How to heat a stone house in Portugal

Although Portugal is hot and dry for many months, the winters are chilly and damp. The typical stone Portuguese house can feel glacial and heating is a must. Wood burning stoves, butane gas heaters are the handiest and most economical methods of heating.

wood burning stove heating home in Portugal
wood burning stove heating home in Portugal
A cast iron wood burning stove is an excellent way to heat a stone house in Portugal.

Portugal has a reputation for being a warm sunny place, but heating is still a must during the damp winter months.

Most homes are made of stone in the Portuguese countryside. Stone does a great job keeping the house cool in summer. But a stone house can feel glacial from November through February.

So, what is the best way to heat this stone house? Seasoned expats will probably agree that the wood burning stove, called a recuperador de lenha or salamandra, in Portugal, is your best bet. Having learned from experience, I recommend getting one made of cast iron rather than steel. Stores like Leroy Merlin, Bricomarche and Agriloja usually carry a selection. 

Cast iron stoves are more expensive than steel they radiate the heat more efficiently and hold the warmth hours longer. The heat rating of these stoves is rated in Kw. You can check the size of stove needed based on the area you need to heat. 

A good iron stove will typically cost 700 to 1,000 Euros. plus the cost of chimney piping.

Ordering Wood

I moved into a newly renovated stone cottage in Central Portugal in July 2019. Come September, my expat neighbors gave me the phone number of their wood supplier. The term for wood used for stoves is lenhas in Portugal. You typically order it by the ton and the supplier delivers a truckload. The first heating you get is the effort to stack it. Goes without saying you need a good, dry, woodshed.

stacked logs for wood burning stove
Oak logs stacked in a wood shed ready for winter. A plastic curtain is good to keep off the rain.

My supplier delivers hard, dry oak which burns well and gives off good heat. But you need a large supply of kindling to get a fire going. I bought a log splitter from my neighbors, and regularly pick up pine cones and dry sticks in the nearby forest during the summer months. I use them as kindling. 

Log splitter used to split wood for stove
Electric powered splitter used to split logs into smaller pieces as shown, to help get fire going.
Other heating methods

A wood burning stove will usually burn out overnight leaving your house cold by dawn. A gas heater that uses bottled butane is the quickest and most cost effective heat source for those chilly mornings. Delba is a common brand sold in Portugal. It is available at the Agriloja stores for around 70 Euros. The first bottle of gas costs around 40 Euros. When you return the empty bottle a refill costs about 25 Euros.

Oil-filled electric radiators and electric space heaters which may or may not use a fan can also be used. But they take a longer time to heat and are only useful for small rooms. They are also expensive to run.

Author: Rosalie Rayburn

Rosalie Rayburn is an author, blogger, world traveler and avid cyclist. She moved to Portugal from the US in 2019 and writes a blog about how to make your retirement dream in Portugal come true.

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