Keeping warm in the Maltese winter
For anyone that has visited Malta or Gozo on their summer holiday, the title of this article may seem a little odd, but for permanent residents, keeping warm during the relatively short Maltese winter is a real issue.
The property in Malta is built with the scorching summer temperatures in mind and not the wet and cold of winter and hence little thought is normally given to how to heat the property. As I sit writing this, I am wearing three fleeces, plus we have a small electric fire on and my hands are still cold.
Unfortunately, there are only limited choices when considering heating in Malta. Wood is imported and expensive, electricity is relatively expensive and oil fired heating systems are rarely built into properties, partly because the majority of housing is in apartments, with little space for a large storage tank. In addition, there is no piped gas in Malta which makes gas central heating impractical. With all the sunshine the islands receive, you would expect solar to be better utilised, but take up is still fairly low.
So what are the choices and their pros and cons?
As mentioned, there is no piped gas, so you need to rely on bottle gas. It is used for cooking and space heating using portable heaters. Gas was traditionally used due to low prices, but recent years have seen the cost of a bottle double. Even so, it is still the cheapest form of heating.
- Readily available
- Relatively cheap
- Fast heating
- Smell given off by heater
- Heaving heavy gas bottles about
- Some safety concerns
Either using convector heaters or reversible air conditioning units provides convenient and safe heating, but electricity prices in Malta are high, making this method expensive, particularly when compared to gas.
- Instant heat
Wood burning stove
In our house in the Pyrenees, we installed two wood burning stoves, because they provide good heat and are cheap to run. Wood is plentiful and in some cases free – though you will need to cut the trees and collect the wood yourself! In Malta, with little natural woodland left, wood for heating is imported and expensive. Although wood burning stoves give off a nice heat and certainly provide a nice atmospheric centre piece to the room, they are time consuming to light and maintain.
- Focal point
- Good heat in one room
- Wood is expensive
- Heat takes time to get going
- Can be messy to clean up
Alternative sources such as solar make sense in Malta, but this technology has mostly been used to heat water rather than provide a source of heating. Generating electricity from solar needs a much larger area of panels which for many would not be possible. Solar powered heating is possible, but a large storage tank for hot water, typically several thousand litres, is required. Again this simply is not possible for the majority living in apartments, unless built into the property as a shared resource at the outset.
- Cheap to run
- Clean and safe
- Government grants available
- Expensive to install initially
- Heating system most suitable for new builds
Although popular in many other countries, oil is getting increasingly expensive. A full central heating system fired by an oil boiler is a great solution if the running costs are not an obstacle.
- Effective, controllable heating
- Easy to use
- Can provide hot water as well
- Initial installation cost
- Cost of oil
One thing that does not seem to be considered in Maltese buildings is insulation. From all the new builds I have seen around the island, not one has any form of insulation installed. Of course, from a heating perspective, retaining the heat you generate is a great money saver and also makes the temperature in the building more consistent. But insulation also works the other way in keeping heat out of the property in the summer months, so it seems very strange why insulation is not used.
We would love to hear about your solutions to keeping warm in the winter months, even if it is simply wearing more layers!!