FOCUS - FEATURES
Climate Control 2012
18 MAY 2012
I will always recall my first May – late-Autumn – in Johannesburg, many decades ago. I had arrived from the UK Spring and was renting a circa ‘50s bungalow in Craighall Park. We were chilled to the bone after dark; such were the thin walls and large areas of glass, flimsy curtains and no fireplaces. A puny electric heater did little to rectify the situation. This was an early lesson in climate control in South Africa.
Happily we enjoy mostly temperate weather in Johannesburg, which boasts one of the best climates globally. And yet it can become very chilly during the colder seasons and Gauteng temperatures can fall below zero for three or more months in winter during the night and early morning. But it’s mainly a dry-cold unlike the damp, winter-rainfall region of the Western Cape, which has a more traditionally European winter season, though not normally sub-zero at sea level.
Spring is sweet but short in SA. Summer arrives rapidly and, with global temperatures rising it’s becoming hotter here, 35°C being the virtual average in December, January and February. Such extreme temperatures are a fact of life in 2012 and indications are that their effects will become more serious in a global environment of dwindling natural assets. Water is cited to become a strategic reserve.
It’s an accepted fact that South Africa’s older homes don’t cope well with bi-polar temperature variations, especially damp cold. During the winter months, insulation is key in assisting costly heating systems to combat chilly interiors and draughts. Similarly, in Summer the same procedures will help insulate rooms against heat build-up in roofs and ceilings. Screening off large areas of glass is also beneficial.
This annual Habitat FOCUS on how best to handle residential climate control offers comment from those in the know: So, is SA a special case for Climate Control? ‘Absolutely’, says Malcolm Sims of Finest Fires. ‘Much of the developed world has piped Natural Gas supplied to their homes at low cost per unit used. This relatively cheap fuel source is used to power central heating systems to heat both water and the interiors of dwellings. In SA, Egoli Gas in Johannesburg supplies 7 500 households with Natural Gas, and there are probably less than 2 000 or so other homes connected in other locations in SA. Where this gas is in limited supply it is at a cost premium above most other developed countries.
‘The alternative is to use gas in bottles but this has increased in price along with diesel and petrol and currently retails at about R1.50 per kW/h as an input cost. This is about twice the price of Natural Gas in SA and as a space-heating solution is obviously expensive, depending on the appliance. ‘Fortunately, the Closed Combustion Wood-Burning stove (CCWB) is providing an effective and economical solution.’
Andrew Balding of Morsø SA / Premier Fires adds: ‘The necessity of designing South African homes to manage the extreme temperature changes between summer and winter has resulted in a growing need for modern, efficient and clean-burning fireplaces, specifically over the last six years. Electrical under-floor heating is proving to be prohibitive due to the huge running costs and the availability factor of power during the winter months.
May/June 2012 Issue
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