Wherever you are in Portugal, North, Central or South you will want some form of heating in your house in the winter. We explore the options for you.
There are various heating options and some factors that should be considered first, depending on where you live, to work out the most efficient heat source.
If you are in the North and Central areas and 200m+ above sea level then you will want to consider some form of central heating.
If you are on the central coast or Alentejo you might be OK with a room heater/fire, but should still consider central heating for extra comfort. You can ask people living in the area what they do and most will say they have central heating but only for use in the coldest months.
For residents of the Algarve central heating is not usually needed but some form of space heating in the living room like a fire or pellet burner may be needed in the Winter months.
If you are surrounded by your own forest then a wood burner would make perfect sense. If you have to buy wood then you can expect to pay 15 - 25c per kg.
If you are connected to mains gas then that should also be a consideration, but don't think it will be the cheapest: gas is an expensive fuel anywhere and prices have been going up in recent years.
If you have good roof space and facing in the right direction, then solar panel/s should definitely be considered for water heating as they will give you years of almost free hot water aftre your initial investment.
Electric is expensive but there are now very efficient flat panel heaters and for topping-up water tank heat, it can be efficient.
For mains gas users you would use the gas to heat water and run central heating boilers. It is rare in Portugal to have gas fires for room heating.
An open fire is nice to look at but it is at best 20% efficient, as large volumes of warm air from the room are lost up the chimney along with the smoke from the fire. However if your wood is free then this should be considered.
Modern wood stoves, by comparison, can be up to 80% efficient. These stoves can be used to heat single rooms or small houses and are available with outputs from 3.5 kW to 20 kW. They are low cost to install and can be free standing or inserted into a fireplace. They can also be recupradores, which take heat from the flue system and pipe it around the house, or you can even have one with a back boiler for central heating and hot water.
As an alternative to burning firewood or logs in a stove, fully automatic pellet stoves designed to burn pellets are also available. These are much more sophisticated devices than wood stoves as, typically, they have automatic ignition, automatic metering and feeding of pellets from an internal hopper, segregation of primary and secondary air supplies (important for good combustion control) and combustion air fans. The larger ones can be fitted in cellars or store rooms and have hoppers to feed the pellets into the stove.
Pellet stoves (Caldeiras a Pellets) are becoming more and more popular for their ease of use and controllability and in Portugal for their cost efficiency. They have timers and temperature control computers so they burn 'on demand' like a traditional gas boiler would do. Like wood burners they range in size from a simple heating one, to one running a whole house heating and hot water systems.
For space heating, in terms of purchase cost, a simple wood burning stove/fire is the cheapest, followed by a gas boiler and then pellet burners. But when you consider the running costs the pellet burner is the cheapest.
Solius who are manufacturers of fuel stoves and other renewable energy equipment in Portugal have a really good calculator, you can compare costs and even work out your payback to install renewable options. It is easy to use and you can change the prices for what you would pay locally.
A combined system is the best option for any house, in case of shortages of fuel.
One efficient suggestion for a house that needs central heating is to have a Solar Panel for hot water with a storage tank incorporating an electric immersion heater for 'topping up' the heat and a pellet burner incorporating a boiler with a direct radiator feed so the whole house is heated.
If you chose any form of wood/pellet burner then you must have it installed by a professional to ensure the flue is safe and the draw of air and gases it taken up the chimney. Smoke, particulates and gases from poorly burnt fuel are poisonous.