The heating came on early!

There’s something you need to know if you’re coming to China during winter time…  Most of the homes in the south, don’t have heating 😱😱!!  That means cities like Shanghai, which actually get cold during winter, don’t have heating!  This means in some cases, people wear winter clothes indoors!  I experienced this first hand when I went to Yunnan during the October holiday a few years back.  I was FREEZING inside and definitely wasn’t expecting it! 😣

Luckily, I am in Beijing which is north of the Huaihe River, so in winter I have heating at home.  Now before you all cast your sighs of relief, the heating has a strange catch!  We can’t control it!  The heating in Beijing and all the provinces north of the Huaihe River is controlled by the government!

China’s central heating plan, introduced in the 1950s, separated the nation into two distinct regions, using the Qinling Mountains and the Huaihe River as China’s geographic north-south divide. The north was designated as an area “in need” of central heating during the winter while the south was left utterly unheated.

The Huai River runs through Xinyang in Henan province, but because more than 75% of the people live south of the river, the city was left out of the heating club. About 66 miles north, Zhumadian in Henan enjoys central heat. But go 43 miles north to Luohe, and there are no radiators in sight.  However, they neglected to take into account the fact that southern China, especially Shanghai, gets even wetter, rainier and windier in the winter, which makes it colder than the north, where it’s mostly dry with the occasional downpour of snow.

So, yeah, the heating system is controlled by the government!  That means they turn it on and off as they please..  OK, it’s not so crazy, they turn it on before November 15 and off by 15 March the following year.  I’m telling you, China gets extremely hot in summer and extremely cold in winter!  As an example look at these screen shots taken by me during the extremes!

Yesterday, I was getting something from the cupboard and had to bend down..  At first I thought I was getting light-headed because my face got really warm as I opened the cupboard door.  I thought about it again for a second and didn’t feel light-headed at all so then put my hand on the radiator and to my surprise – it was warm!  The heating came on a few days early this year!!  Nice! 😎

One bad side to this is that originally the ‘powering up’ of the winter heating power stations caused crazy air pollution across the north of China.  On occasions it went off the charts to previously unmeasurable numbers!!  This has got much better in recent years but it’s still pretty awful by WHO standards.

Another bad thing is that some homes in the ‘heated’ regions of China get so hot that they need to keep the windows open!  I’ve been to friend’s homes in Beijing and they are so hot that the windows are permanently kept open during winter!  Kind of defeats the purpose of having the heating in the first place right?

Also – the heating isn’t free!  It’s subsidised yes, but every home has to pay based on the square metres of the home to be heated.

Anyway, this will save me a few pennies off my electric bill!  So far this autumn/winter, we’ve been using the air conditioning to blast the room with warm air all day.  Since we have a baby in the house, we especially don’t want it to get cold inside.

Think how lucky we are in the West to have the simple convenience of being able to turn on and off your own heating!

Hope you are having a nice, warm autumn/winter so far 🙂



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