We’re not even in our winter yet and it’s cold like winter last year. And, now that we’re living in an old house, the cold is far more evident. When we lived in a modern one bedroom apartment, we hardly ever needed the heating on, but when we did put it on, the whole place was warm in only 15 minutes.

We both still remember when we first moved in almost a year ago- we were excited of course, and as we had put a lot of our stuff, including the bed, in the bedrooms, we opted to sleep in the living room the first weekend. And, that was one of the coldest night I have ever spent inside a building/ not out in nature camping somewhere. I kept waking up in the night from the cold.

We would soon realise just how welcome the fireplace is. I remember when we met the previous owners who had moved out,  they said the thing they were going to miss the most was the fireplace. At the time I thought to myself ‘I can’t imagine needing something like that’, but as a consequence of the first chilly night, we decided to put the fireplace on one night (we had taken to sleeping in smaller room that had a modern heating unit on the wall). It was fantastic – almost got too hot in fact, and we then understood.

Trusty 7-fin oil heater.

Portable Heaters

Fast forward a year and coming to winter, and the last few weeks while we’ve been at home all the time (fortunately working still), and we roll our little portable oil heater from one end of the house in the day, to the other end at night when we sleep.

These little heaters I think are great. They take a while to warm the room up but it is what I like to call ‘proper’ warmth, and not ‘cheap’ warmth, although cheap in this case is actually more expensive. I’m talking about convection heaters, ie electric ones with fans that blow hot air over a heated element, much like a hair dryer. They are good for very localised heat for short periods, but not practical for larger spaces.

We have two of these little heaters, one for the bathroom which is timed to come on before we get up in the morning, and another we just turn on half an hour before we go to the bedroom in the evening, then switch off before we sleep. They don’t make the room hot like an electric one would, but give you just enough comfortable warmth to feel, well… comfortable.

This fire went up nicely first time without a hitch.

This past weekend we used the fireplace for the first time since last winter. I did a little research on how to stack wood in a fireplace as last year there were a few times it just didn’t work out (I didn’t know there was a technique in it, an art-form even). But it paid off, as it lit first time and only needed new chunks of wood as the night went on, so I felt satisfied with that 🙂 .

Save what you can

We have a small supply of wood out back. Some was left here by the previous owners (which led to my first experience of chopping wood with a trusty-but-rusty looking old axe (of which there were a few to choose from)), some has come from a bough of a tree we cut down that was leaning too far over a neighbours fence, and the rest was donated by another neighbour who gave it to us after cutting down a tree for a job he had done. We’ll still need to buy a bag of wood no doubt but it’s not cheap. If I remember correctly, a bag of wood which cost $15-$20-ish lasted only for two times. We therefore save using the fireplace for special occasions, or when we plan to spend the whole evening in the living room.

Bits of a tree to be put to good use.

I should mention that when I used to live on my own years ago, I almost never put the heating on either and instead relied on good old layering of clothes, including woolly hat. Yes, indoors. As when my hands and ears start feeling cold then I know I’m probably a bit too cold. Heated computer keyboards anyone?


  • If you’re in the market for a heater, consider the size of the space you’re heating and how long you’re likely to need it on for.
  • An oil fin heater is much slower to heat up a space, but heats up the room evenly, and will dissipate as slowly even when you turn it off. And more economical to run!
  • Use a timer to set such a heater on in advance so you don’t have to wait for it, which would be like watching the hour hand on a clock.
  • An electric heater will heat up a smaller localised space much faster but is more expensive to run.
Twigs, sticks and bigger bits saved for future special occasions.

If you have a fireplace, it’s worth saving and collecting sticks and twigs for kindling to help get the fire started (make sure it has time to dry first). This is what was missing last time and the reason why our fires struggled to start. Can be expensive to run if you rely on buying firewood and kindling from stores though. Another positive is they are very cozy.

Most modern places have ducted heating these days which we didn’t like on for prolonged periods as they made our throats dry and we just felt weird, and the same for those wall mounted units. Not so for the oil heaters we use, we have them pretty much on all day sometimes without side effects.