Electric heating vs gas: which is better?

Posted in: Energy and Heating
A vertical radiator in a room with an open fire

One of the of the most common questions about home heating is whether to choose a system powered by gas or electricity. There's no definitive answer as much can depend on your lifestyle and personal circumstances, however in this article we lay out the advantages and disadvantages of gas and electric heating. We hope this information will assist you with making up your own mind about which is better for you.

Electric heating - the advantages

  • Easy to install - An electric radiator only needs to be connected up to the mains electricity supply in order to work. There's no need to pull up floorboards or take huge chunks out of the wall in order to lay pipes. This is particularly useful if you're not connected to the gas network.
  • Low initial cost - You'll need to pay for the electric radiators (or towel rails) and the labour for a qualified electrician to connect them. However, there's no expensive boiler, heat pump or copper pipe network required, which makes your initial financial outlay relatively small.
  • Easy to maintain - An electric heating system is very low maintenance after the installation has been completed. There are minimal components to go wrong and you don't need an annual system check , unlike with a gas powered system.

Electric heating - the disadvantages

  • Slow to reach temperature - While electric heating operates at near 100% efficiency - negligible energy goes to anything other than generating heat - you'll probably find that your room will take longer to feel warm than with a gas powered system. You can make the comparison with cooking and how long it takes to bring something to the boil on an electric hob vs a gas ring.
  • High ongoing cost - A unit of electricity costs more than a unit of gas and, as electric radiators tend to take longer to heat up, you'll likely find having electric heating is more expensive than gas heating on a monthly basis, simply because you're using more of a energy source that is already higher in price.

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Gas heating - the advantages

  • Quick to reach temperature - Assuming your gas central heating is modern and well-maintained, hot water-filled radiators will heat your room more quickly than their electric counterparts. You'll find your home speedily goes from cold to a comfortable temperature, which is a great relief in the coldest winter months.
  • Easy to repair - Gas-fired boiler central heating systems are the most common method of heating homes in the UK. This means there are a huge amount of professionals familiar with how the systems work and how best to repair and maintain them. Switching out a boiler or a radiator is usually straightforward as all other components that make up a central heating system are already in place.
  • Low ongoing costs - Gas is a cheaper energy source than electricity and, with modern boiler technology having come such a long way, modern combination boilers can operate at an efficiency of over 90%, significantly reducing the efficiency benefits electric heating systems may have enjoyed in the past.
  • Massive choice - Most radiator and towel rail manufacturers treat gas-fired central heating systems as their number one priority. As a result, there are huge amounts of sizes, styles, finishes and colours to choose from, allowing you to install exactly what you want for your property.

Gas heating - the disadvantages

  • High initial costs - If you are putting in a full, brand new gas central heating system, then there's no getting away from the fact that this is a costly process. Boilers, multiple radiators, copper piping are all integral components and installation can cause considerable work and disruption, particularly in a property that has never had central heating before.
  • Annual maintenance - Much like servicing or MOTing a car, a boiler and its components need to be checked and maintained by a Gas Safe Registered engineer every 12 months. This helps to ensure everything is working correctly, there are no Carbon Monoxide leaks and any potential for boiler breakdowns can be nipped in the bud. While this is for your safety, it is still an annual cost and something else for you to remember to schedule.

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A third option - dual fuel heating

An additional heating method worth mentioning is that of dual fuel. This is where you have a heating system that can be powered by two different energy sources, including electricity, gas, wind or solar.

In terms of our customers, we most commonly see people choosing dual fuel heated towel rails for their bathrooms. A dual fuel rail is connected to your central heating system and can come on as normal with all your other radiators in your home. It is also connected to your electricity supply so that you can switch on your heated towel rail independently of your heating system.

This flexibility is most commonly utilised in summer when the temperature may be too warm to justify putting on the entire heating, but damp towels still need to be dried. The towel rail can be switched on at the mains just long enough to dry a towel without the inconvenience or expense of switching on everything.

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In conclusion

Having laid out the pros and cons of electric and gas central heating to you, we hope you feel in a better position to decide which is right for you. Budget, location, installation, maintenance and design preferences are all factors to think about when deciding which path to take.

Ultimately, you need to make a decision that is affordable and will allow you to comfortably heat your home all year round.

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13 April 2021