The subject of how to heat a wooden chalet is often debated. With rising energy prices, the growing ecological argument and the desire to heat your chalet as efficiently as possible, you need all the information to make the right decision.
From traditional heating methods such as wood or gas to green energies such as solar and geothermal, and underfloor heating, there are many options when it comes to heating your chalet. We’ve put together all the information you need about the various options that can be installed in a wooden chalet, so that you can choose the one that suits you best.
Please note: to provide the most accurate information regarding legislation, national standards and government grants, we have referenced pages which are available in French only.
If you want all the answers in two minutes, Izi by EDF has condensed all the main features of the various heating systems in this video:
Asking the right questions – which solution is right for you?
Before going into detail about the various heating methods available for a wooden chalet, it’s important to have some information about your chalet and to ask yourself the right questions. All chalets need heat, but they all have their own particular features including location, capacity, general condition, etc.
Firstly, it is important to work out the surface area that you will need to heat, as well as its uses. For example, is it an Alpine chalet that is only visited occasionally for holidays? Is it regularly rented out throughout the year? Is it a recently-built, well-insulated chalet or an older, more traditional one? Finally, what is the most comfortable temperature for you and your guests?
It is also important to consider the other objectives of heating your mountain home. Decide which is more important to you – the ecological features, performance, economy, comfort or the long-term profitability of your rental?
Once you have answered these questions, it’s time to look at the various methods and decide which one will best suit your needs. There are several energy sources to choose from, such as gas, wood, electricity or solar, all of which will vary in their efficiencies.
You can measure the efficiency of an energy source by comparing the useful energy produced with the energy consumed, using a percentage. The higher the percentage, the more efficient the appliance or system. Ie, less energy is consumed to produce the same amount of useful energy.
The higher the efficiency of an appliance, the more energy efficient, economical and clean it is. Increasing your system’s efficiency from 60% to 80% can reduce fuel consumption by 30% while maintaining the same level of heating.
Electric heating works by converting electricity into heat. There are several types of electric heating systems, but the most common are electric radiators, convectors and underfloor heating.
Electric radiators use electrical resistance to convert energy into heat. The heat is then radiated back into the room.
Convectors work in the same way, but use fans to push warm air back into the room.
Underfloor heating systems use a resistor under the floor to convert energy into heat, which is then radiated into the room through the floor.
Advantages of electric heating
Electric heating has a number of advantages, the first being the ease of installation. It can be installed quickly and easily, without the need for pipes and flues.
The heating level can be adjusted to the nearest degree, allowing you to maintain a constant and comfortable temperature in the house.
And as for safety, electric heating systems do not produce toxic gases or carbon monoxide, making them very safe for occupants. Plus, they have no flames or combustibles, reducing the risk of fires.
Lasting longer than gas or oil heating systems, electric heaters do not produce greenhouse gases or environmentally-harmful particles. Being compact, they’re ideal for smaller spaces too.
You can program the electric heating system to switch on and off at certain times, in turn reducing energy costs and allowing you to heat the house before arrivals.
Disadvantages of electric heating
However, energy costs for electric heating can be higher than for gas or oil, particularly in areas with high electricity tariffs. They may also not be an effective option for large areas or rooms with high ceilings, which require a number of radiators to ensure good heat distribution.
Finally, an electric heating system will not work during power cuts.
On average, you’ll pay about 300€ for an electric radiator, with a range of 100€ to 800€ including installation. To be more precise, the price of an electric inertia radiator varies between 200€ and 800€, while a convector costs between 100€ and 400€.
Electricity is priced on a regional basis and linked to the economy and political context, so make sure you are aware of the energy costs in your area and compare them to the costs of other types of heating systems.
An electric heating system can be an appropriate solution for a wooden chalet, but that depends on various factors including:
- The size of your chalet
- Your heating needs
- The cost of energy in your area
- Personal preference
They can be more expensive to run than other systems, especially in areas where electricity costs are high.
Heat pumps: a good long-term investment
A heat pump system draws heat from the air or from the ground. It then uses a compressor to heat or cool the air in your chalet.
Advantages of heat pumps
There’s little in the way of preparation for installation, as the pump will be installed outside your chalet and can be done in a few days, without major work. You simply need to make sure that there is enough space around your property to install the system.
Their energy consumption is also a big benefit, because the energy source is local (from the air or the ground), as seen in the diagrams above, making them a great environmental choice. Additionally, the room temperature rises quickly and is maintained for a long time.
Heat pumps work particularly well in new buildings and are therefore a great option if you are renovating or building a chalet.
Finally, while the installation of a heat pump is an investment, its use can save you up to 60% on your energy bill.
Working on a surface area of 100 m2, with hot water and sanitary facilities, you will spend between 10,000-16,000€. Without hot water and sanitary facilities, the cost will be 10 000€ to 15 000€, including installation.
A grant is available from the Agence Nationale de l’Habitat for ground source heat pumps (but not for air-source heat pumps) and could save you up to 5000€.
Find all the information about state grants here.
In a wooden chalet, a heat pump can suit your needs perfectly. Installation is economical and reliable, it is a safe system in the long term that will allow you to reduce your bills over time. However, you should expect to pay a substantial amount for installation.
Gas heating: an efficient method
Before installing a gas heating system, you’ll need to connect to a mains gas supply and the public grid. If your chalet is particularly isolated, you’ll need to provide storage space for gas bottles or a gas tank.
Advantages of gas heating
A gas central heating system in a wooden chalet allows for rapid and even heat distribution. It is a fast and efficient way to heat your home and save money.
With a gas condensing boiler, you can save up to 35% in gas consumption, with energy efficiency reaching up to 110%. This heating system also requires less maintenance than other methods.
There are also two grants available for the installation of a gas boiler. The Effy grant ranges from 750€ to 1,500€. The second, MaprimRenov, which is also distributed by the Agence National de l’Habitation, can be as high as 1,200€.
Disadvantages of gas heating
However, gas boilers have a high carbon impact and are banned in all new individual homes. The price of gas is also subject to market fluctuations and its price is highly unstable, as it is based on the price of a barrel of oil.
Installation can be expensive, but gas is cheaper than electricity. Expect to pay between 3000€ and 8000€ for the boiler, and 500€ to 1500€ for installation.
In 2024, the ban on gas boilers will also extend to new collective housing. If your chalet is not new, then this ban does not apply.
Underfloor heating – the comfortable choice
Underfloor heating, whether hydraulic or electric, is a system of pipes or cables spread evenly below the floor to distribute the heat that passes through the pipes and sends it, through the floor, to the entire room.
Before installation, you’ll need to insulate the floor of your chalet completely, to avoid heat loss. It’s important to bear in mind that not all flooring is suitable for underfloor heating.
Solid wood parquet flooring should be avoided, as it is too thick and does not conduct heat well. A low thermal resistance (less than or equal to 0.15m² K/W) is the main criterion for choosing wooden flooring if you wish to install underfloor heating.
Underfloor heating works with pipes or cabling winding beneath the flooring. Two systems are available – hydraulic and electric. In both cases, the heating cables are placed between the concrete screed and the insulating panels covered by your floor. The hydraulic circuit must be connected to a heat pump or gas boiler.
Advantages of underfloor heating
One advantage of this type of heating is constant and gentle heat.
A second is its efficiency. Underfloor heating is ideal for a wooden chalet and saves on electricity and water – it can reduce energy use by up to 15%, compared to traditional heating.
Disadvantages of underfloor heating
It can take a long time to heat up.
Expect to pay between 50€ and 200€ per square metre, including installation.
There are apps and remote control systems that allow you to adjust the start-up and temperature of your chalet before your arrival (or that of your guests) if you are not around to turn on the heating yourself.
Heating with wood: the economical method
Wood-fired heating is the most traditional and aesthetically-pleasing way to heat your wooden chalet.
It works in the same way as a boiler – but fired by wood and not gas. Wood is burnt in the fireplace or stove, and the calories (Kcal) are transmitted via the generators, which then distribute heat to all the rooms (radiator or underfloor heating).
Before installation, wood-fired heating in a stove or fireplace needs a flue, and therefore maintenance. We advise you to maintain your flues and appliances regularly to get the most out of your heating.
The only restriction on this type of heating is having a good supply of wood, so that your chimney keeps your chalet warm throughout the winter.
Expect to pay between 1,000€ and 4,000€ for a wood-burning stove and between 500€ and 700€ for installation. You’ll need to pay between 500€ and 2000€ for a fireplace and about 500€ for installation. You should also allow about 1,500€ for the installation of a flue.
Annual maintenance is compulsory and should be planned for all wood-burning equipment. Make sure you book your maintenance appointment well in advance.
Wood pellets, the environmentally-friendly choice
Wood pellets can be used in a stove or a boiler. The fuel is burned to produce heat, which is then transmitted through the house via a liquid called heat transfer fluid.
Advantages of wood pellets
Wood pellets can be used in a stove, fireplace or pellet boiler. They are a renewable material and eliminate greenhouse gases. They burn for longer than wood and have a higher calorific value, so are therefore more efficient.
In terms of energy efficiency, it can reach up to 90%, so is a clear winner over traditional heating systems. Pellets can save up to 30% on your bills.
Disadvantages of wood pellets
On the other hand, a wood pellet boiler takes up a lot more space and its size is often why it is disregarded.
Expect to pay 5-7€ for a bag of pellets, which can burn for between 20 and 30 hours. A pellet stove will cost between 1,000 and 2,000€, and a boiler will be between 5,000 and 7,000€.
Your pellet appliances must be maintained annually by a professional, so make your appointments in advance, especially if your chalet is heavily insulated.
Solar energy is not recommended for mountain chalets. However, it can still be considered for very small chalets, in order to avoid the risk of frost.
If your chalet is not south-facing and its thermal insulation is not the best, or if your chalet is large, it is better not to consider this option.
If this option is chosen, then thermal material should be used on the floors and walls to store thermal energy.
Solar heat collectors could help to power a heating system with a high-efficiency propane boiler as a back-up.
However, there is a risk of water freezing. Therefore, you need to design the plumbing so that it extends as little as possible into the house to keep it in a place that is easy to keep warm. And you will definitely need to turn off the water between visits to the chalet.
Expect to pay between 9,000€ and 15,000 for photovoltaic solar panels with a power of 3kwp.
If your chalet is only used occasionally, it will be very difficult to get it warm quickly as soon as you arrive.
This may not be the best system for your needs in a large, isolated mountain chalet.
Tips for reducing your energy consumption
Wood needs specific insulation to make it watertight and avoid energy loss. If your chalet is not yet built, pay particular attention to the installation of the woodwork and electrical wiring, and have your roof structure checked.
The insulation of your chalet can help to guide your heating choices. Poor insulation will reduce the efficiency and performance of your heating system and increase costs, both in terms of price and energy.
Programme your heating to come on shortly before you get home so that it doesn’t run all day when nobody is at home to benefit from it.
Placing an insulating film behind your radiators can help the heating to spread more evenly by reflecting the heat back into the room.
Finally, maintain your equipment so that it does not deteriorate and keep it in good condition.
Every type of heating has its advantages and its disadvantages, but the heat pump remains the most ecological and, in the long term, the most economical method.
Underfloor heating is certainly the most comfortable, and the most economical to install, but it is not suitable for all types of floors and is one of the slowest systems when it comes to heating up a room.
Heating with fireplaces or stoves, wood or pellets, allows you to heat and save money, as these materials do not fluctuate in price.
Woodburning stoves are a popular choice as they are inexpensive to buy. However, they need regular maintenance and a good supply of wood. Wood or pellet boilers are inexpensive to buy but need regular maintenance and a supply of wood or pellets.
Electric heaters are convenient because they are easy to install and use, although expensive to buy and operate.
Air or ground-source heat pumps can be an effective option for wooden chalets, although they are a costly investment.
It is important to consider the purchase, installation and running costs of each heating system before making a decision. It is also worth considering the heating requirements and the availability of raw materials to fuel your chosen system. We advise you to consult a professional to assess your heating requirements and to compare the various options available.
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If you want to own a successful holiday rental business and enhance the resale value of your property while hardly lifting a finger, then contact OVO Network today or try our free short-term rental income calculator.