donna de amusa Image
02/26/2011 - 20:48

Can anyone help me with an idea of how much it might cost to heat a small 2 bed apt over the winter, and also whether it might be more economical to use the air con unit instead of halogen or fan heaters.     During January the air con unit was in use most of the day but the heat didn't circulate around the rooms properly. All suggestions to maximise efficiency and reduce costs will be welcomed. Thanks Donna



Donna, Where are you located and what sun exposure do you have during the day? If you run that much electricity you will have a rather sizeable bill from Enel. If you have any sun exposure then open shutters and drapes during the day will help and closing these at night to retain the heat. It also best to only heat the area you are using, when you are using it, so small heaters that you can place close to you are helpfull. In Italy wool is relatively inexpensive so nothing like a nice wool sweater to fend off the cold.

I assume that when you say you're using your air conditioner to heat your flat, you have one of the modern heat pump units that can either cool or heat the air. Heat pumps are, in theory, more efficient than the more traditional forms of electric heating since they extract heat from the environment and effectively concentrate it. This means that, given a choice of using the air conditioner or a halogen or fan heater to heat an area of your house to a given temperature, it should be cheaper to use the air conditioner. However, air source heat pumps - which is what I assume your air conditioner to be - are not as efficient as those which extract heat from the ground and their effectiveness drops as the outside air gets colder. We have one of these units in an open-plan part of our house and find that it works fine to keep the area warm when it's chilly outside (say, down to 5° C or so), but that its output is not sufficient to keep the area comfortable when the outside temperature falls below that. As for how much it might cost to heat your flat over the winter, that's really impossible for anyone here to say. The answer depends on a lot of factors, some of which have already been mentioned: how well insulated the flat is, the direction it faces, the size of the windows, how warm you want it to be, whether the flat is in the middle of other flats or on the ouside corner of the building, whether any surrounding flats are being heated and so on. Al

We find those little fan heaters with a thermostatic control useful, you could set one to come on when the temperature drops  below say, 15 degrees, then it will switch itself off again.If the heater was on for 8 hours a day using the whole 2kw it would cost around £3 taking standing charges and stuff into account. So  around £100 a month for all your electric to stave off hypothermia! If you had a couple of heaters switched to the Ikw setting it would probably keep things more confortable. You'll need to heed Edwina Curry's advice and wear a woolly hat too! PS Stock up on energy saving light bulbs in the UK , Asda were selling them for 10p each, more like  a fiver in Italy!

"PS Stock up on energy saving light bulbs in the UK , Asda were selling them for 10p each, more like  a fiver in Italy!" But make sure you get the right fitting  [screw type - (large or small), - unless you've taken UK light fittings over]

This is quite a toughie to respond to, we pay less (in total) for all our 'standard living costs' here than we did back in the UK. House here is smaller though! We have not tried the pellet stoves but they seem very efficient, and clean? reletive to (say) wood. S

Get a Wood Burner...ours uses approx 1 large load over the winter (€150) and heats two floors of our house. We also have a small pellet burner which take 1 bag every other day (€4.70 a bag) which we use to heat the bottom two floors when not cooking in the kitchen. But make sure your house is insulated and draughty doors sealed. Be smug and use sustainable energy...

Yessssss..................It is probably the one thing that concerned me, but then the old loggia stores wood? The noise doesn't seem TOO bad, and I suppose I'd have one in a (say) uility room? S

In reply to by sprostoni

We're in Calabria and have bought in a new development.    However, in a small 2nd floor apt it's not really practical to have a wood burning stove.    Our only options are oil filled radiators, fan heaters or halogen heaters.   The estimated £3 per day running costs for 8 hours of heat seems reasonable, thanks for the advice. If anyone has particular views on the efficiency and costs of running oil filled radiators or halogen heaters I'd be pleased to hear them. Thanks Donna

I would choose oil filled radiators for the apartment and halogen for the bathroom; however, all this only works efficiently if you have good insulation. Sorry, I am not good at detailed costs but we had this type of heating in a small house we owned in France and it was really efficient.

Donna, if your options are limited to heating by electricity in one way or another, then I think your decision on whether to use oil-filled electric radiators, radiant halgoen heaters or fan heaters simply comes down to which makes you feel most comfortable. Using one kilowatt hour of electricity in a conventional electric heater will always produce the same amount of heat, the only variation being exactly how it's delivered. A radiant heat source (like the halogen heaters or the old-fashioned British one or two bar electric heaters) will feel a lot warmer if you're in a place where you feel the radiant heat on your skin or clothing, while a fan heater might feel cooler due the breeze it produces. An oil-filled radiator will produce a bit of radiant heat, but mainly a gentle convection current of warm air rising off it. But, all other things being equal, using one kilowatt of electricity in any of those heaters in the same room over the same time period will result in the air temperature being raised by exactly the same amount. I assume Gala suggests a halogen heater in the bathroom because many people like a source of radiant heat in the space where they're often partly or totally unclothed, but she suggests oil-filled radiators because halogen heaters are not all that good at producing an evenly heated room. Oil-filled radiators, on the other hand, produce a steady, background warmth without the noise of a fan. Gala is also correct to say that this arrangement only has a chance to be comfortable and affordable if the house is well-insulated and doesn't have draughts. The bottom line is that, if you use one kilowatt hour of electricity to power an appliance in your flat, the amount of heat energy you've put into your flat will be the same, no matter how you choose to use it. That applies even if you use the electricity to run a computer, operate lightbulbs, run a fridge or watch TV. (One obvoius exceptioin that comes to mind is electric water heating, since then you're basically putting energy in water which is then drained out of the flat.) As I said above, this rule does not apply if you use a heat pump air conditioner to extract heat from the air outside and use that to warm the air inside the flat. It's not unrealistic for an air-source heat pump to produce 3 kilowatts of heat for every 1 kilowatt of electricity it consumes (obviously, normal electric heaters produce one kilowatt of heat for every kilowatt of electricity they consume). However, if the air conditioner you have installed doesn't keep your flat warm on its own, then there's not much to choose amongst the alternatives if you're considering cost of operation. Al PS: I know it isn't relevant to you, Donna, but I would strongly urge anyone considering pellet fires as a heat source to talk to several people who have experience of living with one of the things before talking to a sales person. Ideally, visit a house with one installed while it's working so you can see and hear it in operation and get the owner to show you what's necessary in terms of feeding and cleaning. We have two of the things and we've used one as our main central heating source for two winters now. I'm certain that we would get a pellet furnace if we had to do it all again, but I'm also sure we would not go for the model we bought.

Hmmmm...........I may be confused....(the Tom Jones effect - 'it's not unusual' !!). A friend of mine has just installed a very big pellet boiler that heats water and the radiators (basically it's a huge black box about 1.5mtr high and one mtr square with a built in hopper at the top). It doesn't seem outrageously noisy and he reckons he uses a bag of pellets (circa E3.50 each), all in all seems good?'

In reply to by sprostoni

One of our pellet stoves (installed before I bought the place) is in a part of the house that's a self-contained flat. It was clearly designed to be a "feature" or focal point, in that it's quite colourful and has a large glass window to display the fire. In fact, it was not a particularly suitable design choice, since the flat is open plan and having a pellet stove a few metres from your bed is not all that wonderful in terms of noise. It's not like a jet engine revving up or anything, but it has a fan to force air into the combustion chamber, another motor to drive the geared mechanism and Archimedes screw mechanism that feeds pellets into the combustion chamber and another fan to cool the fire's housing. It is a noise you can get used to if it starts up when you're sleeping, but it can be pretty intrusive if you're watching TV, reading, trying to listen to music and so on. It certainly completely destroys the hush that normally surrounds our house in the wilds of Abruzzo. Our second pellet-fired device is a boiler which is very utilitarian in design: rather like your friend's big black box, Sprostoni. Again, the sound it makes is not deafening by any means, but it does have the same fans and feed mechanism of any pellet fire. We had it installed in our utility room. It's a lot louder than the gas boiler which is also in that room, but quieter than both the tumble dryer and the washing machine. Still, if laundry isn't being done and you walk by the open door of the utility room while the pellet boiler is running, you can hear that it's operating. Bottom line is that pellet stoves are not ridiculously loud (at least not the ones I've seen operating), but I don't think that the living room is the most appropriate place for them. Still, there may well be very quiet ones out there. As far as consumption is concerned, the pellets we get have a stated energy content of around 4.9 killowatt hours per kilogram. This means that one 15 kg bag has about 73 killowatt hours of energy. I believe that pellet stoves work at an efficiency of up to 90%. Assuming that best-case scenario, each bag will have an usable energy of around 66 killowatt hours. Obviously, things are very different in Italy, but to give an idea of what that means in terms that most of us can relate to, I've seen figures stating that the average UK 3-bedroom home consumes something like 25,000 killowatt hours worth of gas in a year. In order to get that much energy in pellets, you'd need 380 bags: or nearly 6 tonnes of pellets. So, on average, a little more than a bag a day, but that's all based on wild generalisations. Here's some real-world specifics: in order to maintain the eight rooms that we occupy at a temperature of 20°, we've been getting through up to three bags of pellets a day during the coldest weather this winter. Our house is pretty much draught-free, but it's a traditional construction (read: without insulation) located in the hills of Abruzzo at 550 mslm. Pellets are by far the easiest and cheapest option for heating, but by no definition is it "cheap" to heat this place to a reasonable temperature even using them. Of course, at some point during the next couple of months, our energy consumption for central heating will hopefully fall to zero killowatt hours per day, something that hardly ever happened when I lived in Scotland! Al

As Allan says Pellet stoves can be noisy so look at them in action beforehand. We (and our neighbours) have a Pallazzetti Pellet stove (two different sizes) and find them one of the best makes for reliability and noise. A friend of ours chose a cheaper option (can't remember the name) and after about a month the noise from the fan became very intrusive. Very little ash is generated so cleaning only takes a 5-10 minutes in the morning. You also need to get them serviced/deep cleaned at intervals as they have an internal clock/timer that starts reminding you of service intervals and if you exceed that amount of usage it will refuse to start until it has been reset.

We use 'bog standard' convector heaters at our place - we have ones that can heat at either  750W, 1250W or 2000W.  This allows you to run 2 or 3 at a time to heat more than 1 room, but also allows you to 'blast' a room you want heating quickly Most effective in Winter to help heat the place up until the CH takes over on its own

Re Pellets,prices vary on several factors :-

  • Where you by them from
  • How many at a time you buy
  • Where they are produced

We tend to buy the Austrian Pellets @ €4.50 a 15kg that have a better calorific value and run cleaner than a lot of the cheaper Italian/Other makes.

“Can anyone help me with an idea of how much it might cost to heat a small 2 bed apt over the winter,  ……………………….All suggestions to maximise efficiency and reduce costs will be welcomed.” I’ve been thinking about how to make the place warmer, and would suggest that you consider the following points, to see if they apply to your place’-

  • Doors– are there any draughts from these? – if so, try stick on draught sealer [sponge on a roll]
  • Windows– as above
  • Windows– are they double glazed? – if not, consider;-
    • Secondary double glazing,
      • fitted as a second window – fitting an aluminium frame around the window recess to hold glass panes that can be slid or tilted to open
      • fitted to the existing window – see  secondary-glazing/as an example
      • Probably the cheapest option is a plastic film fixed with double-sided tape and shrunk to fit with a hairdryer. These are only intended for a single season's insulation [I did this to the window in a very cold bedroom in a house in UK– very effective]
    • Fitting heavy curtains in Winter to cut down heat loss
  • Floors– are your floors cold? [tiled or timber] – consider putting rugs down in the winter – the more floor you can cover the less heat loss [and you’ll feel its warmer if your feet aren’t freezing when you walk about]
  • Radiators   [if you have any] – do they have heat reflective foil behind them
  • Walls & Ceilings  not a lot you can do about these – in the old days polystyrene ceiling [and wall!] tiles were the answer, but now considered a fire hazard
  • Which rooms to heat, and when?
    • Bedrooms-you don’t need to heat the bedrooms in the daytime – just for an hour or two before you go to bed
    • Lounge/Kitchen– the reverse – don’t heat at night
    • Bathroomget one of those low power towel rails and leave it plugged in all the time [you can put it on a timer if you find it too effective] see Dimplex-Electric-Towel-Rail-.htmlfor examples [We bought ours in Italy – free standing or wall mounted – about 50W – you'll probably need a stronger one [say 100W],  as we have CH as well]
  • Clothing– Wrap up warm, and wear thermal socks – if your feet [and head] are warm – you’ll think you’re warm all over

  Hope this helps

Thanks to everyone for their suggestions.    The apt is part of a new development on the Ionian coast.   For the life of me I can't think why solar panels were not fitted especially as the Italian Govt is urging people to go green.   The floors are tiled, ideal for summer, freezing in the winter, and no, there is no insulation apart from double glazed doors to the balcony, no CH either. Realistically, I suppose living there in the winter will not be an option due to the potential for horrendous heating costs.   Thanks Donna

Though I take Allan Mason's point of view that 1 kW of elec, delivered by whatever means, will produce the same amount of heat, unless you are seeking to heat a small reasonably draught proof room (like a bathroom, where a thermostatically controlled oil filled electric rad is a good option) I'd opt for alanh's suggestion of an electric convector radiator. Very controllable - as alan says, you can generally switch these things between 800W up to 2 kW - and they are invariably thermostatically controlled, and cost about the same as an oil filled model but (IMO) distribute their heat more 'efficiently'. It isn't quite as simple as 'paying per kW', there is a measurable 'comfort' bonus which makes the pure equation more complicated. If you consider installation costs, (as in a 'proper central heating' system) and the difference between the costs of elec or gas, and if you don't have the option of (a very economical wood or pellet burner) then realistically electricity is not that expensive to run on a 'lifetime' basis. Pay attention to which tariff you are on - probably one of the tariffs which reward you for using 'off peak' isn't your best option. I personally would not consider a radiant (halogen type) heat source. I'd also keep the convector (or oil filled) radiator on, thermostatically controlled maybe at about 16degC, 24/7 during the heating season.

Are you sure about the spelling of this? May very well be a brand name I've never heard of, but since both Italian and British Googles return nill results, I wonder if there might not have been a misunderstanding at some point. In the context of heating/cooling, "inverter" is the nearest sounding relevant word I can think of. I think that just about every domestic air conditioning unit sold these days in Italy is an inverter unit. All this means is that the output is much more controllable than old-fashioned (say, pre-1990) air conditioners which were either running at full speed or completely off. An inverter unit is able to slowly increase and decrease its speed, depending upon how much difference there is between the present air temperature and the desired temperature set by the user. This makes the devices much more efficient in terms of electricity used and more pleasant to live with. However, not every air conditioner labelled as having inverter technology will necessarily also be a reversable heat pump, which is what you'd be looking for if you want to use the unit in the winter as well as the summer. If you look at the labels on these things, it's usually pretty obvious which can be used as heaters as well as coolers: the reversable units will have figures given for both cold and hot output. Al

I tend to agree with Fillide on this - in our house we rely on the stuffa for heating the downstairs but electric heating upstairs. We have a motley collection of fan, oil filled and convector heaters and find the fan is best for a quick fix but is noisy, that the oil filled are pretty hopeless and dont seem to do much at all but that the convectors give of a very evident warmth which tends to keep the room at a decent constant temperature even if on the lowest 750w watt setting. I dont know if everybody else finds the same? I am often amazed when I go into a shop to see them with the oil filled radiatior as they seem to make no difference at all! And on the subject of 1kw creating the same output regardless I am not sure this is right! Having tested my daughter recently on GCSE physics it is all apparently down to the efficiency of the unit. A fan heater for example uses some of the 1kw to overcome the friction to turn the fan ane even the noise given off by it is a form of dissipation of some of the energy. Similarly an electric bar heater uses some of its energy to create the orange glow not to heat. Surely someone somewhere must have done a study to establish the most efficient form of heater in this eco conscious world!

Yes, some of the electricity used by a fan heater is used to turn the fan. The reason the fan will not, once started, keep turning for an infinite time is due to friction, both in the fan bearings and the friction of blades against air molecules. But friction is just the name we give to the conversion of kinetic energy into heat energy. Therefore, that electical energy which has been "lost" to friction by the fan heater has also been converted into heat. And, yes, some of the energy consumed by a fan heater is converted into sound. However, the proportion of the total energy used by a fan heater "lost" in that form is pretty trivial: consider how much noise the very limited energy stored in a couple of batteries can create if it's converted into sound in a radio or CD player. In any case, sound is just the jiggling around of air molecules and, at levels that matter only in a physics lab, that also creates friction which heats up the air of the room. While I agree with Fillide that perception of warmth is important, I think the Laws of Thermodynamics make it pretty clear that, if you take a closed, perfectly insulated box, put any sort of electrical appliance in it and then feed it one kilowatt hour of electricity, the temperature inside the box will increase by the same amount, no matter if the appliance is a fan heater, halogen heater, toaster, lightbulb, electric mixer or an iPod. Again, in the context of this thread, heat pumps are an important exception to the rule in that they take heat energy from outside the box, effectively concentrate it and then transfer it in to the box. Al

Allan I never was muchgood at physics! It does seem odd that some types are better than others. We also have one of those halogen type heaters which seems to be all glow and no heat but I guess it is possibly more down to the method of heating the air rather than the output ie a convector throws the heat straight up whereas others are a bit more subtle!

If your ENEL meter says that your halogen heater is using, say, 1 kilowatt per hour, then you can be certain that this is the amount of heat being output by the heater. However - and this relates to Fillide's post - there is a problem with the perception of warmth - the comfort factor - created by radiant heat sources. This applies whether you're talking about an old-fashioned British open coal fire, an antique two-bar electric heater or a state of the art halogen heater with microchip time and temperature control. Almost all the heat from a radiant source is converted to warmth that humans can perceive only when it strikes a solid object. If a halogen heater faces nothing but an external wall and if that wall is not well insulated, then the heater will be warming the wall and a lot of that heat will be wasted because it will be conducted through the wall to the outside environment. Indeed, if the heater is several metres from the wall, then the heating of the wall will be so diffuse that it will be difficult to perceive. On the other hand, if the halogen heater faces a well insulated floor, an internal wall or other objects with no thermal connection to the outside, then the heater should, in theory, be just as useful at heating the space as any other electric heater. Whether it will feel like it's doing much is another question. Because convection heaters heat the air and the warm air currents rising off the heater gently circulate air around the room, they are perceived to be more comfortable and it's understandable if they are thought to be more efficient. In the sense that they generally make you feel warmer than a radiant heat source consuming the same amount of electrical energy, they are more efficient at doing their job! But that's not to say that heaters that produce primarily radiant heat are somehow magically making some of the electrical energy that they use disappear during the conversion from electrical energy to heat energy. All the elecrictity going into the heater will always all be converted into heat, but the question is whether the heat is being emitted in a way that's useful in a particular setting. And that's why it's so difficult for anyone who isn't familiar with Donna and her flat to give her a definite answer on what exactly she should do to make her flat comfortably warm at the minimum cost and why it's impossible to put a Euro price tag on the solution. There are simply far too many unknowns. Al

I can really recommend the electric heated throws made out of fleece! I bought one from Amazo in October and its been a lifesaver.You can put it on and drape over your knees when working in a cold room!Best £37 I ever spent! btw here in Cornwall March has been so mild that we have turned the heating off!!!! Its 12 degs outside now but the sunny weather warmed things up so much the house is not cold.tone houses work like this and we've found that to be the case in Italy too.