The options open to you in heating your home range from whole-house or full central heating to local or focal-point heaters used alone or to top up central heating. There are several heating systems to choose from and a variety of appliances.
Before installing or converting the heating system in your home, consider the following points:
1 You should choose a system and decide on the frequency and amount of heating that are needed according to the site, size and plan of your house. An isolated windblown house facing north on top of a hill needs more heating than a little house cosily sandwiched in an urban terrace.
The average-sized semi-detached house requires probably an output of between 35,000 and 50,000 BTU (British Thermal Units). But it is difficult for the nonprofessional to calculate the amount of heat and the kind of heat distribution his house will need. As well as depending on site, size and plan, it depends on such factors as window area and — vitally — on thermal insulation: the most efficient heating system is crippled if much of the heat disappears through an uninsulated loft, window gaps or draught-prone doors.
2 Because the heating system should be tailored to the house and because of the variety of systems and appliances available, it is wise to call in a professional heating engineer to advise you on installation or conversion. The Gas and electricity companys, regional offices of the Solid Fuel Advisory Service and the fuel-oil companies all offer advice and information on their own systems. Independent organizations include the National Heating and Ventilation Contractors Association.
3 A system that theoretically is ideally tailored to your particular needs may fail unless it is efficiently installed. Entire installation of full-scale central heating is a task best left to professionals. But there are do-it-yourself heating schemes that put installation within the scope of the amateur, particularly where the supplier offers basic professional help.
4 There are two factors in the economics of home heating: the capital costs of installing or converting a heating system and purchasing any supplementary heaters: and annual running costs — the costs of fuelling the system, whether electricity, gas, oil or solid fuel is used. The comparatively low installation costs of a particular system may be offset by high running costs — or vice versa. Your heating budget should take account of both factors plus regional differences in fuel charges and allow, in the long term, for almost inevitable increases in the cost of fuels.
5 Central heating systems require annual professional servicing even if they are operating satisfactorily. The running maintenance that you can safely do yourself de pends on the type of system and fuelling unit. For example, if the boiler is oil-fired, you should remove and clean the oil filter every six months according to the maker’s instructions, first having turned off the oil supply and the electricity. In the case of a solid fuel boiler, you should periodically brush out the flue, clearing soot deposits. You can repair any damaged fire clay in the boiler by using a repair kit available from a hardware shop or builders’ merchant.