Heat's a real treat in Beijing

14:23, October 13, 2010      

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October is usually one of the more agreeable months as far as the weather is concerned. Where the height of summer and the depth of winter are seen by most as outside of one's comfort zone, this time of the year is largely enjoyed for it occupies the middle-ground between the two: a largely pleasant outdoor temperature.

After roasting outdoors up to the fading of summer, it's largely a welcome change. However, it also brings a timely reminder that winter is on its way in colder nights. Air-conditioning has been off for the majority living in high-rise apartment blocks for several weeks and now the opposite requirement is beginning to creep up on us: the necessity of heating.

This year, the heating situation may be slightly different to usual in Beijing. In previous years, a somewhat rigid rule was followed whereby there would be no heating before Nov 15 (bar seriously poor weather).

Beijing will start the heating in a more tailored manner depending on the weather conditions this winter, though. Horrendous weather will, as before, cause the heating to come on early, but an added element this year will be "specific weather conditions", which may cause the heating to arrive at any point from the beginning of next month. Seemingly these specific weather conditions refer to the temperature being under 5 C for several days.

Regardless, this all seems a little too late for me. Chances are, the heating in my home in the UK would come on for an hour or two in the morning and evening once the temperature dipped below around a comfortable 10 degrees at night. It would stay largely similar to that for the majority of the UK's mild winter.

Coming from a country where each home has its own individual heating, one feels a similar system could be placed in China - certainly demand could be found among residents. In this way, citizens could put their heating on when they needed it and keep it off when they don't. Because different individuals feel the cold in different ways, this method would satisfy everyone's needs for heating, as well as counteracting the seemingly annual issue with the hot water supply (at least in my neighborhood).

There seems to be three main arguments I've heard against individual heating. The first involves lack of space, which I fail to understand with the small size of modern boilers. Secondly, that it would be too complicated to implement, which also seems unlikely considering the cost could simply add to the gas bill rather than heating fees being paid to management companies.

Finally, it's suggested that it would increase Beijing's energy burden if each individual used his or her own heating system, we would end up using more energy as a result. Not being an expert in such matters, it's difficult to refute this entirely, but with most apartments during winter having heating on full blast with little choice except turn them fully off and freeze, it would seem that the individual method may have more restraint in how much energy is being used rather than the opposite.

Perhaps some form of individual apartment-wide temperature control, which limits the amount of heat to the individual's preference, could be some sort of half-way point toward a useful solution.

What we have currently isn't bad, but there's certainly room for improvement and with Beijing rapidly advancing to the top table of world cities, the heating system feels a little antiquated at present.

By Edward Mills Source: China Daily


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