Heating your Spanish house economically in the winter

Heating your Spanish house economically in the winter

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There is a range of heating options in Spain besides electricity that can keep your house cosy and warm, says Sandra Piddock.

Spain in the winter is warmer than England but it can still get below zero. The days are generally sunny, although the evenings can be cold. If you have a north or east facing home, you’ll probably need some form of heating in Spain between November and March.

When choosing a Spanish property to rent or buy, south-facing properties are cosy in the winter but can be unbearably hot in the summer, even with air conditioning. As it’s easier to warm a house up than cool it down, I prefer to heat the place in the winter and enjoy the coolness for the rest of the year.

If your property has air conditioning, this can also be used as a heater in Spain. However, it’s not all that efficient in a large room and it can be expensive to run. Also if you have breathing problems or suffer from asthma, air conditioning can exacerbate your difficulties.

You can buy slim, panel radiators in Spain which are economical to run but they are mainly for background heat. Oil filled radiators are more efficient, and again are economical to run, but are rather bulky and unattractive.

Electricity in Spain is much cheaper than in England, although prices haven risen in recent years; if you have a large property, you could find yourself with a hefty bill in March. It may make financial sense, particularly if you are on a pension which has already suffered from the weakness of GBP against the EUR, to look at ‘pay as you heat’ options.

Heating in Spain – heaters in Spain

Paraffin heaters in Spain

Paraffin heaters can be a viable option; if the thought of the rusty, smelly old heaters of your grandparents’ days puts you off, think again. Go to any hardware chain and you’ll find a stylish range of heaters from as little as EUR 100. Twenty litres of paraffin can cost up to around EUR 50. It burns with little or no smell and for us 20 litres can last up to a month. Our living room is quite large, and we like to be cosy, so I’m more than happy with that outlay.

Bottled gas heaters in Spain

Another option for heating in Spain is bottled gas heaters. These are on castors, so can be moved from room to room. Again, there are some attractive models available for around EUR 70–100, though you’ll have to pay more if you want a heater with variable heat controls.

Calor gas in England is expensive, but in Spain costs around EUR 15–50 depending on the gas bottle size. A large bottle can last up to four weeks, although less in a large home, so it can be an economical option. You need to buy your first bottle; you can do this from a ferreteria (ironmonger) or gas stations and some hardware stores. You’ll have to pay about EUR 40–50 deposit on it, and you’ll also need to show your passport or some other form of identity. (No, I don’t know why!)

Heating in Spain – log fires in Spain

Log fires in Spain

Many Spanish homes, even new builds, have open fireplaces, so you may fancy having a log fire. Wood burning stoves in Spain are very reasonable, starting from around EUR 600, but you should try a log basket and open fire first, as a wood burner may make your room too hot. Depending on your taste, you can pay anything from EUR 30 up to EUR 300 or more for an individually made cast iron log basket.

It's handy to ask your neighbours where you can buy logs; sometimes several of you might be able to club together to share a delivery and save money. Some wood providers offer self-service, where you drive onto their weighbridge before and after loading your logs, and pay around EUR 1–10 per 10 kilos. Check local community website business directories and the classifieds in the English press for your nearest suppliers.

Better still, you can also collect logs from a forest near you and dry them out ready for burning. In Spain, people tend to dump wooden pallets on waste ground and you are free to help yourself to this source of free firewood.

Hopefully these provide you options for keeping warm in Spain without having heating bills which make you hot under the collar. Keep cosy!


Sandra Piddock / Expatica

Sandra Piddock is originally from the UK. She moved from Cornwall to Costa Blanca in 2008 and maintains a website in her spare time. Published 2009; updated 2016.

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30 Comments To This Article

  • Derrick posted:

    on 26th January 2017, 13:29:41 - Reply

    In my second year in Spain I installed a pellet burner (From AKI) Cost 875 euros, easy to use and has timers and glass front so the flames are inviting. It is so easy to maintain and economical to run but do not buy cheap pellets. I purchased Aki
  • PhilippeAugier posted:

    on 29th November 2016, 21:01:05 - Reply

    Generally, pallets are safe to burn in fireplaces, although those that are treated with the fumigant methyl bromide (labeled with the initials MB) are unsafe to burn. Also, pallets may have been exposed to a variety of chemicals while they were in use. Pallets being made from softwood have very low heat emission. Best to invest in dry hardwood logs and only use pallets for kindling to start your fire....
  • Paula posted:

    on 2nd September 2016, 22:23:35 - Reply

    Hi , i have recently purchased a home in Spain Murcia , region and I'm looking for someone to insulate it for me cavity and roof, also a change of heating system, any one i have spoke to in spain about this just can't seem to understand the importance about energy efficiency can any one help me with any of these ? please

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • gary posted:

    on 25th April 2016, 15:36:07 - Reply

    Hi Neal,i have read your post back in 2013 and wondered how your pellet fire and rads were holding up in the winters.Do they work as well as you had hoped.
  • jason posted:

    on 27th December 2015, 23:04:20 - Reply

    12,5 kg bottle of butan last fo 10 days (if tuning on low set up) NOT 4 weeks (28 days). Sorry
  • Richard posted:

    on 30th November 2015, 17:26:04 - Reply

    Well, one Winter, 2014-15, lived in the kitchen with one gas on low and it held jan-feb livable at 3 weeks pr. gas flask, the orangr/grey ones which weigh 13kg when empty. They are bought for 12 euro at the local tank station Repsol I think it is called. The rest of the house (3 bedroomed 2 bathrooms) was just forgotten. I am luckelly not not inclined to superficial entertaining so forget it all in Winter and just survive.
    These flasks last usually (otherwise) 4 months. What a difference! Also: lots of clothes! And a hat, 33% of body warmth is lost through the cranium.
  • Jessica posted:

    on 26th November 2015, 13:57:13 - Reply

    Hi Sandra! Thanks for the article. I'd never noticed until now that the aircon in my apartment has a heating function! You've just saved me the unnecessary expense of buying a heater for the living room. :)
  • Susan posted:

    on 26th November 2015, 11:11:43 - Reply

    Twelve years experience living up a mountain have taught me a few things.
    Buy a well built well insulated house. Rugs come into their own in winter. Ours were mainly bought in Morocco but IKEA very good. We have an open fire and collect wood from surrounding land and have never bought wood in. I(also have had to cook on the fire when there have power cuts. Our central heating which is rarely used is supplied by large butano bottles - the price of which continues to go down (not so with the small bottle). It took me years to discover a little secret way of keeping warm in the evenings (which is when the cold strikes) - the brasero!! The spanish in the south have tables with a second ledge with a hole in it at the base. This is where the brasero is fitted - in the old days it would have been charcoal etc but now they are electrical mainly. Then on top of the table goes a large round table cloth to the ground. Often have a glass table top. Then seats are also placed around the table in a friendly way with tapas and perhaps a drink or so . If you are cold you lift the table cloth around your knees and hey presto sociability and cosiness. In terms of keeping our electricity costs down we are on the special tariff where we do the heavy power eating tasks ie washing, ironing recharging appliances etc between 10pm and 1pm . A huge change in our annual costs..
  • Dave posted:

    on 2nd November 2015, 10:10:30 - Reply

    Gerry, you must have something seriously wrong with your meter or someone has connected their house to it too. I have a 4 bed det.villa and a 1 bed separate apartment. Last year we had family over for 2weeks at Christmas so all 4 beds and the apartment was occupied. EVERYTHING is electric, water, heating (inverter aircon units) except the gas hob. Our bill for December/January was290 !! If I was you I'd get my meter checked/changed!

  • paula posted:

    on 22nd July 2015, 20:04:41 - Reply

    Hi we have just bought a place in Torrevieja and are about to start updating it, heating etc... Are you able to pass on the info regarding the pellet heating???
    Thank you
  • Teresa posted:

    on 11th February 2015, 17:19:57 - Reply

    A gas bottle in our gas heater lasts 3 days if running on full, which we need here as it is freezing...we use 3 gas heaters to warm the house and I am spending over 50 euros a week on these alone, the water heater and cooking are more economical.
  • Colin I posted:

    on 3rd October 2014, 20:21:46 - Reply

    Gerry above has got it right. Electricity is mega-expensive and if you want to be warm in winter you get very big bills. Also if you are home a lot in the day and don't get any daytime sun through some windows, you need heating in the daytime as well as night. And for those talking about wood burners and bottle gas heaters, they are talking about heating one room. What about the rest of the house. It is much cheaper heating a house in the UK with gas ch. It gives you your hot water as well and heats every room. And nobody has mentioned the years when you still need heating many nights in May and sometimes in June. Don't forget the Spanish say, don't put your jumpers away until the end of May.
  • John plunkett posted:

    on 13th July 2014, 15:18:17 - Reply

    Cabinet gas heaters are convenient but they have draw backs please always vent the room where it is in use they can and do cause condensation will often give occupants a headache as they burn the oxygen up remember ANY fossil burning fuel can cause CARBON MONO XIDE poisoning yes wood oil and coal
  • Gerry posted:

    on 17th March 2014, 14:03:52 - Reply

    This article is out of date and totally inaccurate. Electricity in Spain is more expensive than England and for a gas bottle costing 15 euro (now 17.50) to last for 4 weeks you must live in a very small one room house! I live in a 3 bedroom semi and my electricity bill for Dec and Jan = Euro 900 and I also have two gas bottles costing 17.50 each which last 10 to 12 days! Often it is warmer outside than it is inside! My electricity bill for the year is Euro 3200 plus the gas charges of Euro 400. I do not use air conditioning.
  • Jenny posted:

    on 3rd January 2014, 12:24:35 - Reply

    Neil - I wanted to contact you for more info on your pellet boiler, but cannot work out how to!
  • Neil posted:

    on 13th November 2013, 19:56:08 - Reply

    Just installed a Ravelli HR120 pellet fire connected to 7 radiators, best thing I've ever bought, 150m2 house warm within half hour of lighting the stove. pellets cheap and work out roughly half the price of oil. Initial expense is a little higher but worth it. Local English speaking supplier in Lorca Murcia, did the whole install myself, get in touch if anyone wants any tips.
  • Tamará posted:

    on 11th November 2012, 18:46:30 - Reply

    I got my panel heaters from terraceheaters.com They are not cheap but if there is something you can go there. They are nice and warm...
  • Diane 1952 posted:

    on 14th April 2012, 13:14:03 - Reply

    Thanks for the information posted. I have an apartment which can get very cold in the winter evenings. I am moving over in September and looking for the cheapest/warmest way to heat my place next winter.. I did see some flat panel radiators in torrevieja in Habinara (hope I spelt that correct) I don't know the name of the store but it had garden furniture and such in the window.

  • Carole Bridge posted:

    on 17th February 2012, 22:35:51 - Reply

    This is our 8th winter in Spain. The temperature today is colder than in London and even the North of England. Admittedly we considered the latitude when we bought our home but neglected to take into account the altitude. We are 1,750 metres above sea level and there are times when it is bitterly cold and our winter heating comes at a very high cost indeed, particularly electricity. We found an open fire to be impossible as the chimney doesn't draw properly because of the very cold air above. Some neighbours have wood burning stoves but wood isn't always that cheap and they are often difficult to control temperature wise. Stoves which burn almond shells are very effective, cheap to run but not always controllable. Kerosine was found to be rather expensive and somewhat odorous. We did have a living flame gas fire run from bottled gas (positioned outside), but it was expensive to run and because of the chimney problem, we have abandoned it. Our best solution so far is a pellet burning stove which has electrical controls and is the cheapest and cleanest to run by far. We were lucky enough to benefit from a government grant towards purchase but I'm not sure that they're still available. Bottled gas stoves were tried but produced too much condensation. Roll on summer!!!
  • Terry McComish posted:

    on 22nd November 2011, 02:03:34 - Reply

    Just as a passing comment, should any of your readers like to purchase a portable parafin heater please try www.heaterking.com and we will gladly ship to your address eu wide. Full details online, apologies for the thread but i just happened across this posting.

    Thank you.
  • Nikki posted:

    on 14th October 2011, 12:34:49 - Reply

    We had Neater Heater's convector panel heaters fitted about 2 years ago and they are very efficient, they give a good background heat and unlike the gas estufas they do not produce any condensation instead they give a dry heat, very good at combating the damp! They now have outlets all through the costa blanca and costa calida I believe so they are worth a look!
  • Paul Edwards posted:

    on 17th August 2011, 16:48:49 - Reply

    Has anyone visited Ambience Fires and Solar in Cuidad Quesada they seem to have a lot of experience in heating these house and have a lot of types of stoves and fires that should be beneficial.
  • Pauline1952 posted:

    on 18th March 2011, 20:39:27 - Reply

    We are now coming to the end of our 4th winter since moving to Spain. We live on the Costa Blanca (Benitachell). Our villa (7 years old) has gas central heating (which costs a fortune to run in the cold months), and we also have a log burner in the living area. Realistically, you do need heating from at least November to April - not all day, every day - but some form of efficient system needs to be in place. For example, this month (March), we've had a few days when we haven't had to switch on the c.h. at all, and have just used the log burner in the evening. Why are houses so cold in Spain? Many reasons I think. They are not insulated properly, so much of the heating disappears through the walls and certainly the roof, and possibly the windows if you do not have modern double glazing. The tiled floors are a major culprit. Whatever you are using to heat your house will never succeed totally if the floors remain cold. This naturally goes against all traditions in Spain. Who has carpets? However, I have heard from someone who has that it is much, much warmer (you can lose 35% of your heating through the floor). In our area, it is only uncomfortably hot from late June to very early September - a smaller period of time than when it is cold. This makes a good argument for carpets. Our log burner remains our main source of comfort in the evenings. We have the type that has a glass door, and we can safely go to bed and leave it burning - with the end result that we can get up in the morning and find that our house is still reasonably warm (18C). With regard to beating the cold, we have entirely changed the way we dress in the colder months. Layers are the key. It makes you warmer. T-shirt under sweaters during the day, and PJs, socks and thick dressing gowns for slobbing around in the evenings. Another take on this came from an old school friend (now an eminent physicist). She said that the high humidity makes 15C seem like 10C, which makes a lot of sense. Think wet jeans against your skin. Cold! There is no "ideal" solution to the heating problem per se. You just have to find what's right for you in the area in which you live and the resources available to you.
  • Vanda Athay posted:

    on 15th October 2009, 17:00:29 - Reply

    When I lived in England, I had a large wood burning effect stove run by natural Gas, which was very successful. I now live 2500 ft up a mountain from the sea in Andalucia and it is very cold in winter. I do not like the super ser type gas heaters as I find they give off a lot of condensation, I do not want an open fire as it is difficult to get wood here with very steep narrow roads and electricity I find expensive. I would like to know if there is a wood burning type of stove that I can run from Butano and if so, where I can purchase one. I do have an open fireplace with a flue and could have a gas pipe going through the wall to the outside and into my store shed, so no ugly Gas cylinder in the house. In UK, I can buy a stove for natural Gas but not for bottled Gas but surely these are manufactured somewhere?
  • penelope posted:

    on 17th July 2009, 21:15:47 - Reply

    I for one, am grateful to Sandra for her comparison of the heating options. Most Brits may head for the beach, but I live in an area that is hot in summer, but at a thousand metres is cold in winter. I do have a log fire, but was looking specifically for information on kerosene heaters, having used them very successfully for many years in Japan, where they are THE main form of heat for most people. So far I have only spent much time there in summer, but it was certainly cold enough that heat would have been very welcome when I was there in March. I never need air-conditioning as my house is extremely well built, and even on the hottest day cross ventilation and fans provide all the cooling power needed.
    Also, I am constantly being asked for identification in Spain, and make sure I always carry photo ID as well as a debit card. The ferreteria was one place I needed it, the first time I bought bottled gas.
  • Edgar Sun posted:

    on 4th January 2009, 10:15:50 - Reply

    Right ,,

    I also don't know why no one try heat pump (airor ground ) they are really powerful and always save you more than a lot
  • John Everett posted:

    on 23rd December 2008, 13:19:17 - Reply

    I am suprised nobody has mentioned geothermal and aerothermal heating systems, which are based on renewable energy sources. They are environmentally friendly (they don't burn fossil fuel) and are between 50-75% cheaper to run.
  • Tim posted:

    on 22nd December 2008, 18:11:50 - Reply

    Think you may be thinking of another type of heater unknown to me, unless you were joking about her boiled ones. I'm referring to the ordinary portable Butano Gas heater and I've never known them give off any water. Some people I've heard put a small bowl of water in the room when using them to prevent the atmosphere drying out, but with or without that, you will never get condensation and subsequent mould. Have a happy and warm Christmas.......Tim
  • Ian posted:

    on 22nd December 2008, 10:13:11 - Reply

    A well worded and strong reply Tim. You're much braver than I!. I suppose any one living in the Torrevieja area permanently would not even read the article. What about the water given off by 'gas' type heaters. Would that not cause mould problems?
  • Tim Dill-Russell posted:

    on 19th December 2008, 13:08:01 - Reply

    I have lived in Spain for 28 years and you are only likely to be cold on intermittent days in December and January. Which way your house faces is probably relevant in Cornwall, but what is far more important is the quality and construction of your house here, and how well it is insulated and whether you understand the use of your persianas in Summer.

    Air conditioning, provided you take proper advice, and install the right model for the size of your room, will rarely take more than five to ten minutes to cool your room, whatever the outside temperature, and conversely when used to heat in winter, the same applies. Buy the Inverter type and you will hardly notice the difference in your electric bills. They also have fan use, high, medium, and low, as well as quiet and you would never know they were on, when operating on quiet mode!

    Oil filled radiators are expensive to run by comparison and personally I would not recommend paraffin heaters. The ordinary BUTANO Gas heaters on wheels which cost about the same are much cheaper to run that paraffin. 2, 11kg Butano Gas bottles will last the whole month for less than her paraffin costs. I have NEVER heard of BOILED GAS HEATERS.

    Calor Gas sold for 15.00€ would be for Camping Gas heaters and would never heat her large room for 4 weeks. If you have a house, why not install a fixed gas fire in the living room (and wherever else) and use the tall Butano Cylinders connected through a gas pipe. Each cylinder contains 35Kg and costs just under 40.00€. One would give her all the heating for two months at least and you never run out as you always have a spare and they deliver to the house and change them for you. I do all my cooking, showers, baths,etc with these and use the small 11kg ones in the little portable heaters on the rare occasions needed.

    Most new buildings (houses) will have the option of an open fire place. You can then buy and fit the imported Norwegian type with the glass doors if you want. They come with thermostats and built-in fans, so you need never suffer from over heating, but again get the expert to recommend the right type and size for your room.

    And finally, why read the classified ads in the English press to buy your firewood; would you read Spanish language publications in England to buy firewood? Tim.