Maximizing Comfort and Efficiency: Tips for Heating Your Home

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In summary, the conversation discusses the amount of methane used for heating in a 90 mq house, the efficiency of heating systems, and ways to reduce heat loss in older homes. It is suggested to add an air duct for combustion, use storm windows and insulation, and seal any gaps around windows and doors. The conversation also mentions the comfort zone for indoor temperatures, with a recommended range of 18°C-21°C for sedentary individuals and the possibility of acclimation to colder temperatures.
  • #1
Andrea Vironda
TL;DR Summary
Advices to keep the house warm
Good morning,
I have a 90 mq house burning 1200 smc of methane every year.
I live alone and i keep 20°C when I'm at home (evenings) and 18.5°C when I'm not.

My window frames are quite old, and I don't know very well if it's the case to spend 8 monthly payments to update my hardware.
What is your suggestion?
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  • #2
You mentioned methane for heating, that indicates a flame is involved. The air for combustion should come from outside the area you are trying to heat.

This may require adding an air duct to the heater to supply outdoor air. If the heater uses indoor air you get a slightly lower air pressure indoors than outdoors which means cold outdoor air is coming into supply the heater; that is counter-productive and a real efficiency killer

Other than that, the two biggest heat losses from older homes are usually around the windows when windy and thru the glass without wind. Storm windows will help both conditions. Some people build their own using clear plastic film, it is much easier to work with and cheaper than glass. It has to be fairly thick to withstand the wind. The dead air space between the window and storm window does a surprisingly good job. Be sure to have some venting from the dead air space between them to the outdoors to avoid moisture build-up.

Plug any gaps between the window and the window frame, felt works well -- or newspaper or plastic bags can be used but they are a bit of a fire hazard and fall apart rather frequently (the only way I've found to clean up the bits is with a vacuum cleaner).

Of course weather stripping on the exterior doors is also needed, don't forget the bottom edge of the door, that often has a large gap.

Next would be to add insulation above the ceiling and maybe on or under the floors if practical. Additional carpeting is one approach for the floor, even if it is only several throw rugs. Cover as much area as you can manage. Or more work is to put padding under existing carpets if there isn't any. Adding padding to existing padding would likely not be worth the cost or effort.

The next step, being the most difficult/expensive, is to insulate the walls.

One way to track down where drafts are coming in is to light a candle and carry it around to possible leaks. You can also use smoldering newspaper.
Roll up some newspaper fairly tight, light one end of the roll, then blow out the flame. The paper will continue to emit smoke as it continues to burn as 'hot coals.'

Also pay attention to where the smoke exits. When the wind changes it can come in there.

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  • #3
I see you are in beautiful Italy. What kind of house do you have? Is the amount of methane you use a lot or a little compared to similar houses in your area?
  • #4
bob012345 said:
What kind of house do you have? Is the amount of methane you use a lot or a little compared to similar houses in your area?

I have a lodging in a block of 4. Mine is in the lower floor. exposed to east in the living side and to north in the night side.
The average italian consumption is 4% more than minee, but since I'm single and I work/run for the most of the day, my consumption is very high.
A family living in another lodging of my condominium burn 700 smc/yr, but they are in 4, with 2 kids and using the house most of the day. Upper floor, living side exposed to south and the night one exposed to west. New windows and boiler (mine is of 2004 i think).
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  • #5
Many people turn off the heat when they are not at home during the day.

Also, many people turn down the heat at night because they sleep a little better, you can always add a blanket if needed.

About the only thing left is when you are home, add another layer of clothing, such as a long sleeve shirt. (My wife likes it a few degrees cooler than I do, so I often have to wear an extra shirt at home.)

Your neighbor has the advantage of extra heating from a South facing unit, more people; and probably more active too!

Please keep us updated of what action and results you get -- it could be helpful for others too.

  • #6
I think there's a limit below which living becomes unhealthy. I could control it with a thermometer and a hygrometer. 18C–21C is the comfort zone, i think below 18C is better not to go
  • #7
Andrea Vironda said:
I think there's a limit below which living becomes unhealthy. I could control it with a thermometer and a hygrometer. 18C–21C is the comfort zone, i think below 18C is better not to go
Billions of people live outside those temperature ranges. It is a matter of acclimation.
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  • #8


The PHE review concluded that heating homes to at least 18°C in winter poses minimal risk to the health of a sedentary person, wearing suitable clothing. It found this threshold to be particularly important for people over 65 years of age, or with pre-existing medical conditions, but allowed that healthy people aged 1 to 64 years might wish to heat their homes to slightly less than 18°C if they were wearing appropriate clothing and were active (during the day); or with sufficient bedding, clothing and thermal blankets or heating aids as appropriate at night.

On a personal level, my wife and I greatly prefer a slightly colder temperature. In the winter our house naturally stays at 10-15°C. Down jackets and hats in the morning, snuggly comforters on the sofa at night. Whether this affects our health I cannot say, but it makes us happy.
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  • #9
Tom.G said:
Other than that, the two biggest heat losses from older homes are usually around the windows when windy and thru the glass without wind.


Excellent post with lots of tips by Tom. :smile:

One way to cut down on heat loss through single-pane windows is to add clear window film:


I don't know if that is easily available there in Italy where you are, but it's worth looking into.

Also, my local power utility here in the US offers free in-home evaluations to help us reduce our power bills. Maybe check with your local utility to see if there are similar free evaluations available to you.
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  • #10
Tom.G said:
Other than that, the two biggest heat losses from older homes are usually around the windows when windy and thru the glass without wind.
I was always aware that most heat is lost through the ceilings into the roof space or through an uninsulated roof. Rolls of fibreglass wool are fairly cheap and can be rolled out over the loft floor by any enthusiastic DIYer.
Air carries a lot of heat out of houses too, gaps in doorways and walls are bad causes of heat loss. I think fancy double glazing of old windows is very popular with salesmen but secondary double glazing is often suitable for DIY and the materials need not cost too much.
Convection, conduction and radiation can be put in that order as the culprits, in most cases.
  • #11
Your profile says that you have a Master's degree in Mechanical Engineering, so the recommended approach is to calculate an energy balance for your house.

Step 1: Calculate the total heat loss on the coldest day. It's the sum of the heat loss through the walls, foundation, ceiling, windows, doors, and air leakage. It is recommended to use a spreadsheet for this so you can test the effect of various changes.

Step 2: Knowing the heat rating and efficiency of your heater, calculate the heat output if it has a fixed heat rate. A modulating heater is a little more challenging. Measure the percent run time on a cold day, and use that to calculate the heat sent to your house. This is your measured heat loss.

Step 3: If the calculated heat loss matches the measured heat loss, you can use your spreadsheet to calculate the effect of various changes. If it does not match, you need to work on your heat loss calculations and/or improve your heat loss measurement.

If you have difficulty understanding how to do all of this, just get started and do what you can. Continue until you are completely stuck, then we can help you proceed.
  • #12
@Andrea Vironda if you want to go hi tech then some serious planning is called for. Once you have remote controlled heating (a good idea) then your choice of system needs to be as future proof as possible and integrated with all those other sexy facilities like door bells and security, controllable cooking etc etc,
Another point is to over design the radiators from the start so low temperature sources will keep you comfy.
But insulation is no.1 priority.
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1. What is the most cost-effective way to heat my house?

The most cost-effective way to heat your house will depend on several factors, including the climate you live in, the size and layout of your house, and the type of heating system you currently have. In general, using a programmable thermostat, sealing any air leaks, and properly insulating your home can help reduce heating costs. It may also be beneficial to invest in a more energy-efficient heating system, such as a heat pump or a high-efficiency furnace.

2. Is it better to use a gas or electric heating system?

The answer to this question will depend on your location and the availability of different energy sources. In general, gas heating systems tend to be more cost-effective and produce less greenhouse gas emissions. However, electric heating systems may be a better option in areas where gas is not readily available. It's also important to consider the efficiency of the specific heating system you are using, as this can greatly impact your energy costs.

3. How often should I change my furnace filter?

It is recommended to change your furnace filter every 1-3 months, depending on the type of filter and the amount of dust and debris in your home. A dirty filter can restrict airflow and reduce the efficiency of your heating system, so it's important to check and replace your filter regularly.

4. Are space heaters a good option for heating my house?

Space heaters can be a convenient option for heating small spaces, but they are not recommended as the primary heating source for an entire house. They can be expensive to operate and may pose a fire hazard if not used properly. It's also important to consider the energy source of the space heater, as some may be more cost-effective and efficient than others.

5. How can I reduce my energy consumption while heating my house?

There are several ways to reduce energy consumption while heating your house. One way is to lower your thermostat when you are not at home or at night when you are sleeping. You can also seal any air leaks and properly insulate your home to prevent heat loss. Using a programmable thermostat and investing in energy-efficient heating systems can also help reduce energy consumption. Additionally, turning off lights and electronics when not in use can also contribute to overall energy savings.

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