If you have a blank canvas and are deciding what sort of heating system you should install in your home, then please read on.
A fully functioning heating system is integral to your family's comfort in the UK because it is in use in some capacity for much of the year. Even in summer, there are often chilly days, plus we all still require hot water for washing and cleaning.
In this article we'll lay out the main types of heating systems for you to consider which is best for your home.
1. Central Heating
This is the most common form of heating system in the UK and is probably something very familiar to you.
In simple terms, a gas-fired boiler transfers heat into water which is then pumped around a series of copper pipes throughout your home. This hot water flows into your radiators and radiant heat is emitted out into the room.
Combination ('combi') boilers are now the most common type of boiler in centrally heated homes. They are able to provide the hot water to your radiators and to your taps/shower without the need for a separate and cumbersome water tank.
2. Electric Heating
Though not as common as conventional hot water central heating, electric heating is still an established and well-recognised method of heating a home. It's also a much simpler system.
Instead of needing the installation of a boiler and pipes to transfer water, electric radiators are simply connected to the mains electrical system.
An electric element on the radiator converts the electricity and heats up the internal blocks, convector fins or chemical fluid, which emit radiant heat into the room. No gas or water is required.
For hot water, there is usually a separate electric hot water tank that heats a body of water, then delivers it to taps and shower units.
3. Dual Fuel Heating
This is when a home has a heating system that uses two different types of fuel for power. Some examples of the different types of fuels are gas, electricity, wind power or solar power.
For the purposes of this article, we will use gas and electricity as the two fuels in a dual fuel system and would mean a home that has radiators that can be powered by gas central heating or the mains electricity supply.
This is commonly seen in houses that have a standard central heating system but have additional rooms, like an attic or conservatory, also in need of heat.
It may be too much expense and disruption to install pipework to these rooms, so an electric radiator is installed to simply solve the problem.
Alternatively, and perhaps a purer dual fuel example, is a dual fuel towel rail installed in a bathroom. These types of towel rail are specifically designed to be connected up to the central heating system and plugged in to the mains electrical supply.
This allows the option of having the towel rail come on along with the rest of the radiators in the home, or to be switched on independently. Having this independence allows to to dry or heat your towels with needing to heat the whole house at the same time.
Which system is best?
Deciding which is best really depends on your personal circumstances. If you have a remote home or an apartment in a tower block that isn't served by gas, then a standard central heating system won't be possible.
An electric system is the easiest and cheapest to install and doesn't require annual maintenance. There's also no expensive components like boilers or heat pumps that are very expensive to fix if they go wrong.
Electric radiators are also 100% efficient, converting all the energy into heat. While still higher efficient, some heat loss still occurs with modern central heating systems.
On the other hand, an individual unit of gas is cheaper than a unit of electricity. You may be more satisfied with the increased heat output (BTUs) of central heating radiators.
Hot water delivery
Hot water is also a big consideration when comparing gas central heating versus electric heating. An electric system tends to rely on a tank of water being heated up. When the tank is empty, you'll have to wait for a new body of water to be heated.
A standard central heating system with a combi boiler provides instant hot water whenever you need it. The days of complaining 'who's used all the hot water?' are long gone with this type of system.
Ultimately, if you have the budget then you might decide that a standard central heating system is the way to go. It's more expensive and disruptive to install, but will probably give you the best heating experience in the long run.
It would be better to update an old house's existing central heating system than it would to strip it out and go electric.
Plus when it comes to selling on a property, gas-fired central heating will always be more attractive than electric.
• The Complete Guide to Electric Heating
• The Complete Guide to Dual Fuel Heating