Overcome Those Winter Woes with This Timely Gas Heater Guide
A natural gas heater is one of the best ways to remain warm and cosy on those cold and gloomy winter nights.
Sure, sharing blankets with your significant other can be great fun! But when the temperature drops down to single digits, you’ll be thankful that the home has a reliable, energy-efficient source of heating.
When comparing heaters on their efficiency, running costs, and environmental impact, natural gas heating emerges as the clear favourite. But before you start searching online for a new system, there are a few things that need consideration – like the size, positioning and flue requirements of said heater.
Our timely guide will answer your questions and reveal everything you need to know to beat those winter woes.
What Everyone Ought to Know About Gas Heating
Many consumer advocacy groups and comparison websites consider a gas heater to be a superior choice compared to electric heaters. Despite the clear benefits, many Australians still rely on electric heaters, in particular reverse cycle air conditioning.
Their appeal stems from the simple plug-and-use premise, particularly portable heaters, and occasional lower purchasing costs.
Although anyone looking to save on energy bills and reduce their carbon footprint will benefit from upgrading to a gas heater. Here are the key advantages of using natural gas:
Efficiency: Gas heaters are incredibly efficient. According to Choice, up to 90% of the energy consumed by gas heaters is transferred directly into heat, and it’s achieved almost instantaneously without a heater needing time to warm up.
Considering that one large gas heater with a capacity of up to 25 MJ/h has the same heat output as three separate 2kW split system air conditioners, it’s easy to see why gas heaters are often favoured over the electric alternatives.
Running costs: In Australia, natural gas carries a lower price tag per unit when compared to electricity, so it’s common for gas heaters to have lower running costs.
Comparison website Finder looked at three major Australian energy providers and determined an average price for energy in NSW, QLD, VIC and SA. In each state, the price of gas was cheaper per unit than electricity. Approximately three units of gas are required to reach the same energy output as one unit of electricity, but gas remains cheaper.
For example, in Victoria, the average price of gas is $0.02 per MegaJoule, while electricity has an average price of $0.23 per kiloWatt. So, even with three units of gas required to reach the same energy output as one unit of electricity, you’re only looking at $0.07 worth of gas or less than a third of the price of electricity.
As heating and cooling account for more than 40% of household energy usage, switching to a gas heater can save you a significant amount of money on energy bills.
Keep in mind that many gas heaters and other gas appliances still require electricity to work and will use a manually operated electronic ignition.
Environmental impact: Burning natural gas also emits significantly less carbon dioxide than burning the coal required for electricity. Natural gas is a fossil fuel just like coal, although its chemical composition is different and releases less greenhouse gas when burned.
Energy Information Australia reports that newer, efficient natural gas producing plants emit anywhere from 50 to 60% less CO2 into the atmosphere than modern coal-fired power plants.
So, if you consider the energy efficiency, running costs, and environmental impact of gas and electricity, gas comes out on top. Even a small portable electric heater can send your energy bills sky high.
And yes, the cleanliness of renewables like solar power is a favourable alternative to both natural gas and coal-fired electricity. However, solar can have much higher upfront costs, and its performance depends entirely on the weather. So, it’s not uncommon for solar households to rely on electricity or a gas connection to top up energy.
What is the Best Gas Heater to Buy?
The best gas heater for your home depends on factors like the size of your room, your budget and the number of rooms that require heating will all affect your heater choice. From a flued gas heater to portable gas heaters, they boast reasonable operating costs and much more.
Below you will find a breakdown of each main form of gas heating along with the benefits of each:
Spotlight on Space Heaters
Space heater is a broad term used to describe smaller heaters suitable for adding climate control to a single room. Column, radiant, convector and panel heaters are all forms of space heaters, with the gas-powered models being among the most efficient.
Space heaters come in various shapes and sizes and are favoured as the most affordable type of gas heaters. When it comes to gas heaters, many models can be removed from their bayonet gas fitting to be stored away during the summer.
Rinnai is considered a leading brand of space heaters, particularly their Ultima II and Energy Saver models.
It’s recommended for health and safety that all gas heaters be flued to the outside of a home. In Victoria and Tasmania, this is a legal requirement.
The benefits of space heaters include:
- Compact sizing
- Assortment of styles
Gas Log Fire Fundamentals
Gas log fires are effective for heating a living space or dining room and possess the allure of traditional wood-burning log fires.
Available freestanding or built into a wall or recess, these visually appealing heating options take the classic fireplace concept and replace the wood with natural gas as the fuel. There’s no need to stoke the fire. The logs are purely decorative. Or you can have pebbles in place of log. Or even nothing at all.
Freestanding gas log fires are more efficient than built-in models as they radiate heat from all sides. They are also easier to install. And yet, freestanding fireplaces take up additional floor space and are more difficult to childproof. Whatever your preference, there’s bound to be a style to complement your home.
Prices for gas log fires vary greatly and increase depending on the size. The costs of installing a gas log fire will always depend on whether you already have a flue in position from an existing fireplace or require a technician to position one.
The benefits of gas log fires include:
- Stylish appearance
- Rapid heating
- No wood chopping required
Delighted by Ducted Gas Heating
A ducted gas heater is a form of central heating and an all-encompassing solution that brings warmth to the entire home. Not unlike ducted air conditioning, these gas heaters draw air from inside your home to heat using a central gas furnace installed in the roof or underneath the floor.
The temperature is controlled via a thermostat with the air directed to the desired rooms via discreet ducts and vents. Many ducted gas heaters have zoning capabilities, so users can adjust the temperature for individual rooms or shut down specific areas.
The costs of a ducted gas heating unit vary greatly, depending on the size of the home and access to roof space. Always factor in costs for installation, ductwork, grilles, gas connection and other requirements. Leading brands that specialise in reliable gas heaters include Braemar and Kaden.
The benefits of a central gas heater include:
- Heat in every room
- Discreet climate control
- Zoning to meet personal preferences
Wall Furnace Features
Also known as a wall heater, these slim gas furnaces are fitted directly to a wall, not unlike a split system air conditioner, although the wall furnace is positioned closer to the floor than the ceiling.
These heaters work by drawing cool air through the top of the furnace, heating it within a chamber, and then the internal fan directs the treated air through the bottom and back into the room.
Wall heaters remain cool to touch, making them child-friendly options, and select models are double-sided, effectively heating two back to back rooms simultaneously. The size, shape and style of wall furnaces vary from model to model. So, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find one to suit your home’s aesthetics.
When it comes to reliable brands, Braemar and Bonaire are considered Australian leaders in wall furnace technology.
The benefits of a wall furnace include:
- Slimline appearance
- Effectively heats 1-2 rooms
- Assortment of styles and sizes
Hydronic Heating and Your Health
Gas hydronic heating is a great alternative for those who experience allergies or suffer through bouts of asthma. Air conditioners and fan heaters have the potential to stir up dust mites, pollen and other allergens, recirculating them through the home and causing respiratory problems.
Hydronic heating, however, uses hot water to spread heat throughout a room or rooms. Hydronic heating starts with a central gas boiler that heats the water before distributing it across your home. The heat can then spread from radiators placed in specific rooms or via concealed pipes fitted under the floor. This is called radiant floor heating.
Hydronic systems are considered one of the most efficient forms of gas heating as there’s no energy lost through ducts or vents, and the water can stay heated within the insulated pipes even once a hydronic heater has been switched off.
Hydronic heating prices differ significantly as the installation can be complex depending on the number of rooms being treated and the work involved with fitting pipes underneath the flooring.
Gas hydronic heating comes with benefits including:
- Allergy and asthma relief
- Energy efficiency
- Quiet and concealed
What Capacity Gas Heater is Right for Your Home?
After determining the correct type of gas heater, the next step is calculating the appropriate capacity size or output for your home.
Gas heater listings should include information regarding the MJ/h or MegaJoules of energy used per hour of heating. This information is essential for determining the running costs of a gas heater and also the required size.
For example, a heater that uses 13-15 MegaJoules of natural gas per hour would suit a bedroom or smaller living room. A heater that uses over 22 MJ/h could provide the required heating for multiple rooms at the same time. The table above provides further information on heating capacity.
Having a system with the correct energy output is crucial for ensuring that you do not become overheated and use excessive energy in the process. It’s also essential to have the right size so a system can meet the full extent of your heating needs.
When considering the size of a heater, you should take the following into account:
- Size of a room (or rooms)
- Number of rooms that require heating
- Insulation of your home
- Local climate
- Size and quantity of windows
Another reason to ensure that your heater is the right size is to minimise combustion gases vented inside the home. Keep reading to find out why using flued gas heaters is highly recommended.
Portable Heater vs Flued Heater: What’s the Difference?
While the two gas heaters pictured above may appear similar, the left is unflued while the heater on the right is equipped with a concealed flue. A flue is a slimline chimney that’s used for venting combustion gases outside the home.
As natural gas is burned, it produces carbon dioxide (CO²) and carbon monoxide (CO). A flue will vent this CO² and CO away from the home, maintaining the quality of the air within. A portable gas heater or one without a flue will release a small amount of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide directly into the home. CO² may not affect your health, but excessive carbon dioxide in the body can lead to Hypercapnia.
According to Healthline, Hypercapnia is caused when the body has too much carbon dioxide and isn’t getting enough fresh oxygen. However, while CO² is a common, natural gas that is mostly harmless, carbon monoxide is not.
Carbon monoxide is the result of incomplete combustion during burning of various fuels (including gas, wood and kerosene). CO poisoning is one of the most common types of poisoning in the world because it is invisible and odourless. Symptoms can include headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, confusion, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, seizures, passing out and even death.
Fatalities from CO² are rare, while the dangers of CO poisoning are more common. It has been dubbed “a silent killer”.
Whether you’re using unflued gas heaters or flued gas heaters, it’s advisable to get a regular carbon monoxide test or use a carbon monoxide alarm. If you are using unflued gas heaters, make sure you have adequate ventilation in those rooms.
Victoria and Tasmania have banned the use of unflued gas heaters, and the other Australian states have capped the capacity of heaters that can be used without a flue. It’s always recommended to use a flued gas heater, regardless of its frequency of use.
Are Gas Heaters Worth the Price of Admission?
Gas heaters have long been a superior form of heating, and this is unlikely to change until there are advancements in renewable technologies. So, for the foreseeable future, yes! Gas heaters are worth the investment, with the emphasis on using flued heaters.
If you wish to learn more or enquire about having a new gas heater installed for winter, contact the experts at Metropolitan Air Conditioning. Our team of experienced technicians can discuss the best heating options for your home.
Please note: This information is provided for advice purposes only. Regulations differ from state to state, so please consult your local authorities or an industry professional before proceeding with any work. See our Terms & Conditions here.