In a world where we worry about the environment and where the efficiency of our heating system is crucial for helping our wages cover the costs, choosing the right heating system is an important decision. We look to our heating system to keep us warm during the winter but are more aware than ever of the cost of this comfort.
Gas central heating is the most common type in the UK, though about a million homes are not connected to the gas grid. It is especially common in rural areas and blocks of flats for there to be a need for an alternative energy supply. However, not only these households could choose alternative heating systems, and here we explore some of the other options available to us all.
Gas Central Heating
A gas-fuelled boiler is likely still the cheapest viable option if you are connected to the natural gas grid. You can extend the life of this boiler with regular servicing, increasing its effectiveness and efficiency.
If you want your central gas heating to have more environmental credentials, you can change your boiler to the most energy-efficient one. However, gas is a fossil fuel and not a sustainable source of heating and increases your carbon footprint.
To further manage the costs of this heating system, you can better manage the controls to minimise the energy used. According to the Energy Savings Trust, turning down your boiler by a single degree can save you approximately £80 a year. This also represents fossil fuels not being burned. You can better control this with a smart thermostat, which will allow you to heat rooms at different temperatures and set your system going from your phone.
Electric central heating
Electrical systems are more common in flats and new build homes and are likely a system of separate heaters in each room rather than powered from a central boiler. In older properties, these are night storage heaters, which are paired with immersion heaters for hot water requirements.
Heating your home with electricity is expensive. It also relies on a significant amount of fossil fuel use, which is detrimental to your carbon footprint and impacts the environment.
Ground Source Heat Pumps
If you are genuinely looking for a heating system that serves the environment and your heating requirements, then a ground source heat pump is an excellent option. The cost to buy a GSHP, as they are known, is high and will not significantly lower your bills. However, it is a sustainable energy source and keeps you separate from the ups and downs of the energy market.
The system harnesses heat from under the ground by pumping water through pipes. The heat pump also increases the temperature of this water, providing heating and hot water for your home. The GSHP does require electricity to power it but needs less electrical energy than other heating systems. Rather than burning fuel, the pump drives water heated by the ambient temperature. As the ground rarely falls by a degree or two in temperature, even in cold winter, this is a suitable source throughout the year.
You can get financial aid to switch to a GSHP, and your bills will be marginally cheaper. However, returning the £10k – £18k installation costs will take a long time.
Air source heat pump
It costs a little less to install an air source heat pump as it does not require the groundwork of the GSHP. According to the Energy Savings Trust, you will need to invest about £7k to £13k in the pump installation. From April 2022, you can apply to the Boiler Upgrade Scheme for a grant to install an air source pump in England and Wales.
The cost to run your air pump depends on the size of your home and how well insulated it is. Whether you see a return on your investment depends on the heating system you have and how hard you ask your air pump to work. Which estimates that if you had a G-rated boiler and replaced this with an air source heat pump, you would save approximately £1410 a year.
Generally, it is thought that an air source heat pump can save you money if it is designed and installed well.
If you measure effectiveness is the cost of your bill and the warmth of your home, then the central gas heating you currently have is your best option. Maintaining it well and managing the thermostat can make this an even more viable option. However, a more sustainable ground or air source pump is the right choice if you want to do your part for the environment.