Deciding which system to heat your home with is extremely important. Not only will it keep your house feeling all warm and cosy, but it will also lower your fuel costs. Win-win.
Choosing the right heating system for your home can be a difficult decision, with so many choices to decide between. From gas central heating to solar panels, and ground source heat pumps to LPG, how can you determine which system is best for you and your home?
Here, we go through and break down each heating option, analysing their various advantages and disadvantages, to help you choose the right option to heat your home. Let’s start by talking about the UK’s most popular choice of heating system: mains gas.
Gas Central Heating
Heating your home with gas central heating is the most common option in England, Scotland and Wales, predominantly because it is the cheapest choice. Gas boilers have also become more and more efficient over the years and installing them is now pretty straightforward.
That said, gas prices are continually on the rise and – despite being cheaper per unit than electricity – they’re still not cheap. Plus, since not all homes are connected to the national gas grid, the process of getting connected can be fairly long and costly. You also need to keep your boilers serviced regularly to ensure they’re kept in good working order.
Therefore, while gas central heating might be the UK’s most popular choice, it is definitely not without its problems.
LPG and Oil Central Heating
For areas without mains gas availability, two popular alternative heating systems to use are Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) central heating and oil central heating. Both of these require storing fuel on-site, usually in the form of a large tank in the back garden.
One of the key benefits of LPG over oil is the fact that LPG tanks can be buried in the garden, whereas oil tanks have to be kept above-ground. Large plastic tanks are not the prettiest things to look at either, so this is definitely a plus.
LPG heating systems tend to cost slightly less to install than oil and give users the option to have gas hobs on their cookers and real flame-effect gas fires. However, their running costs tend to be higher as well, which makes oil a slightly more popular choice over LPG.
One of the more expensive fuel options to heat your home with, electricity is typically more widely used in areas where it’s not possible to get mains gas and where there’s not enough room to store other fuel systems. The cost per unit price for electricity is roughly four times more expensive than gas, so it’s only really recommended if you’re unable to get any other kind of heating option.
For houses which are limited to only having an electric heating option, the most common setup features a combination of a night-storage heater with an Economy 7 or Economy 10 tariff. To find out more about what these are, take a look at this overview.
Using biomass fuel is much more of an eco-friendly heating system. Whether you use wood pellets, wood chip, logs or straw bales, biomass fuel is a highly sustainable choice for heating your home with.
However, installing the system can be pretty pricey and requires a lot of space to house the boiler, thermal stores and whichever fuel you choose to use. Biomass heating is only really practical for properties which have larger garden spaces able to deal with the storage requirements.
Nevertheless, with the right design and construction, biomass heating can be highly cost-effective since it is currently subsidised under the government’s renewable heat incentive (RHI).
Talking of the RHI, ground source heat pumps (GSHPs) are another eco-friendly form of renewable energy to consider. They draw heat from the ground and operate in a similar way to conventional fridges, making one place cooler while making another warmer – or the other way around. Just think about how warm the back of your fridge gets while keeping its contents cold: GSHPs work in the same sort of way.
GSHPs are fuelled by electricity and work by running an antifreeze/water fluid through a large loop of pipe. This ‘ground loop’ tends to be buried in a trench outside of the house, keeping it out of sight and mind. Heat from the ground then absorbs into the antifreeze/water fluid, before passing through a heat exchanger into the radiators inside your house.
One of the key benefits of a GSHP is that, because the ground stays at a relatively constant temperature, they are one of the few renewable energy solutions that can be used all year around. One of their main downsides though is that they can only reach temperatures of around 50oC, which is nearly half the temperature a gas boiler can reach.
GSHPs consequently need to be left running for longer in order to achieve the same level of comfort. They’re also very expensive to install but, once they’re set up and running, the running costs can work out as cheap as gas central heating.
It’s no secret that the threat of climate change and global warming is on the rise. Sustainable heating systems are therefore becoming more and more popular. After all, they don’t only heat your home, they also help save the planet at the same time.
Solar panels are the poster child of renewable energy solutions, representing the most commonly used sustainable heating system. They work by allowing photons, or particles of light, to knock electrons free from atoms and, in turn, generate a flow of electricity. In more simple terms, they are a clever method of converting sunlight into fuel that you can then be used to heat your home.
While this all sounds great in principle, solar panels do have their various disadvantages. For starters, the initial cost to install them is fairly high. Likewise, as they require sunlight, they are weather-dependent, meaning that some days will be a lot more fruitful than others.
They also take up a lot of space. You’ve probably seen them already on other people’s roofs and I’m sure you’ll agree that they’re not exactly the prettiest things to look at. Storing the solar energy they make can also be expensive, especially now that the UK government has finished their feed-in-tariff scheme.
Nonetheless, solar panels are starting to look nicer and are dropping in price. They also give you the satisfaction of knowing that you’re helping the planet, which I guess is never a bad thing.