Although Italy is often described as a sunny country, and it is, compared with most other European countries, our winters can be very cold…and quite long! Most house owners in Umbria and Tuscany have discovered this fact through huge gas bills, in their endeavour to try and keep their houses warm, especially those in the open countryside, where they are more exposed and were built without too many notions about thermal insulation. So when you start the restoration of your old farmhouse in Umbria or Tuscany, beware that you get the right advice on the type of insulation and especially the heating system. A local expert, Patrick Littlehales, an expat with a background in engineering, has been studying in great depth these systems, and has used his own house as a testing ground. Casa Sagraia, near Umbertide is equipped with solar panels, photovoltaic panels, gas boiler, wood burning stove with back boiler and a heat bank. Heat pumps have also been considered as an extremely efficient way forward, although not installed at Casa Sagraia. The core of the system is the heat bank, a large, insulated tank that stores water at different temperatures. If you want to know more about this, and save on your gas bill, have a look at his website:, where you can find a lot of interesting information explained in a both thorough yet simple way.

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