Chill out, this is how you keep warm in the winter

With the days getting shorter, colder and wetter, I dedicate this weeks blog to heating! There are many different ways to generate heat such as using electric, gas, wood, and pellets. I personally prefer the old fashioned way, burning wood to keep my nose warm. If you are thinking of buying the proper heating for your needs, this blog might help you. I will here briefly discuss the fireplace, wood burner and pellet burner.

The fireplace


Every traditional farmhouse in Portugal comes with a fireplace. If you are a diehard romantic kind of person, then this is the heating for you. Fireplaces are perfect to snuggle on the couch with a nice glass of wine. Add a grill and you automatically create a bbq where you can grill some fish or steak and foil-wrapped potatoes from your own vegetable garden. You can even decorate the top of the fireplace with candles and nice small pieces of art. It is super romantic and it is almost therapeutic to watch the flames slowly eat the wood.

Too hot or too cold?fireplace-homekeyportugal

The bigger the fireplace, the more heat it can generate but there is a big disadvantage. When the fire is really going, it is too hot to sit right in front of it and it would never be able to warm the entire house or even a large living room. If you have a very good insulated house, you might be able to raise the inside average temperature a little but when the real winter hits, it would not make it comfortable enough. Furthermore, when it is very windy outside or you have wet wood, it can get smokey inside. Also the ash asks for a daily clean up and a thorough spring cleaning!

The solution

A good solution to eliminate these disadvantages is a system called ‘recuperador de calor’ (heat recovery system). This is a unit you buy to fit your fireplace. The heat is captured in the system that spread the heat into the room by using a ventilation system. It saves you wood and you get more out of your fireplace. You are looking at an investment of around € 1000,- for a proper recuperador de calor (also possible to get one for pellets (see point 3))

If you want it to take a step further there is also a possibility to connect the fireplace to your hot water and central heating system.

The Woodburner

woodburner_homekeyAnother great way of heating is a wood burner, called ‘salamandra’. In this way you still keep the romantic aspect of burning wood but it generates more heat and the metal burner and pipe also heat up and stay warm for bit even after the fire is out. They are for sale in many different sizes and models, some of which have a small oven on top. Think about it, you can bake your favorite pizza, bread, cake or make an oven dish with ‘free’ heat!woodburner2_homekey

You can get a salamandra between € 350,- to € 700,- and up. Pay attention to the number of Kw and rendimento (yield) when you buy one. The higher both figures are, the more it generates heat. Also salamandras can come with a ventilation system to even increase the heating effect. A good salamandra can heat up a large living room and kitchen easily. If you have a second floor, you can extend the pipe to go up through the room that is above the salamandra. If you are smart, this will be your bedroom and you will always have a comfortable bedroom in the winter.

Tips for a better heating experience:firewood-homekeyportugal

  1. Buy wood from a local wood seller. Your neighbors will know where to get the best price. Don’t go to a supermarket or DIY shop, you will pay the highest price.
  2. Different types of wood give different heating. In general eucalyptus and oak woodpinecone-homekeyportugal generate the most heat and last longer because of its density. Obviously, this wood is more expensive.
  3. Let the wood dry for at least a year. This only when you have the luxury of being able store it a dry place.
  4. Use pine cones to start the fire

The Pellet burner

If you are more the convenient type of person who likes a clean burn and don’t want to mess about with carrying wood logs, the pellet burner is for you! To get this burning, you need to buy pellets. They are made out of pressed recycled wood, sawdust and shavings. The emission of fumes is a lot less than when using wood and its marketing says it is super  sufficient, it saves you money and that you help the planet.

salamandras_pellet-homekey pellets-homekeyportugal

There are all kind of modern and slim designs for these burners, but also the more traditional ‘wood burner look’ is on the market. The costs of purchase is between € 850 – € 1500,- and a bag of 15 KG of pellets costs: € 2,99
It obviously depends on your house insulation, room size and you how much you need for your household. There are already 2-in-1 burners that can burn both: pellets and wood.

The most important advantages of a pellet burner are:

  • Organic raw material as fuel
  • No smoke and no smell
  • No risk to health
  • Possibility to reduce or increase the heat-power and control the temperature
  • Low CO2 emissions

A disadvantage is that pellet burners rely on power.  Electricity is a key in their operation, so you may be left in the cold during a power outage.

Feel free to ask any questions about these types of heating by commenting below.

Stay warm my friends!

2 thoughts on “Chill out, this is how you keep warm in the winter”

  • Robert Young

    I am interested in purchasing a Salamader and wanted to know where I can source the wood pellets in bulk (a tonne)?

    • Melanie

      That is a very good question Robert! Let me find out for you. What area are you in?

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