Friday, 2 May 2008

Why we shouldn't heat rooms or vehicles

For a long time I have always felt annoyed when I have to take off a jacket or jumper in cool weather when I go inside, because the room is heated so much that I feel much too hot if I keep my warm clothes on. One rather nasty incident from about a decade ago that I still remember is when someone on a route 251 bus in Exhibition Street rudely told me to close a window I had opened because I felt too hot inside the heated bus. Even though it was cool outside, I feel that the man could have been more polite or dressed more appropriately for a cold night.

Another thing about this is that I tend to feel quite feverish when I have to go into a heated room or vehicle after being outside in cool weather. At times, a heated room makes me feel claustrophobic and can give me headaches.

When I was in Berlin, I could easily dress thickly enough to not feel cold with no heating despite the 2˚C or so weather - probably a reflection of much better design standards than exist for houses in Australia. In the very cold weather in Vienna, I still recall only a small amount of heating being used.

All this really should teach Australians two lessons. First, that even if our houses are of terrible insulation quality, our weather is too warm to justify any heating except perhaps in the alpine regions: people should just dress more warmly if they feel they might be too cold. Second, that it is a myth that a hotter climate will reduce energy use. Experience in Australia shows that Tasmanians (living in the coolest climate) use the least household energy and West Australians (in the hottest) the most. Air conditioning is by its nature far more energy- and greenhouse-intensive than heating: we could save greenhouse gases by moving people away from hot climates, not by relocating them there.

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