Friday, September 30, 2011

WHAT??? NO CENTRAL HEATING?!

"What do you mean, we have no central heating?" I can still hear my question reverberating in my head as I ponder what once would have been an unimaginable question.

Growing up in the States where most homes have central heating, I just assumed that it was a normal thing.  It’s nothing that I ever thought about, really.  I guess when you grow up with things a certain way, you just assume everyone else has life similar to yours. Such is the fodder for my Blog.  So many things that once were normal are no longer.

Let’s face it, when I mention that I’m living in Australia, what kind of life do most NON-Aussies imagine? A life of endless days of sunshine, blue skies and surf, white sandy beaches, and hot, dry land?  What about living in this great Land of Oz in the winter? What images conjure up in your head?  More of the same, right?  If you find yourself nodding in the affirmative, you have so much to learn young whippersnapper, so keep reading!

Parka and Eskimo mukluks
Actually, the winters here are quite mild.  The problem is, when you live without central heating, the inside of your house tends to be about the same temperature as it is outside!  When we go to bed, the thermostat isn’t set to maintain a comfortable temperature throughout the house as we sleep.  Instead, the wall heater is turned off and the house temperature quickly drops.  So when we have a night that dips to 5 degrees Celsius (that’s 41 degrees Fahrenheit for my American/metrically-challenged readers!) I wake up to a house that’s so cold, that I find myself ice skating on my tile floors, doing a twirl and double Axel on my way to my coat closet to grab my parka and mukluks for warmth!

Falls Creek, finest ski resort in Victoria, Australia
You may think I’m exaggerating, but really I’m not far from the truth!  I used to wonder why Aussies invented the Ugg boot, (which, by the way look very similar to mukluks!)  I mean, why would they need such a warm boot made out of sheep skin when they live where it sunshine’s 365 days of the year?  Ahh….there’s where your imagination has led you astray!  You see, it isn’t sunny here 365 days of the year.  It’s not a land that never sees rain.  In fact, you might be surprised to learn that parts of Australia even have SNOW!  But I digress…

While house hunting recently, we found that most houses in our half-million-dollar-and-up price range had no central heating! Seriously, how is it that you can spend that much money on a house and not expect to heat your home efficiently? Of course it came to no surprise to my husband since he grew up here, but you had to practically pick me up off the floor as the reality of my situation began to sink in! I didn't know this was even possible in this day and age! I thought gone were the days that people had one heating source, (their fire place) to warm their house. Just where is Laura Ingalls when you need her?

I live in Adelaide, South Australia!
I recently found a statistic that in New Zealand, our neighbor to the south, only 5% of homes have central heat, and New Zealand is colder than Australia!   (I tried to find the same statistics for Australia without any luck, but included this information so you have an idea of what I’m dealing with. Do you feel sorry for me yet?) I guess it’s because houses are designed more to keep the heat out. They just don’t worry about the cold here. Not only are houses built without central heating, but most homes have single paned windows (I didn’t even know those existed any more!) and don’t have fireplaces! In fact, most Aussie homes have awnings and black-out curtains on every window to keep the sunshine out on hot days. See what I mean? They are more concerned about keeping houses cool to the detriment of keeping them warm in the winter.
My neighborhood in Tigard, Oregon, winter 2008
So here I am, spending my first winter in Australia and I never once imagined that the winters here would be colder than back home in Tigard, Oregon where temperatures often drop below zero Celsius for the day’s high! In order to keep warm at night in Oz, I have an electric blanket which is nothing like those back home.  Electric blankets don’t lie on top of you. Instead, they look like a huge heating pad that slips under your sheet and you lay on top. It takes a little getting used to, but they do work well which keeps me from complaining (Aussies would say, “grizzling”) about the cold at night. I know my husband appreciates that!

A very melted Frosty the Snowman...
When I wake up in the mornings, in order to avoid hypothermia I quickly throw on a turtle-neck (called a “skivvy” here), sweatshirt (Aussies call a “jumper”), jeans (they call them “jeans” here…sorry, that’s supposed to be funny) and my Ugg boots, throw some blankets over me and cozy up to my wall heater until the frost melts off my nose, much like Frosty the Snowman on a warm day!

One of two heaters for our 2-story home
Peering out from under my blankets at my husband in hopes of sympathy and compassion, I shiver with teeth chattering and say, “I’m fra-fra-fra-freezing!” Of course my Aussie husband, walking around in shorts and a t-shirt just to prove a point would respond, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s not cold at all!” He’s just saying that, so he doesn’t have to turn up the heat! I guess I should be thankful for running water and electricity!

This is soooooo my husband and I!

35 comments:

  1. Great post Dayna. I need to send the link to my family so they understand my complaints about central heating. They think we just haven't found the right house. :-) Keep warm, Cyndie (from Americans in Adelaide)

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  2. Thanks Cyndie! Nice to know I'm not the only American freezing my "you-know-what" off! Never thought I'd say that I will be going home in the winter (Christmas) so I can warm up!

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    1. but christmas is summer here....

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  3. i always wished i had reverse cycle/central heating....i grew up in melbourne...colder than adelaide...

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  4. This might be a really dumb question but.. that heater kinda looks like the type that has a timer, so why don't you set a timer for it to go on before you get up? OR if it's not one with a timer they do exist so maybe that will help?

    I must admit now I have central air I feel a little spoiled. Mum's coming to American for the first time this summer and it's going to be very odd for her to walk into a house that's COLD with curtains open instead of like you said, everything staying closed to keep the heat out. It'll be great to get her to SEE and FEEL what I'm talking about :D

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  5. As an Aussie in Yankyland I get to see these differences through both eyes. I agree many homes dont have central heating or cooling but why? Well there could be a number of reasons and I guess dollars is the most simple reason. It costs alot to heat cool the entire house,especially older houses. Now that US energy costs have at least doubled in very reacent times yanks are turning off or changing their use of central heating. On the other hand in Australia you dont have to replace your roof every 20 years because its made from tar tiles, paper and wood!

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  6. Hilarious! I'm from Nevada and I've lived in Sydney for 8 years now. Your blog is a familiar story I love it.

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  7. I have lived in many parts of Australia and New Zealand as well as in California and people down under do rather seem to freeze than invest in proper heating, though things are changing for the better.

    In this part of the world people only tend to invest in central heating if they live in higher altitudes areas. In Australia many people have some form of gas heating and probably at least half of New Zealand homes now have aircon (heatpumps). These are both far more efficient forms of heating than the old electric heaters you have at your place.

    In some cities there is a variation of up to 8c difference depending on the actual suburb you live in, which is much more than people realize (Sydney, Wellington and the SF Bay Area for instance). In Brisbane we didn't use heating but 20km away in the hills it was needed. The place we froze the most was in Melbourne. It was terrible. In Auckland we had a well built apartment and stayed comfortable all winter without any heating at all.

    Almost all cities in both Australia and New Zealand are really beautiful, but its definitely worth finding a home that is well insulated and in the right locality.

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  8. Reading your story, I am not surprised at all Dayna.
    I am 25 years old, born and grew up in western India, and never knew that there is anything like a heater exist on this planet. lol

    I have visited different parts of India, from far south Maysore to the way up north to Nainital (almost Himalayas). Haven't seen a heater anywhere (no talking about the central, but not even a portable one.) And then I moved to Cherokee, Noeth Carolina, just a couple of years ago, life seems to be like being in heaven, in here.

    I was just curious that what's the condition in Aussie? As Aussie is a well developed country too.

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  9. I have been in NZ for 18 years...and this is the one bit of culture shock that I have never gotten used to. We froze last week watching a performance of Captain Scott in a hall without heat. The door was left wide open and no heaters were on. Other than emphasizing with Scott, whose crew froze to death, it made it impossible to concentrate. The next week we saw a play. I only bought tickets since they said they had heat. The heat was provided by little gas French Fry heaters over our heads. Our heads got hot while the rest of our bodies froze. And just when I was feeling the coldest, they turned off the heaters for the rest of the play.

    I am married to an American who likes the heat so we have it now worked out with heat pumps and a wood heater that turn on automatically before we wake up. But it seems that Kiwis just don't get cold; their bodies have morphed (or in reality our bodies have since few had heat until recently). I have rarely seen double glazing here and I have never seen central heating a norm for most in the Northern Hemisphere temperate zones. It usually gets up to 55-60F degrees most winter days in our part of the country (a high of 45 on a cold snap), but it will often get down to 35-40F (3-9C) by dawn. Our son went to school in shorts and sandals. If the sun is out, all windows and doors often will be opened ...even if its still 50F outside (and 50F inside). All store doors must remain open including some restaurants which can be freezing as well...even with heat (which goes right out the open doors). It is a cultural challenge.

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  10. I lived in Scotland in the mid-60's and adapted. It was colder inside the stone boarding house than out, and your hot dinner cooled in five minutes. Now I live like the Aussies and the year my daughter was gone, the house temp was below 65 in the daytime and the thermostat was set to 50 at night. When it began getting cool here a few weeks ago, I made sure the heat vent in my room was closed. However, I'm miserable if the temp goes up to 85 and the climate change is making that happen waaaaayy too often in the summer.

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  11. When you husband in winter goes about in shorts and shirt he is "cracking hardy"; just another Australianism that you may enjoy.

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  12. Oh come on now... it's not THAT cold. Yes it does snow in the Alps, and very occasionally in a town, but it is pretty rare. Winters in the cities don't often go below 10 C (50 F). Although I have to say that central heating would be a warm addition to our households

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  13. I have bookmarked your blog, the articles are way better than other similar blogs.. thanks for a great blog!
    Electric Heater Guide

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  15. I can certainly see how a lack of central heating can be bothersome to people. For one, it doesn't account for specific areas in the house that circumvents the all-encompassing floor plan, either deliberately or through an unwitting policy shift or agent. It's best for you to procure one, or to make that a possibility, to the best that you can. Good luck!

    Tommy Hopkins @ AccuTemp Cooling and Heating

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  16. If Australia doesn't have much in the way of central heating do a lot of homes have the expensive wallboard heat in some form?

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  17. No, anon. People have those oil filled column heaters, or wall mounted gas heaters that heat the living space. But in general the house is substantiaally colder than US houses. Our first month in the US we were so excited to have central heating and we turned it up to e all toasty like our neighbours. Then the bill came. For Australians who are used to spending maybe $50 a month on energy the costs associated with central heating were horrifying (for Astralians, it's anywhere from $300 a month up to a friend with oil heat in the NE paid $1600 during January last year.

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  18. I now live in one of the few Australian cities with a viable claim to be cold, Canberra. Our winter nights can get down to -8C. But as in other towns, the priority in housing is always cooling. If your aircon also does heating (ie, reverse cycle) and is ducted, that's premium. RC aircons are pretty common in Canberra but somewhere like Adelaide, I'd just go for cooling. Besides, I like the air in the room to be cold when I'm trying to sleep. I turn the heating way down overnight because I don't want it to get stuffy. I've often found north American hotels and residences to be a bit warm for my comfort. But you do get used to a certain way - I froze in my first winter here. Maybe one day when you're in the US you'll wonder why the rooms are so hot in winter ;-)

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  19. It's the same living in Hobart; We love to act as if we are living in a hot climate, when in reality we have 2 weeks of warms weather a year. I've never been able to understand why a lot of great design ideas have not been adopted down here. I guess we're just at the end of the Earth:/

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  20. OK everyone, I am from Russia, exactly South Siberia where it might be -40C in winter. This is my first winter in Melbourne and I am NOT liking it! I caught cold last week. See, in Russia central heating does a good job(or a stove in rural houses), we often have 23-25C inside apartments. I dont know how Aussies tolerate old in their flip-flops(I think they call them thongs here) and shorts. We Russians are not old resistant at all.

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    1. I've been to Russia. Beautiful country! It's funny. I always say roughly the same thing you did. Back home in the U.S. our temperatures get very cold in the winter, (although not as cold as South Siberia!) We get the occasional snow fall with temps no less than -15c, yet I am colder living in Australia in the winter! Brrrr!

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  21. Hi Dayna, I've been following your blog for a while now and always end up laughing so much my other half wonders what's going on. I'm an Aussie who grew up in Sydney and I have a lot of American friends who can't understand why I am always 'cold' in Winter seeing the temp is 50-60F outside, they cannot for the life of them understand why we don't use central heating. I try and explain it's the heat we worry about here not the cold, our Winters are not that bad and not that long so we just throw on the layers and Uggs and live with it, but it would be very nice to have central heating.

    I love hearing about the little differences that both our countries take for granted. You have a great way of putting things that always gives me a good laugh.

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  22. Hello Dayna, I am reading your blogs from the beginning. Thanks for posting.
    Antique clocks melbourne

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  23. Climate changes is the major concern in all over the world. it drastically changes the economy of the developing and under developed countries..

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    1. All eventually into the hands of George Soros who literally have said his goal is to wreck nations and he has.

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  24. Superbly written article, if only all bloggers offered the same content as you, the internet would be a far better place..
    www.usheat.com

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  25. It's funny because up until my recent trip from Europe, l had no ideas about central heating.. I must say it is nice to have however I often find it too hot and stuffy at night and often wake up throwing blankets off me.. I guess in Aus we are just use to sleeping in a freezing room at night... I think central heating is great but i would ideally set the temperature lower than what most hotels / Apartments in Europe have as a standard setting.
    P.S. Another point.. 10 deg C in Sydney or Melbourne is equivalent to 4 or 5 deg in Europe I noticed.. I assume its to do with relative Humidity but i feel the cold more in my bones here. :-)

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    1. Yes!! So true. We are struggling at night to sleep due to the heat of the rooms in Europe in very early spring. My daughter wakes up...strips all clothes, blankets etc as she can't deal with the heating. Interestingly my husband and I both commented that the cold weather here does not at all feel as cold as the cold in Sydney, and I agree with you that it may have something to do with the dampness in Aust. In Sydney it is very, very humid, prone to mould, easily hovering in the 70s/80% range for months at a time. When it gets cold everything feels damp. My husband and I were wearing short sleeve shirts out at night in Nuremburg and the locals in puffy jackets and scarves looked at us like we were nuts but it honestly felt very pleasant. I love the weather here much more than at home. In our house in winter you can breathe out and see that steamy cloudy breath inside and the water drips down the walls if you use a heater inside. It makes writing uni assignments tricky through the cold overnighters getting frosty fingers, however I will say that we sleep well once under the covers. I would probably reverse the heating cycle here so that it was colder overnight rather than warmer. But I think we just get used to what we get used to. Thanks for your lovely blog.

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  27. I just moved back to Tasmania after 7.5 years in the USA. American hubby is following. I miss a lot of things about the US, but Central Heating is high on the list. What a wonderful luxury! Loved being able to walk around the house in shorts and t-shirt when the temperature was below zero outside. Ready for Spring and Summer. Left the USA in at the end of winter and came straight into a cold Tasmanian winter. Brrrrr!!

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  28. As a born and bred Aussies my family & I have obviously become completely accustomed to more or less 'living in accordance with nature's weather' in houses without central heating, and we have never had the slightest wish to install it. Admittedly we have always lived either in Sydney or the nearby Hunter Valley, which are fairly warm areas, but the winter night-time temperatures do sometimes drop down to as low as 5-6°C here.

    Our attitude has always been that if you dress warmly in wintertime there is rarely any need for much heating inside the house, except for something in the evenings in the living area (we have a slow combustion heater) during most of the three coldest months: June, July & August. Plus we do sometimes turn on our electric blankets on the beds for 30 minutes or so to warm up the sheets before we get into bed on cold nights.

    In fact when my family & I have visited Europe and N.America in the past one of the things we most disliked was staying in hotels in what we all thought were very overheated, stuffy rooms. The big surprise was that a lot of these places seem to leave the central heating on thoughout most of the year, not just in the depths of winter. Even throwing off all the sheets & blankets (or those horrible doona/duvet things) wasn't sufficient to allow us to sleep comfortably at night.

    And perhaps the worse thing of all was the fact that in many instances we couldn't even get a window to open to let in a bit of fresh air. At home in Oz it is usual for us to leave bedroom windows wide open for most of the year, and open at least an inch or two throughout winter (except during windy cold snaps). So the feeling that we were almost being suffocated in these hot, stuffy rooms was really unpleasant.

    So in my opinion your level of comfort regarding heating really depends on what you are used to. People who have lived all their lives with central heating will probably find it hard to go without it if they move to Australia. But at least people like us natives – who don't believe that dressing in T shirts & shorts in hot, intensely-heated houses in winter is an ecologically sound way to live – have the satisfaction of knowing that we aren't selfishly squandering the earths's energy resources!

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  29. I'm food blogger i often visiting Australia, right now I'm in India in Australia the weather condition was very suitable for all kind of human activate its sound ecological balance.

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