Do we really need central heating?

As people struggle to keep warm this coming winter, will they be switching off their central heating? Do we really ‘need’ central heating?

I don’t actually recall ‘central heating’ when I was a young boy. And obviously ‘forever’ before ‘central heating’ was invented, there was none.

Indeed, I think I was well into my 20s before I experienced ‘central heating’ by actually buying a house that had it installed. In truth, the radiators were not properly matched to the rooms and so all they would do is be extremely hot if used on a cool summer’s evening, or seem to not be quite adequate enough during the winter.

The house probably had lots of places where warmth was encouraged to escape. It probably needed double glazing, loft insulation and all the stuff that modern houses have. However, ‘central heating’ was a novelty.

These days ‘central heating’ is a given. The idea of an abode not having ‘central heating’ sends, well, shivers up the spine of anybody contemplating having to live without it. Indeed, prospective tenants being offered their free social housing would refuse to accept the free house and demand a different one if it was without central heating.

Most homes I visit are far too hot and stuffy. They are all but completely air-tight these days, leaving no way for the oxygen in the air to be replenished. And they have the central heating up full blast, keeping everywhere up to about 25 degrees all the time. This nicely incubates the bugs and diseases the occupants seem to be constantly struck down with.

More than this, even the ‘spare’ rooms in their homes are roasting away. This heating the whole house up to such a temperature has got to be a waste surely?

When I first encountered central heating I reasoned, quite correctly, that doors, other than those to bathrooms, toilets and bedrooms where privacy might be needed, had no function. I removed them all.

I mean, why on earth would a fully centrally heated house need internal doors? Doors harped back and were essential back in the days of no central heating. Doors would help keep the cold out of a room whilst everybody huddled close to the ‘fire’ in order to keep warm.  However, I was wrong. Doors can be essential to help cutting down the wasted heat.

I can recall living in a house where we regularly used to curse when people used to leave the room to go to the loo. A huge gust of frosty air would come into the room as the door was opened. Indeed, trotting off to the loo was a cold affair, an Arctic expedition. Standing weeing whilst seeing one’s breath in the unwarmed bathroom, moving as fast as possible to get back into the ‘warmer’ ‘living room’ and then sitting shivering as one re-warmed, is how people lived. They just accepted it, as there was nothing else. And I’m just referring back to the days of ‘bar fires’ and the like as the ‘mod cons’ of the day. Before them it was coal or wood fires forever, usually in very draughty houses.

Today, the energy being ‘wasted’ to over-heat the average home is phenomenal. I mean, why the need to have it so damn hot?

The main problem with a constantly over-hot house is that the occupants’ bodies learn that it is the ‘norm’. They are only comfortable when they are in airless temperatures of 25 degrees, which in the UK it rarely is naturally.

The result of this is that for at least 48 weeks a year, they feel cold when outside in our usual temperatures. Because they live in environments with stagnant air, they can’t cope with the slightest breeze. Even moving warm air will set their teeth chattering and cause the goose bumps to rise.

They suffer from more colds, chills and sneezing than people living in less stagnant, fresher cooler air.

So, what we have is a nation full of over-heated houses, full of people who have trained themselves to exist in abnormally high temperatures.

In order to bring down fuel bills, people need to re-train themselves, probably slowly by 1 degree a month, to function happily at much lower temperatures. This alone will dramatically reduce their heating bills, as well as make them far more healthy. Then, they should consider turning off the radiators in the rooms they don’t use, and shutting the doors. There really is no point to heating a room nobody is using.

Indeed, is the central heating on too much anyway? What about going back to the days of just heating the living room and leaving the central heating for only those extremely cold periods when it is absolutely necessary?