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Housing is the first item of energy expenditure of the French. Heating accounts for 75% of this load and the production of hot water 12%. Choosing the best source of energy according to your needs is therefore essential to achieve significant savings. Some tips for warming up.

How to choose your heating

Save money

France, like all countries that have signed the Kyoto Protocol, is committed to reducing its production of greenhouse gases in general and carbon dioxide (CO2) in particular. Now you have to save to protect the planet... and limit the energy budget of the house.
On average, each home produces around 2 tonnes of CO2 per year. However, a powerful heating system can greatly reduce consumption: it saves money on each bill and limits its impact on global warming, while improving its comfort.

Comparative balance of heating energies

There is no perfect source of energy, which does not help to compare. To see more clearly, here are the applications, the origin and availability in the medium term, the advantages and disadvantages of each energy.
Note: from an environmental point of view, all have a negative balance sheet.

  • Fuel oil
It provides heating and domestic hot water (DHW) production. It has the advantage of being storable, making it an "all-terrain" energy. Its major drawback is its price (€ 4.79 per kWh at 15/01/2005), which can only increase sharply in the future. Oil boilers are less polluting than before, and the first condensing models (at maximum efficiencies) accept all types of fuel oil.
  • LPG or liquefied petroleum gas (mainly propane)
It covers all applications (heating, domestic hot water, cooking). It is also a refined product. Its availability is identical to that of fuel oil and, like him, it is storable in tanks. Its price (€ 9.74 per kWh at 15/01/2005), one of the highest among conventional energy, can only increase.
  • Natural gas
Distributed network, it allows heating, hot water and cooking. Mostly made up of methane, it comes from underground deposits (such as oil), but proven reserves protect against any risk of shortage. This is one of the cheapest conventional energies (€ 4.23 per kWh at 15/01/2005, subscription included), even if, indexed to the price of oil, it is promised to increase. Its main disadvantage is its lack of availability: to enjoy it, one must live in an area served by the network. If, from an environmental point of view, its impact is negative, its combustion is less polluting than that of fuel oil. Note that this assessment will improve the day when methane will be produced on a large scale, from the decomposition of organic matter (agricultural waste, landfills, wastewater treatment plants, biomass...). This is called biogas.
  • Theelectricity
Unlike fuel oil and gas, it is not a source but an energy in its own right, produced mainly by dams and power stations (thermal and especially nuclear). This largely justifies its high cost (€ 11.06 per kWh, including the price of the 12 kVA dual rate subscription), despite lower taxation than other heating energies.

Renewable energies

Renewable energy sources stand out from others because they do not jeopardize resources, and their environmental impact is low. In terms of heating and hot water production, techniques using the sun, wood or earth (geothermal) are effective. They can even sometimes replace a standard heating system (wood and geothermal) or be a very significant extra (solar).

  • Solar energy
It is valued by the individual solar water heater (CESI) or the combined solar system (SSC), which allows the heating and the production of domestic hot water. Currently, it is mainly used for the production of hot water, covering up to 50-70% of needs.
  • Wood
Burned in a closed fireplace, stove or boiler, wood is also a renewable energy. High-performance equipment makes it possible to use it as a main heating source.
  • Surface geothermal energy
This process, which consists in recovering the energy stored in the earth by means of a heat pump (PAC), ensures the heating of the house and, to a lesser extent, the production of hot water.
  • Individual cogeneration systems
In the distant future, we will be able to count on these systems that allow the simultaneous production of heat and electricity from hydrogen. Full-scale experiments are underway, but it will still take a few years for equipment to be marketed.

Keys for warming up

It is never easy to choose an energy, especially since the choice is long-term. From the financial point of view, it is important to always compare the initial investment (supply and installation of radiators, boiler...) and the price per kWh of consumption (which determines the amount of the heating bill).

  • In practice, account must be taken of local opportunities: connection to a network (gas), proximity to wood supply (rural or peri-urban area)...
  • In a pragmatic way, we must focus on reversible solutions in order to be able to change energy if necessary, without redoing all the installation. In this case, the central heating with hot water is unbeatable.
  • Think also about combine the energies, by integrating from the outset the possibility of using or implementing alternative solutions such as wood (provide a flue gas duct) or the solar water heater.
  • Last but not least: the tax credit. Depending on the areas concerned, regional aid is a real decision-making tool.
  • To follow the prices of energies that evolve rapidly, two reliable sources: the website of the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Ademe.
  • See also // and, in passing, the energy balance of France for 2012 published in July 2013.

A radical evolution of heating modes

  • For more than twenty years, the type of primary heating energy has changed dramatically in the main residences of the French. Coal has almost disappeared. The share of electricity has been multiplied by 9, that of gas by 5 (it is today the main energy for heating). The consumption of fuel oil was halved and that of wood was about maintained.
  • Of all the old and new houses without central heating, 52% use wood, 18% electricity and 16% fuel oil. (source: Observatory of Energy, 2004)

Wood heating

Wood heating, chimneys Richard Le Droff and SB Thermique

  • Performance is the first criterion of choice for all wood burning appliances.
  • Closed hearth, insert or stove often work in addition to another energy (electricity in general) which they can limit consumption. The yield of the first two varies from 40 to more than 70% (sealed glass).
  • In addition, the heavier the stove, the more time it takes to heat, but the better.

Doc. Fireplaces Richard The Droff and SB Thermal.

Central heating at low temperature

Central heating at low temperature, Chappée

  • Central heating at low temperatures (between 40 and 65°) saves energy and protects the equipment.
  • It also offers more comfort: the heat emitters having a larger surface in contact with the air, the temperature is softer at home.
  • It can run on oil, gas or with renewable energy via a heat pump.

Doc. Chappée.

Electric heating

Heating: electric heater, Airelec

Electric heating is the least expensive investment. It must be installed in a well insulated house because its consumption is more expensive. The equipment must have regulation.
Doc. Airelec.

Oil fired boilers

Oil fired condensing boilers, Viessmann and Buderus

Condensing oil boilers have systems that recover heat from combustion fumes for efficiencies greater than 100%. They work with all the qualities of domestic fuel and are less polluting than traditional boilers.
Doc. Viessmann and Buderus.

Gas boiler

Gas boiler, De Dietrich

Coming from the subsoil, natural gas is a low-emission fossil fuel. This is one of the many advantages offered by the wide range of equipment that use it.
Doc. From Dietrich.

LPG tank

Heating: LPG tank, Butagaz

The buried LPG tank remains invisible and protected from corrosion.
Doc. Butagaz.

Propane tank

Heating: propane tank, Antargaz

Propane is stored in liquid form in overhead or underground tanks.
Doc. Antargaz.

Solar collectors

Heating: solar collectors, Velux

The solar collectors with a supplement produce hot water throughout the year.
(See the "Realization Drive" of solar panels for central heating)
Doc. Velux.


Heating: geothermal, Sofath.

Very economical, geothermal energy consists in extracting the calories contained in the ground to use them in the form of heating or electricity thanks to probes or a network of tubes buried underground.
Doc. Sofath.

Video Instruction: What is best most efficient energy source for a heating system?