Winter heating: How to keep warm and cozy in Türkiye

Most apartments and houses in towns across Türkiye have access to natural gas, meaning most radiators will pump heat throughout the home. While this system offers the ultimate in luxury, requiring literally no effort other than turning a nob, there are a number of considerations to keep in mind. Before the advent of natural gas, heating in most apartment buildings in cities like Istanbul was provided by a huge coal stove that distributed heat to radiators installed in each apartment. It also used to be that radiators all received and gave off the same amount of heat, which meant you couldn’t regulate the temperature in your own home. This is called ‘merkezi’ which means central heating system. The downside to this system is that it can potentially get uncomfortably warm and not be able to turn down the heat in an individual apartment.

Since then, times have changed and not only has natural gas been introduced as a new fuel for central heating, but individual apartments are now mostly equipped with their own meters on their radiators, with which you can regulate the heat. In this case, instead of paying a central fee, each apartment has its own natural gas account, but again, in most cases, the heat should never be completely shut down to zero, as this compromises the integrity of the heating of the entire building. What seems complicated, it is and that is why it is important when renting a new apartment in a city to talk extensively about heating and to check whether an apartment has its own meter or is involved in a central heating and billing plan.


For those of us who live in summer resort towns in winter, reverse air conditioning that cools in summer and heats in winter is definitely the most convenient heating solution. However, as the houses themselves were built for the summer, in many cases much of the heat provided by air conditioning units can be lost as you walk up the open stairwells and seep through the patio doors. In this case, you might need an additional spot heater, which, interestingly, is mainly called a UFO today. The UFO label, which originally got its name from a brand, has stuck and while it originally referred to standing height red coil heating systems, it has now become a hallmark for any type of plug-in electric heater. Before the UFO label, these heaters were called “elektrikli soba”. While they can skyrocket your electricity bills, most houses in Türkiye have an electric heater like this that can heat up on site.

Turks and their “Soba”

The soba is undoubtedly one of the most popular and useful implements that have ever existed here in Türkiye. A soba is a heating stove where you can burn wood or charcoal in the bottom part of the stove, use the top part for cooking, and radiate the heat through galvanized metal pipes that run throughout the house. From cast iron to metal, there are many types of “sobas” and one can adjust the tubes in the direction and length of one’s choice. The only requirement for a soba is the all-important “soba hole” which is the exit route for the pipes from the building and can be a point of contention when renting a space. You see, if a location you’re planning to rent doesn’t already have a soba hole, it’s important to check with the landlord before drilling to make sure they have a hole in the walls or ceiling for that Soba Rohr agrees. The pipes should be cleaned regularly, at worst every winter season. The benefits of the soba are many as you can gather around them and experience the immensely beneficial warmth they successfully radiate as the warmth a soba provides is unparalleled. Meanwhile, sobas also serve as a perennial tea maker, as most homes have a teapot with water constantly boiling on top, which is also good for humidifying the air. Similarly, the top of a soba can serve as a stove top for preparing meals and toasting bread, while an oven compartment, if a soba has one, can be used to bake bread or even cook baked potatoes.

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Fireplaces are fun

I will be honest with you, although a fireplace is very attractive, here in Türkiye they are not really the most efficient source of heating. First of all, most fireplaces built in traditional houses in Türkiye were actually built with the intention of cooking food. This means that they are usually extremely large, low to the ground and sometimes even outdoors. In general, fireplaces in Türkiye are not intended as the only means of heating a home. This means that you should not rely solely on a fireplace to provide all of the heat in a home and should always have a backup as there is a good chance that the heat provided will most likely be limited and therefore not as cost effective as other dining systems . However, like a soba, they tend to perform the multiple functions of serving as a cooking vessel and means of heating.

Wood is a hot commodity

As the winter months draw closer, the hottest topic being discussed in towns and villages across the country will be the price and type of wood on offer for the season. Generally, a regional price is set for a ton of wood, which can be delivered pre-cut or delivered to your door in giant logs. In this case, chopping the wood down to soba size can be a different task or service altogether. The price of wood can be almost comparable to electricity prices so don’t be fooled into thinking that burning a soba is cheaper, it’s just warmer and that’s certainly the benefit.

While each region has its own distinct types of trees and woods, ‘çam’, which is pine, is generally cheaper and quicker to burn, while variations such as ‘meşe’, which is oak, or ‘zeytin’, which is olive, burns slower. Ideally, you combine a few variations of different types of wood and maybe even add charcoal to the mix. For newbies looking for lumber delivery just ask around, even your local market will most likely have clues as to who has lumber available these days. But for locals officially residing in villages and towns, there is an opportunity to apply to the Ministry of Forestry for timber at a much cheaper rate.

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