Dual fuel central heating systems are able to heat homes using two different power sources, usually gas and electricity.
Although many people will not have heard of these types of central heating systems, they are becoming increasingly popular as they can be quite beneficial to a householder.
Below we'll look at what dual fuel heating is and how it differs from the common types of heating system.
Traditional central heating
A traditional, or conventional, central heating system consists of a gas-powered boiler that is responsible for heating up hot water in your system.
This hot water travels around the pipework in your home and flows into your radiators to provide heat into your rooms.
A conventional hot water system is the most common type of heating system in the UK.
Electric heating systems
Although a gas-powered boiler system is common to a high proportion of homes in the UK, there are some situations where it simply isn't practical.
These can include homes in remote areas, mobile homes, or older apartments in large apartment blocks that are not connected to a mains gas supply.
These types of homes still need heating and are better supplied by heaters that are connected to the electrical supply. These can come in the form or wall-mounted heaters or freestanding heaters that can be wheeled in and out.
Dual fuel - a combination of both
A dual fuel heating system has the ability to connect to a gas-powered boiler or to the electrical system and it's possible to get radiators and heated towel rails that are suitable for switching between the two.
In fact, many people have an example of a dual heating system in their homes, often without realising.
This is often in the form of a heated towel rail in the bathroom. A dual fuel heated towel rail can get hot when you switch your central heating on, plus you may have an on/off switch that turns your towel rail on without needing to turn on your heating.
If your towel rail only gets hot when you put your heating on, then you have a single fuel, traditional central heating towel rail.
If your towel rail will only come on when you press a switch on your wall, you have a single fuel, electric heated towel rail.
If you can choose whether your heated towel rail comes on independently of the central heating or to come on normally with all the other radiators in your home, then you have a dual fuel heated towel rail.
Why might you choose a dual fuel heating system?
As with the example above, some people like the freedom of being able to switch radiators and heated towel rails on independently of their central heating system.
This facility can become most useful in summer. For example, it may be too hot to have your central heating system on but your wet towel still need drying. A dual fuel towel rail enables you to dry your towels without putting on your whole central heating system.
Equally, you may be sat in a conservatory enjoying a light summer evening. As often during a British summer, a warm day might give way to a nippy evening. You can turn on your dual fuel radiator in your conservatory electrically without needing to use your boiler.
In situations like this, dual fuel systems allow you to get heat as and when you need it without the expense of putting on your main gas-powered system.
In winter, you can switch your heating on and all rads and rails will come on as normal. In effect, the best of both worlds.
Are there any downsides to dual fuel heating?
If you have a conventional hot water central heating system, then it's usually fairly simple to install new radiators and towel rails that are able to also connect to the electrical system.
However, you will need to make sure you get a qualified electrician in and you may need to have some replastering and painting done if extra wiring needs to be installed.
If you currently only have electric heating and wish to have a dual fuel system, then you will need to have a boiler and all the pipework installed in your home.
While this is certainly possible in most instances, your budget will need to be much higher because of the extra costs involved, so make sure you are aware of what you are committing to before proceeding.
In general, having a dual fuel heating system can be beneficial as it really gives you independence with your heating and allows you to choose between heating your home with gas or electricity.