The question of how we would heat The Orchid has always been a big one. Cooling is a bit more straightforward since there are only so many options that are in the slightly affordable range. But heating – so many possibilities. The Hutongs of Beijing have always been notorious for making it through the cold winters. In Beijing’s recent history even as close as those growing up here in the 80’s, the hutong winter life was painful. Getting out of bed was difficult enough, but simply thinking about managing the coal for the heating took up so much time, and in the event of a problem it wasn’t unheard of for many people to die of cold through the night. Modern Beijing’s hutong life has changed a lot —- since last year. The government has been briskly adding in power capacity throughout each neighbourhood, and then subsidizing electric heaters as well as the cost of the electricity from 10pm to 6am. It is still a more expensive proposition for many poor people living here, but the majority is quite happy about it. As far as efficiency is concerned, there are better ways to do things. And certainly the benefit of options comes more easily to those starting from scratch like us.
It was always in our mind to simultaneously increase comfort and raise electrical efficiency by using floor heating. We had hoped originally to somehow use a large array of solar water heaters to convert heat for both regular water consumption as well as floor heating, but this quickly started to look like we’d need an entire additional set of equipment to deal with all those days of inadequate sun. In the end we settled for air-source heat pumps. This is essentially what most people have sitting outside, attached to their indoor AC units, except the outside unit is far bigger. Due to 220V limitations we had to settle for a smaller size unit, and buy two of them to meet capacity. The benefit of these units are the fact that they handle normal AC in the summer and then do all water heating needs in the winter. Also they are the most efficient at providing hot water for floor heating in the winter than all other means available in the area. They also weigh 300kg each!
Receiving the units on the street, and marveling at their size
Our workers wondering if we’ve thought this through properly
Installation company attempting to use the wheelbarrow to move them in