why our room is so hot. I suspect that you are right and that the issue may be a blockage somewhere but that might be difficult to track down - hence my looking for an alternative in the meantime. If anyone has any thoughts on that too, that would be helpful - and thanks very much for your posts so far. Much food for thought.

PigletJohn Fri 06-Nov-15 10:23:17

Energy from electricity costs three times as much as energy from gas. So I would avoid an electric alternative.

Improving insulation will make the house warmer and/or save energy.

homeaway Fri 06-Nov-15 18:10:52

Would a wood burner help in living room?

FishWithABicycle Fri 06-Nov-15 18:25:39

The vents upstairs being in the ceiling is weird. Vents are all supposed to be at ankle level.

I wonder if the kind of drain specialist who can send a cctv cable down a drain to find a blockage might be able to send a camera through your duct system and map it properly, see if there is a blockage and work out if there are any changes that could be made to get it to work better.

PigletJohn Fri 06-Nov-15 20:06:21

vents in the ceiling might be to collect the air and send it back down to the heater to be filtered and circulated round again.

I have been in a place where the flow and the return vents were both in the ceiling, but they were different shapes. I think in houses, flow vents are usually down near the floor.

LostInMess Fri 06-Nov-15 23:19:36

Thanks again for the replies - piglet, the vents are in the floors downstairs but there is only one in each upstairs room and it's in the ceiling so no idea what's going on there! Except our sub-tropical room, which has two.

home, we had a burner fitted 4 years ago and it's been a godsend. This is partly why we had almost stopped using the heating as we ended up using that, which heated two downstairs rooms and the bedroom which the DDs used (chimney passed through it) and then got by with a plug in radiator in the kitchen which DH would turn on in the morning. But we really need to sort something that can come on automatically as we're using more bedrooms now (dd1 has moved to her own) and need the house to be warm as we have a new baby and I'd really like everyone to stop coming into our room to get dressed because it's warm and waking him up!

I think your suggestion, fish is a good one - think we basically need someone who can do that, check the system and give some proper advice on insulation..... Back to google, I think.

Thanks all for your help!

PigletJohn Fri 06-Nov-15 23:22:19

does warm air blow out of all the ceiling vents? And all the near-floor vents?

LostInMess Fri 06-Nov-15 23:27:19

Yes, it does - according to heating engineer that's normally fine as the fans in the units are fairly strong and can still waft it all round and the fan is working fine. Might have to contact the manufacturer - it was fine when we moved in 7 years ago but has slowly got less effective.

echt Sat 07-Nov-15 03:25:03

I live in Au, and have floor ducts near walls and windows. I use these.

In addition, I have ceiling fans that have winter and summer settings to push air down/up. They work very well, if intuitively odd to have the fans going in winter. grin

I've been in a few Au houses with ceiling heater vents. Bloody cold, except for the head, which roasts. Can'y be helpful here.

SquinkiesRule Sat 07-Nov-15 08:58:46

Our last house had warm air heating, with all the vents in the ceilings (bungalow) it worked fine. We had the deflectors in the kids rooms to push the air into the rooms away from the windows like the ones in the amazon link. They helped a lot. Our lack of double glazing was a problem.
Also Dh went into the loft and made sure all the ducting to each vent was well covered in insulation as we had cold spots. This seemed to cure them.

LostInMess Sat 07-Nov-15 10:47:06

Echt and squinkies, thanks for posting, I'll give the deflectors a go - you are right, the vents are right next to the windows, particularly in the two bedrooms which are absolutely Baltic! The insulation to the ducts is also a good point - I shall get DH onto it!

Thank you again smile

BlackAmericanoNoSugar Sat 07-Nov-15 10:56:55

Have you considered external insulation? A 1930's house near me was renovated and they put external insulation on, and the finish looked just like the original house you really couldn't tell that anything had been added and the render was the same as the old outside wall.

PigletJohn Sat 07-Nov-15 15:54:02

External insulation is rather expensive, though it is worth considering if you have a solid-walled house and the old render is already overdue to be stripped off and replaced.

As it adds several inches of thickness, it needs to be a detached house to look sensible.

AcrossthePond55 Sat 07-Nov-15 16:05:06

I've always had forced air heat (I'm in the US). Well up til now because we live in an old farmhouse. We can't put in any type of central heat so we use a pellet stove. It works great to heat the house.

Anyway, for your 'tropical room', have you tried closing the vents? In our first home our master bedroom was near the heating unit and as a result we got a huge 'blast' of the hot air. We found if we closed our bedroom vents enough still got through the vent slats to keep the bedroom at a good (cool) temp for sleeping and it also seemed to improve the heating in the other rooms.

Other than that, yy to having the ducting checked, we found a great hole in one once. And to insulation.

LostInMess Sun 08-Nov-15 08:50:41

Thanks again for the messages - hadn't thought about external insulation though not sure if it would work on ours - it is detached but brick exterior and weather boarded on the top half and we're not allowed to change the external appearance. Across we have shut one of the vents in the past and it did cool down our room but I can't recall if it affected the others, will give it a try and see - we've basically all but stupor using it, hence my vagueness but have my parents coming soon and they don't do cold! Sounds as if definitely well worth checking the ducts.

Much food for thought, anyway - think am going to call the manufacturer for a chat tomorrow, chase heating engineer and take it from there. Forecast is mild for a week or so, so best get moving before it gets cold!

Thanks again, all.

Darcourse Sun 08-Nov-15 09:18:53

In the meantime you could use these for your oil filled radiators

LostInMess Sun 08-Nov-15 23:01:00

That's great, darcourse, exactly the type of thing I was after. - saves me leaving them on overnight.

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