Should expats be entitled to a heating allowance if they retire to Spain? It’s a long running debate that is guaranteed to raise temperatures. For those who aren’t regulars to Spain, the Spanish winter is visualised as no different from the Spanish summer. After all, Spain is hot. Isn’t it?

Those who have spent time here know this isn’t the case all year round. During the winter the evening and morning temperatures are nippy and although they don’t usually fall below freezing on the coast they certainly do inland. Keeping warm in the Spanish winter, can be an issue.

Pensioners in particular get cold very easily. It’s one of the reasons that Spain is such a popular retirement destination. Air conditioning to prevent over heating in the summer and heating in the winter are essentials for quality of life and health for many of those who retire to Spain.

What are the options for keeping warm?

But what is the most effective and economical way of keeping your home warm in the winter in Spain? There are three main options:

  • Electricity – stand alone panel heaters, neater heaters, air conditioning units with a heating option
  • Gas – gas central heating, under floor heating, stand alone gas heaters
  • Log burners and real fires

Electricity

You do have quite a few options if your energy of choice is electricity. You can buy stand-alone panel units that come with timers and can be programmed into your day.

‘Neater heaters’ is a brand name which has received attention over the past few years. They have the advantage of being fixed to your wall and looking very much like your usual central heating radiator. They are regulated by a dial and you can also have a timer attached if you wish. Some people feel that these types of panel unit only take the edge off cold air and another method is required to really make your home in Spain nice and toasty.

Using your air conditioning unit is probably a last resort for many people. However, for short bursts of warmth it can take the chill away and has the advantage of being just as useful in the summer when you need to cool down.

Electricity is clean, convenient and, provided you don’t have a power cut, reliable. The big downside of using electricity is the cost. Added to this you have to wait for the bill to come in and these can be unpredictable in Spain at the best of times. Choosing between being warm and paying your bills is not a great choice to have to make.

Gas

Many people choose to heat their homes in Spain using stand-alone gas heaters. These come on casters and in different shapes and sizes. Gas here is still largely served up by the bottle and using any form of gas heating requires you to maintain a supply of spare bottles for when it runs out. Usually this happens at the most inopportune of times.

Gas heaters can cause condensation in your home and need storing during the vast amount of the year when you don’t need to use them. Make sure you have adequate ventilation if you choose this method and keep the heater well-maintained.

The great advantage of gas for most people is that you can regulate how much you are using. With the exception of the few who have piped gas, you do pay as you go and many people appreciate not having an additional bill at the end of the month. Gas prices have gone up but not as much as electricity seems to have in the past few years.

Gas central heating and under floor heaters are very expensive to maintain. You might find that the amount of gas you have used in two months in the summer is used up in two weeks in the winter. It is a real luxury, however, and if you live in Spain and aren’t worried about money then it can be a good option.

Log burners and the real deal

What can be better? A real fire has something special about it that is more than just keeping you warm. Log burners are popular in Spain and come in many different shapes and sizes. However, you do need to keep them fed with logs and storage can be an issue.

If you have an open fireplace then space shouldn’t be a problem but you must still find solutions for the others rooms in your house. Real fires and log burners only usually heat the room they are located in and can in fact almost heat it too well. Depending on the layout of your house, other parts can still feel chilly when you are roasting in your sitting room.

You also have to look after them. Removing ash and keeping them going requires a little extra forethought. Most people would say this is well worth it, however. And curling up in front of a log fire in winter might not be your first image of Spain but it could be one of your favourites.

Making your choice

The method you choose will ultimately depend on your personal preferences, your budget and the size and layout of your home. You may hanker after a real fire but simply not have the space to accommodate one. You might prefer the cleanliness and ease of turning on an electric fire but not have the money to pay the bills.

The good news, if you do live in Spain, is that the need to warm your house is only really evident for perhaps three months of the year. By March the temperatures are usually on their way up and very shortly the need to wrap up warm will be a dim and distant memory in the blistering heat of the summer.

 

Type of heater Pros Cons Factors to consider
Electric wall heaters (panel heaters) Clean and easy to fitEasy to maintain Expensive to runSome feel they just provide background warmth

 

Your budgetThe space to heat
Air conditioning unit You probably already have one It’s out of the way and doesn’t need storage in the summer Expensive to runMight add to respiratory problems

 

 

The length of time you are in Spain
Gas stand-alone You pay as you go The heat is instantThey are on casters and can be moved easily from one room to another It takes up room and is redundant for most of the yearIt needs supplying with bottled gas

Can cause condensation

Where you will keep the unit in the summerKeep in mind the importance of good ventilation and safety
Gas central heating The radiators don’t take up much room and you have heating on tap without any smell or mess You will have to replace your gas bottles frequently and if it isn’t already installed it will mean quite a disruption to your home The costThe disruption if you need to have it installed
Log burners A real fire is priceless. It can be a real feature of your home Can be messy and needs looking after – stoking and stockingThe heat may not reach into all your rooms If you have the space and the inclinationHeating for other rooms