Heating your Home in Spain during the Winter
Many people who move to Spain do not ever really contemplate what the winter months may be actually like, they may know its going to get ‘cold’, but assume it is warmer than where they came from, so it is not an issue. And at first it may not be a problem, but as you become accustomed to the warmer weather your blood actually becomes thinner,. This means that you feel the cold far more easily, and before you know it January feels just as cold in Spain as it does in your home country, even though the temperatures may be somewhat higher.
I find this is particularly true on warm winter days when being outside during the day is considerably warmer than being inside the house. This often depends on the orientation of the property and just how much direct sunlight it receives to warm up the structure its-self. Regardless of orientation, as soon as the winter sun drops over the horizon the temperature can drop very dramatically indeed, perhaps as much as 10 or 15 degrees making it essential to use some form of home heating.
If you are new to Spain and experiencing your first winter on the Costa Blanca or perhaps considering relocating from much colder climates. It would be advised not to throw the woolly jumpers and heavy coats away too soon.
When talking of “cold” we are referring to lows of around 2-6 Degrees Celsius at night, during the winter months. This is still not exactly Gail force winds or frost like Northern Europe, but is enough to make you notice a serious nip in the air, particularly in the early morning and evening times. This is because the majority of houses in Spain have non-insulated walls as well as many not being double glazed, and no central heating. What direction your house faces, will also play a key factor in its general temperature, determined by the amount of natural sunlight received. South facing homes tend to be warmer and North East facing homes colder as they receive less sunshine.
In Javea the prime example of this is the Montgo area, On the Javea side of the mountain homes are reasonably warm, but on the Denia side homes are well known for being extremely cold, as they receive little direct sunshine in the winter months.
Finding yourself shivering in a corner could therefore be a reality, if you do not have a sufficient method of heating for your home in place. How to keep your house warm in the Spanish winter can also be more of a problem, for those older folks on medication, which thins their blood even more than the adaptation to the climate does.
Below you will find a few of the most common energy sources and methods of heating available to keep your tootsies warm,
This is the most readily available source of energy for most people, however, it can often prove expensive. This is because it is possible to make bad choices in regards to heaters that may require a high kilowatt demand, resulting in a hefty electric bill. We have all been there at some stage in our lives. Many however, like the fact that electricity is clean, safe and convenient. Below are some of the options available for electricity heating along with their pros and cons.
These can be a beneficial method of heating as they usually come with a timer; meaning you can program them to suit your day. They can be purchased in the form of a slim panel radiator. The oil filled radiators are more bulky and unattractive however that little bit more efficient. The only down-side with electric heating is that, it is said to only “lift” the cold from the air, not necessarily being proficient in “heating” your home .
Air Conditioning Unit
Yes, the old faithful air conditioning unit can work very well for quickly heating your home, as it does cool it in during the summer in just a few minutes. This is however the most expensive option for and a ‘last resort’ for many. Hot air circulating can also cause respiratory problems, especially to those that suffer from asthma. It may also seem a very ‘false’ and uncomfortable method of heating. So it is perhaps better to save this one for emergencies.
Often an efficient and cost effective method of heating, gas heaters can be a great method of warming up your home. They do however suffer from the stigmatization of being ugly and taking up space. Gas cylinders never go a miss though; even on a summers day they have their use for the Barbie. Gas for many is a quick method for heat. Many like the fact that with gas cylinders despite the eye sore, you can regulate what you are using. Gas prices have recently gone up but it is still a relatively cheap and efficient method for heat.
Stand Alone Gas Heaters
Gas heaters are available in many shapes and sizes, and are starting to become trendier in design with some more attractive looking models available. You can normally buy a unit for around 80-100 Euros, it is possible to find more upmarket models which offer options such as less limited heat controls. if you need one with variable heat controls. The only downside is they can cause condensation in your home. It is also not great if you run out of gas with no spare cylinders at hand. The positive tends to outweigh the negatives with these, however, as you pay as you go.
This is a “win-win” scenario for most. The heat is also instant and the fire can easily be moved on its built in casters. It is more of a hassle knowing what to do with the heater when it comes to summer storage. Stand Alone heaters can get quite warm, so make sure to keep adequate ventilation and ensure that your heater is well maintained to avoid any safety issues. I have found that regular gas bottles used for fires last around 10 days (evenings) which means around 40 Euros a month to heat one room.
If you are a new arrival in the country you need to register in order to buy you first gas bottle. You must (in theory) purchase your first bottle from a Ferreteria or Bricolage (Ironmongers) You will need to pay a deposit of around 40 Euros and give over your NIE number. After that you can re-fill your bottle anywhere, with petrol stations being the most common option. They are also pretty easy to locate second hand on rastro’s or from local newspapers.
Central Heating or Underfloor Heating
This is the prettier option for gas heating, however it is more expensive to install and run. If money is not an issue though, this is a nice option to have. You will need to arrange to have multiple tall gas bottles delivered to your home I have found that the costs run around 600 Euros a year to heat the home (evenings) and the hot water, that is an average of 50 Euros a month, but of course if you want to use the heating all day in every room these costs could easily triple.
Another option could be to purchase a fixed gas fire for your main room and any other rooms you spend a lot of time in, and then make use of a tall Butano Cylinder connected through a pipe, with the bottles stored outside of the main house. Each gas cylinder contains a set weight of 35Kg of liquid gas and costs just under 50.00€. If connected up correctly you may also do your cooking, showers, baths etc. from this. They only downside is the disruption of getting a gas pipeline and fire installed.
A real fire has something special about it that is often much more than just a source of keeping warm. It creates a real ambience, and many people treasure fond memories of an open fire and reminisce of good times shared around a ‘real’ fire. Keeping the fire fed with logs and storage is usually the issue for most. Along with how much room you have available for a log burner.
Log burners are a popular feature in Spain’s homes and even newly constructed houses tend to have open fireplaces. It is also popular to purchase the very efficient Norwegian type, which offer glass doors. These come with thermostats and built-in fan that prevent you from getting too warm.
Wood burning stoves available to purchase in Spain are reasonably priced compared to other European countries, with many options starting as low as 600 Euros.
The only down side with real fires and log burners is they often only heat the room they are located in. It can also heat them too well. Depending on the layout of your house, you may need to arrange other forms of heating for additional rooms. The cleaning and removing of ash can also be a downside, as well as keeping them topped up with wood. It is recommended trying a log basket or a regular open fire to begin with, the reason for this is that a wood burner may actually make your home too uncontrollably warm.
I have found that this is often not a cheap form of heating. Prices for wood vary considerably depending where you live, but 16 Euros for a wheelbarrow full of wood is a fair estimate, this lasts three evenings, so basically 40 euros a week in the worst winter weeks.
The method chosen to keep your house warm in the Spanish Winter, will ultimately depend on the size of your house, budget, layout as well as personal preferences. The need to heat your home in the Spanish winter will also vary year on year, depending on how mild or cold it is. The cold is usually only typically prevalent from the months of December to March. By spring the temperatures are usually on their way up, and the need to heat your home is a distant memory by the sweltering heat of summer.