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France - Heating and Air-Conditioning

No matter where you are living in France you will need some form of heating as the winters in all regions do have very cold spells. Air conditioning is available but most people consider it to be a luxury and manage without it.

Many homes do have a central heating system and this can be powered in a number of different ways. Popular options include gas, electricity, oil, wood and now renewable energies are becoming common. It is estimated that around 65% of homes in France have some form of central heating.

At the moment the most popular form of heating is electric powered. Many have opted for storage heaters which make the most of cheaper electricity during off-peak hours. This is not the best option for older properties which may not have good insulation. If you have electric central heating then you should ensure that the electricity supply is sufficient to power it, you may need to upgrade to a higher rate. If you opt for an air conditioning unit you can also use this to heat the house and you will find that these are more energy efficient. There are reductions in the taxes paid if you opt for air conditioning over a standard electric heating system.

Gas heating is very popular in the towns where mains gas is readily available. It is very cost effective to run and the system that powers the heating is usually small and easy to place unobtrusively in the home. If you are in an area where there is no mains gas you can opt to have a gas tank installed on your property but it must be a minimum of 10 feet away from the house. You are able to hire a tank if there is not already one on your property but you should factor in the cost of extra piping to the house. Properties that have gas tanks need to pay more in house insurance.

Oil heating (chauffage au fioul) accounts for around a quarter of the heating systems in French homes. In order to have oil heating you must have an oil tank on your property, although if the tank is 2000 litres or less in capacity it can be placed in the basement of your home. Larger tanks are usually buried in the garden or in a sheltered location well away from the house. There are two types of heating oil in France. ‘Ordinaire’ is the basic oil which is cheaper but which will freeze when temperatures dip below -15°C. ‘Premier’ will only freeze when temperatures drop to around -25°C. ‘Premier’ need only be an option if you are living in an area which experiences severe winters. The average home will use between 2 and 3 thousand litres of heating oil in one year. The system must be regularly maintained which adds to the cost.

Alternative energy sources such as solar power can also be used to heat your home, but most homes use it in combination with other energy types such as electricity or gas. One of the main reasons that homeowners are put off with this type of energy is that it costs a great deal to install. Even a basic system which operates your lights can cost several thousand Euros. There are some grants available to French homeowners and once in place the system should be operational for decades.

Wood burning stoves are becoming very popular and there are models which can be used to heat hot water and run radiators. Rural homes in particular make good use of this type of heating. It is estimated that 7 million homes rely on wood burners for their heating. Most will get wood from local farms or from the local authorities. This is a very cost effective method of heating your home, particularly if you have wood on your own land.

There are a wide range of air conditioning systems available in France, with fixed point systems and portable systems both very popular. It is worth checking the systems before you buy one as some generate a great deal of noise. Another option which is cost effective is a simple ceiling fan and many homes in the warmer regions of France have these installed.

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