Heating choices in new home builds Melbourne

Mark Bryson - Tuesday, May 09, 2017

It may still be the last month of autumn in Victoria but winter’s icy progress has been making itself felt in the past few weeks.  

Melbourne is a city of contrasting weather, unlike others in Australia. Summers can get unbearably hot with temperatures up to 40 degrees while winters can be cold and miserable for far too long.

A new home builder in Melbourne needs to consider both heating and cooling. 

Installation costs as well as running costs and maintenance needs to be determined. The future costs of electricity and gas should also be considered when making your choice. 

Two major systems for whole house heating is hydronic heating, either by gas or electricity and refrigerated gas ducted systems. 

Hydronic heating uses hot water to provide heat. A boiler heats water which is then sent through pipes to heat radiating wall panels or heating coils in solid floors. 

Refrigerated, or split air conditioning, warms the existing air in the house by drawing it over a refrigerated coil. The air that is blown back into the room is warmer, drier and usually filtered. It is also called a reverse cycle as it reverses the process for cooling in summer. The same ducting system can be used for heating. 

There is a big difference in installation prices between the two systems. Refrigerated systems cost about $14500 to install while hydronic heating is around $12,000.

Hydronic heating has a lower running cost and works as radiant heat, which is attractive to some people. Other advantages of hydronic systems include no air movement and no noise while operating. However, it takes some time to warm up, so it’s not the right system to take the chill off the air before going to work in the morning. It also takes a while to cool down, especially if the heating is in the floor. A concrete floor heats up passively, and may take several hours to cool down. With the temperature variations in Melbourne, when one day is cold and the next is hot, this delay in cooling down is not ideal.

The major advantage of a refrigerated system is the ability to use it for heating and cooling through the same set of ducting. Combining a refrigerated system with solar roof panels reducing running costs dramatically, especially for summer cooling, and guards your home against power increases in the future.

Berstan Homes managing director, Mark Bryson, says refrigerated heating systems are by far the most popular with customers building a new home. The cost of installation, combined with the ability to use it for cooling as well, outweighs any advantages offered by hydronic heating systems.

Other heating methods such as individual reverse cycle air conditioners, log or gas fires still have a role to play, but are not as effective as whole house systems.

Log fires are popular in the country where owners have access to free firewood. For city dwellers though, the need to store wood, the hassle of lighting the fire and the constant mess can be off-putting.

Gas fires offer a pleasant focal point in the room but are not that efficient and can be expensive. For a top-end house, a compromise could be a gas fire in the living area combined with a refrigerated ducted system for the rest of the house.