Controlling the temperature inside a dwelling has long been a goal of humanity. Archeologists estimate that humans were heating the inside of their dwellings as far back as 1,900,000 BC by controlling a small fire in a central room with holes (early chimneys) in the roof.

This practice evolved into the Roman use of radiant heat, an early form of what we now recognize as central heating, by installing hypocaust furnaces under the floors of their dwellings which connected to the rest of the home or bathhouse through an intricate piping system. Heating technology recessed to simple methods like the early fireplace after the fall of the Roman Empire, but by the 1200s central heating had been revived and the 1600s saw the world’s first circulating fireplace (controlled airflow).

Following this, James Watt invented the first steam-based heating system which served as a conceptual basis for the rest of modern heating technology. Eventually, temperature regulation inside of a home evolved into the luxury we have today; the ability to change the climate of a room at the touch of a button.

It’s easy to understand why heating systems are a crucial part of home design in European countries – after all, they have freezing temperatures and even snow. But the majority of Australian houses are actually specifically designed to let heat escape, as a way of surviving through the heated summer.

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Australian houses were found to be among the coldest houses in the world, and are often build to poor standards of thermal performance. In Australian cities and states where cold weather is common, such as Tasmania, Melbourne or Canberra, this is often not the case as houses are designed appropriately for colder climates. However, houses in Adelaide, Sydney and Perth are often inefficient for warmth retention.

Approximately 7% of all the deaths in Australia from 1988-2009 were directly related to the effects of cold weather. A factor likely to have exacerbated this tragedy is the sheer cost of heating, driving many people to inefficient and even dangerous heating alternatives. With the cost of living ever rising and the value of wages seemingly stagnant, this is unfortunately likely to only get worse. Fuel prices have already seen a drastic climb in recent weeks as the Russian invasion of Ukraine progresses, and this trend is unlikely to regress any time soon.

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Given the current financial climate, it is no wonder that many are considering alternative heating methods. Currently, most popular heating system in Australia is the common household combination of air-conditioner and heater.

Note that the heating system is actually separate to the air conditioning, as heating processes are internal while the AC chills refrigerant with an outside unit. (Interestingly, this means that the most popular heating system in Australia today is technically a furnace). While it is the most common, it is certainly not the most environmentally friendly nor the most cost-effective heating system available.

However, heating is notoriously expensive often regardless of your method. On average, a single space heater will cost around $60 a month to run and a high quality heater (1500 watts) could ring up a bill of well over $150 each month. Central heating is also typically quite expensive, tending to cost around $1,025 in total to run each year. To help differentiate between the various home heating options, here is a breakdown of the 10 main heating types.

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House Heaters: Every option for top of the range heating Australia

1. Ducted Heating

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Ducted heating is one of Australia’s most popular heating methods for controlling temperature within the whole house. Ducted heating is central heating which recycles the air inside your home through a return air grille which warms air using a heat exchanger on its return to the room. Ducted heating can use gas or electricity.

(Compare gas ducted heating prices)

On average, a gas duct heater costs $1,055 to run annually (heating the whole home). Electric heating for a ducted system is slightly more expensive to run in a non-zoned split system - averaging out at $1,220 – though a ducted electric split system will only cost around $915 to heat the whole house ($770 on high efficiency).

Brivis and Braemar ducted gas heating are among the highest quality options for sale in Australia.

2. Small Heaters

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Portable heaters are cheaper in the short term, though they are less effective. A small gas heater will cost $155 to run annually, and a portable electric heater is likely to cost around $450/year. Keep in mind that this is usually only heating one small room (rather than actually heating a house), so if you want to feel warm anywhere else in your home you should probably consider ducted / central heating. However, small heaters are a decent option for small homes or for those who spend much of their time working out of home, because they can be used to warm the bedroom and nothing more.

3. Combustion Heaters

A combustion heater is another word for a wood heater or fireplace. Combustion heaters are airtight chambers in stainless steel containers where the smoke is directed out of the home through a chimney. They cost around $1000-$1,500 to install, but the only cost to run is the price of firewood.

4. Hydronic Heating

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Hydronic heating refers to a heating unit which uses water as medium for heat transferal. It can usually both heat and cool, and it is also one of the most eco-friendly heating options because it uses only water and natural gas.

5. Storage heaters

What is the most cost effective heating for a home? Storage heaters are interesting because they could be considered the most cost effective; they produce and store thermal energy at night, while electricity costs are lower, and release it during the day.

6. Underfloor heating

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Underfloor heating is a form of central heating often using hydronics which is installed under the floor. It can be up to 25% cheaper to run than other methods, depending on your usage levels.

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Reverse cycle air conditioning vs gas heating

Reverse cycle air conditioning is significantly more eco-friendly than gas heating, saving up to two thirds of the carbon emissions produced by gas heaters.

How much does it cost to run a gas heater per hour?

On average, gas heaters cost $0/43-$0.51 an hour to run. Electric heaters are generally a little more expensive to run (and cheaper to purchase) but this trend is beginning to change as clean energy becomes more efficient. Modern electric heating sources (such as wall furnace heating) are also more environmentally friendly, so if you are considering purchasing a heating system this is certainly something to consider.