Thursday, September 27, 2012

Heating Your Home

Modern stove with glass front
Having bought a Transylvanian summer house you may well decide you would like to use it in spring, autumn and even winter too. And why not? Transylvania is beautiful all the year round with its wildflowers blooming in the spring meadows and the multitude of colours in autumn. Even the winter can be beautiful, but at the same time, if your house isn’t well heated, it could be a little more than most would like to cope with, temperatures sometimes dropping to minus 30 and thick snow lying on the ground. As a result, you need to plan your heating system carefully, depending both on your values and your budget.
Traditional terracotta wood or gas burning stoves

Terracotta stove

One way to heat your house in the Romanian countryside is to use a terracotta stove. This is possibly the most aesthetic solution and perfect if you intend to maintain an authentic look to your country home. The stove is constructed from terracotta tiles, usually glazed in a particular colour and/or pattern, and constructed close to the chimney stack, to which it is attached by a length of metal tubing. There is a door in the lower front of the stove where the fire is set on the grating, and usually a small door below it where the ash pan sits. Inside the tower above the fire, there is a serpentine configuration of terracotta blocks designed to maximize the stove’s absorption of heat before it exits through the stove pipe.
Designs vary considerably. The classic and most commonly-seen country design uses glazed brown tiles, but green and blue are not uncommon either. Traditional Saxon designs usually use white tiles with a blue floral design on them. Some companies will even replicate medieval tiles from various regions. Prices depend on complexity (some of these stoves will have shelves and even seating integrated into them), size, tile design and brand. An average-sized terracotta stove might cost about 800-1000 Euro, including material, transport and construction.
Although the principle fuel for these terracotta stoves is wood, many  are now being converted to gas. Due to their aesthetic appeal, these stoves are growing more and more popular in both country retreats and city homes, and where the client has access to main gas, they are being designed (or indeed retro fitted) with installations allowing them to run on gas instead of wood. Either way, they involve a costly initial investment, but are considered by most to be an attractive feature and an efficient way to heat a room, the large amounts of terracotta retaining the heat long after the fire in the grating has died out.
Free-standing iron wood burning stoves

Antique stove

These stoves are now becoming the standard way to heat your house if you don’t have a central heating system installed. Generally made of cast iron, they can be moved from room to room (unlike the terracotta stoves, which would need professional dismounting and reassembly). They run off wood, coal or compressed wood pellets, depending on type. But mostly their popularity is down to their cheaper price and quick install time – the terracotta stoves might take up to 4 days to construct and get working. Iron stove generally start at about 150 Euro and go up to 500 Euro, depending on style and brand.
The main disadvantage of these stoves seems to be heat retentions as they cool down a lot quicker than their terracotta counterparts. This means that have to be fed more regularly which could prove annoying on those long winter nights.
For those considering buying a summer house in the Sighisoara region, there is a large manufacturer of stoves in the town (or rather, just outside the town) called VES/CALDI.
Wood central heating
These are not like the wood-burning stoves mentioned above, but are large and more solidly built stoves designed to sit in a cellar or utility room and operate the heating for the entire house. They are generally built of either cast iron or steel and over run off either wood, pellets, or coal. They cost, depending on size and power, from about 700 Euro up to 1000 Euro.
Gas central heating
If your village has gas, then of course, you can have a gas central heating system fitted that is identical to what you might be used to in the west of Europe, with hot water being supplied to both the bathrooms and the radiators. Prices usually range from between 600-1000 Euro, not including installation.
Electric central heating
As many villages in the region don’t have gas mains, it’s not uncommon to find houses with an electric boiler instead, provide either just the heating or both the heating and the hot water. A typical electric central heating boiler costs about 400-600 Euro.
Open fires
Very rarely seen in Romania as it’s not a traditional way of heating your house, but there are companies now who will install something like this is your home, although they tend to be more for decorative purposes.
Combination Wood stoves and central heating systems
If you would prefer to have radiators, then it is possible to operate these off of a wood stove of the type mentioned above. Hot water generated by the stove is pumped into a boiled where it heats water for use in the bathroom, kitchen, or radiators, while the stove itself heats the room it is in.
There are also wood-burning ovens (something like an Aga) which can also be harnessed to produce hot water. They usually cost around 500-600 Euro.
Combination wood/electric water boilers
These are generally long cylindrical boilers that are located in the cellar or a utility room. They can be plugged into the mains electrical supply and heated via a coil, but also have a grating at the bottom so they can be run off wood too. These then can be used to feed the hot water supply for the bathroom or connected up to a boiler to run the radiators (less common, I believe). Sometimes found in conjunction with solar panels, these systems can cost anything up to and beyond 1500 Euro.

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