Brian's Blogs

Who turned the heating off?

It snowed this week. Just a little bit, but there was snow all the same. Outside right now the temperature is a heady +2 degrees Celsius, but according to the local weather forecast it will fall to -2 tonight and to -4 again later in the week.

So what, you might well be wondering? So look at the calendar. We’re not even at the end of March yet, but according to some regulations dating back to the centrally-planned economy of the 1960s the central heating is switched off across large swathes of northern China and people are left to shiver in their apartments or wear coats at their office desks simply because of this, to me, ridiculous outdated regulation.

Now, I fully understand that China, along with many other countries, has to keep an eye on its energy bill. Apparently the energy needed to run the central heating systems in northern China accounts for a quarter of the total energy consumption of the entire country and costs around 70 billion yuan. But it’s exactly because of these huge figures that to my mind this centralized heating system is anachronistic, belonging to an age long gone.

Consider this, for example: since last November the radiators in my apartment block have been churning out massive amounts of heat keeping me, and my fellow residents, warm as toast. There are no controls on the radiators allowing me to turn them off or even down a little. There are no thermostats either, meaning that when the temperature becomes just too overpowering I have to open a window or two to bring the heat down to an acceptable level. In fact, for most of the winter I have left two of my windows partially open to compensate for the overpowering heat being served up.

What a waste of energy is that!

But there’s more. In a typical 24-hour period, I am in my apartment for maybe 10 hours only. So for 14 hours every day – or 60 per cent of the time – my apartment stands empty; and yet still the heat pours out and escapes to heat up the winter chill outside.

Surely it would make a lot of sense to install thermostats straight away across the entire area. They are very much cheaper to manufacture nowadays than they were half a century ago; and the costs involved would be recouped many times over, as most countries in Europe could testify.

Additionally if a metering system was introduced, so that everyone knew how much energy they were using, then even more energy would be saved – especially if people were encouraged to switch off their heating when they were not at home. Many countries nowadays have a system whereby the more energy you consume, the higher the tariff rises. What an incentive to save energy is that!

Or maybe it’s high time that the authorities considered replacing the centralized district heating system with individual gas boilers that not only produce hot water, but serve the radiators too. Nowadays these gas boilers are hugely more efficient than they ever were in the past.

So now I have on my electric heater, sitting in the hallway and warming up the entire apartment, whose doors are all left open to waft through the hot air. My apartment windows have finally been closed too. And until the temperatures take a turn for the better I, for one, will remain perfectly comfortable in my temperature-controlled zone.

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