Should you replace gas central heating with electric?

Posted in: Energy and Heating

The cost of heating your home is expensive and is likely to become even more so as time goes on. For that reason, it's definitley worth exploring the different heating options available to see if you can maximise efficency and cut down on costs. One of the big questions peope have is whether gas or electric heating is better and if they might save money by switching systems.

If you have a gas powered central heating system and are thinking about switching to electric heating then please read on. We'll lay out the pros and cons of both types of system so you can see which is right for you.

Gas central heating

By gas central heating, we're referring to a system that includes a gas-fired boiler and pump whereby hot water is distributed around your home through a network of pipes into your wall-mounted radiators. You may well also have a thermostat to control the general temperature and possibly thermostatic radiator valves to set the temperature in each room. This is the most common type of heating system in the UK.

Pros

  • Temperature speed - A modern and well-maintained gas central heating system in a well-insulated home will get your rooms up to your desired temperature very quickly when compared to an electric system. The hot water that flows in and out of your radiators will also maintain your desired temperature in a very efficient manner, even more so if you have thermostatic radiator valves installed. When you come home to a cold house in the winter months, having a heating system that gets your home feeling cosy fast becomes very important.
  • Low(ish) running costs - When we say 'low cost', it is obviously relative to what the general costs of energy are within the market and that is always subject to change. However, gas is generally a cheaper energy source per unit than electricity, so having an efficient gas-powered central heating system will usually work out cheaper than electric heating on a monthly basis. New combi boilers operate at over 90% efficiency which is a huge improvement when compared to old boilers in decades gone by. A modern gas central heating syste can be very efficient and maximise the heating you get for your money.
  • Wealth of knowledge - Gas-powered heating systems are the most popular type of heating in the UK. There are a huge amount of Gas-Safe heating engineers who know these systems inside out. This means that repairs are easy in the event of a heating breakdown and these professionals are great at making gas central heating systems run as efficiently as possible.
  • Huge choice of styles - Because this is the UK's most popular type of heating system, there is a massive choice of radiator sizes and styles available. In fact, the variety of rads and rails have never been greater, meaning you will virtually always be able to get the exact type of radiator you want to fit in with your heating needs and interior design preferences.

Cons

  • High set-up costs - If you're installing a brand new gas central heating system from scratch (or replacing an old one) then it can be very expensive initially. A new gas-fired boiler can cost a lot, as can some designer radiators. If your property has never had a gas central hetaing system installed then all of the pipework will also need to be put in across the home. While the monthly costs are usually lower than an electric system, the expenve up-front installation costs can put a lot of people off.
  • Yearly maintenance - If you want to keep your heating system working smoothly and efficiently, you'll need to get a heating engineer in one a year to perform maintenance on the boiler and other components. Indeed, many boiler insurance contracts come with a clause that insists on annual maintenance in order to keep the policy valid. This is a sensible step, but is another expense for you to consider.
  •  Repair disruption - If you need repairs or want to add a new radiator into a part of your house that hasn't had one installed before, the work needed can cause considerable disruption. In some instances, floorboards may need to be pulled up or channels put into the walls in order to accommodate new or redirected pipework. This is all par for the course for a seasoned professional, but could introduce a lot of temporary inconvenience to you while the work is being carried out.

Electric heating

By electric heating, we are referring to a property that does not have a gas-fired boiler, a network of pipes or conventional hot water radiators on the wall. Instead, an electric heated home will have all radiators, heaters and towel rails that are connected up to the mains electricity supply and rely solely on electricty to generate heat. This is a very common alternative form of heating for properties that have no mains gas supply and in the buy-to-let sector.

Pros

  • Ease of installation - Unlike gas central heating systems, electric radiators and towel rails do not need to be connected to hot water pipes in order to work. This means that a qualified electrician can come in and connect up the electric rads without needing the disruption that new pipework can cause. An electric radiator installation is normally a relatively neat and tidy job.
  • Low set-up costs - With electric heating, you're only paying for the radiators and the labour costs to install. There's no bolier, boiler insurance, pipework, or radiator valves to consider, so the intial outlay will usually be much lower than with a gas system. 
  • Easy maintenance - Electric radiators rely on an electric element that converts electricity into heat. This is a very simple set up and doesn't require the work required to maintan a gas boiler and all its associated compenoents and moving parts on a yealy basis. Usually with quality electrical systems, the main maintenance you'll have to do is giving the radiator or towel rail a dust and a wipe down.

Cons

  • Expensive running costs - Although it's cheaper to get an electric heating system installed and up and running, you will likely find that your monthly electricity billls are more expensive than if your heating was gas powered. Electricity is more expensive than gas and you'll probably be using a lot of it to keep your home to a comfortable temperature, especially in the winter months.
  • Temperature speed - Electric heating sysems operate at almost 100% efficiency so almost no energy is wasted when heating up our home. However, electric radiators take longer to get up to your desired temperature than hot water radiators on a gas system. Compare it to how much quicker it is to boil a pan of water on a gas hob than it is with an electric one. You'll be waiing longer to feel warm with electric radiators.

Which heating system should you choose?

Hopefully, the above information has helped to give you a better idea of whether or not you should switch your gas central heating over to electric. A lot depends on your budget, what exists in your property at the moment and whether you will live in the property or rent it out.

Many landlords like to install electric heating systems because of the low installation costs and minimal maintenance. A heating system with little to go wrong is often a sensible choice and means you are much less likely to incur repair costs or unhappy tenents who have suddenly lost their heating in the middle of winter.

If you are planning to live in the property and have a gas central heating system already installed then we would recommend sticking with gas. If you have the budget to upgrade the boiler and radiators then you'll get a reliable and efficient heating system that will keep you nice and warm when you most need it. We would generally not recommend removing a perfectly good gas central heating system to be replaced with an electric one as you might be disappointed with the results.

For those of you who want to keep your gas central heating system but need to add in a towel rail to your bathroom, consider installing a dual fuel heated towel rail. This enables you to have the choice to have the rail come on with the rest of the central heating system, or independently with electricity. This can be useful in summer when you want to dry damp towels but without it being necessary to switch on your entire heating system.

26 July 2022