There are many factors to consider when deciding on the best option to heat your home.
If you live alone in a one-bedroom flat then perhaps a rather modest combi boiler will easily handle your central heating requirements.
Alternatively, if you have a large family living in a seven-bedroom country home, you may just be looking to replace some parts on an older system.
In all likelihood you fall somewhere in the middle, in which case you will have a number of different options ahead of you.
But before we delve into the different options you have for heating your home, it is worth having a quick check to see what type of heating system you have currently.
The reason being, is that your installation costs will rise considerably if you decide to switch out your current system for a completely different one; depending on the state of your current heating system this may or may not be cost-effective to do so.
If you have made it this far, then chances are you fall into one of 4 groups:
- Low Performance: Your current central heating system is not performing well so some or all of it may need replacing
- Old System: You have an older system that is unreliable or under-performing, perhaps with a tank in your loft and you want to know what options you have to upgrade to a better system
- In Research Mode: You’d like to know more about how your current central heating system works
- Your System is Playing Up: Your central heating system is acting weird, so you’re looking to find a solution
If any of those ring true, then you are definitely in the right place.
You may even be ready to start speaking to one of our fully vetted, Gas Safe heating engineers local to you – if so click here now.
Later on in this guide, we will go into some depth on the different types of central heating systems – some of which may look attractive to you.
A word of caution however, changing to a completely new style of heating system will in most cases increase your installation costs.
So it will be cheaper to have an engineer come in and assess the condition of your current system to see what can be salvaged, and what needs replacing to get your home back to being warm and cosy again with minimal expense or disruption.
If you’re looking for a particular section, click on the topic below that most interests you:
Gas Central Heating Systems vs. Electric Systems
A warm home is a happy home, especially during the Autumn and Winter months here in the UK. Your central heating system is rarely something you think about. It’s something we all take for granted and just assume that when those colder mornings roll around, our radiators will kick in and look after us – that is, until they don’t!
But what’s more reliable? An electric or gas heating system?
Which is cheaper to run?
In the next few sections we aim to address those questions to see if it’s worth moving over to an electric system, or vice versa.
How Does a Gas Heating System Work?
We know that in the UK gas heating systems are the most commonly used. This type of central heating is known as a ‘wet system’ where a gas-fired boiler heats water, which provides heating via radiators and hot water through the taps in your home – here’s how they work, step-by-step:
- A gas boiler has a continuous supply of natural gas streaming into it from a pipe that goes out to a gas main in the street
- Gas jets are directed onto a pipe containing cold water, heating it up to approximately 60 degrees Celsius.
- The water pipe makes up one small section of a large continuous circuit of pipe. This network travels right around your home.
- It passes through each hot-water radiator in turn and then returns to the boiler again.
- As the water flows through the radiators, it gives off some of its heat, warming each room in turn. The boiler has to keep firing in order to keep the water at a high enough temperature to heat a home.
- An electric pump is used to direct the water flow around the circuit of pipework and radiators.
Some houses without a connection to the gas network will use liquid petroleum gas (LPG) or heating oil, which work in a similar way to gas but just more expensive to run.
What About the Running Costs of Gas?
Gas boilers can provide significant savings.
Some estimates go as far as £250 per annum when compared to other fuels such as oil, coal or LPG.
High efficiency condensing gas boilers may convert as much as 90 per cent of the fuel they consume into useful heat. Condensing gas boilers also produce considerably less carbon dioxide or CO2 than ordinary gas boilers as well as reducing the amount of heat that is lost from the flue.
What are the Advantages of Owning a Gas Central Heating System?
Gas is a highly efficient fuel, which means you get a good return on every unit of energy. Unlike oil or LPG systems you don’t need to store any fuel with gas heating. Also, it is relatively simple to replace a standard gas boiler with a highly efficient modern condensing boiler.
What Are Some of the Cons of Gas?
Gas prices are continuing to rise and are likely to remain high.
As a fossil fuel, gas produces carbon dioxide when burnt and is therefore not considered to be a clean source of energy.
Gas boilers need servicing annually to ensure they run efficiently. When installing a gas central heating system from scratch it can be both costly and disruptive.
Now Let’s Talk About Electric Central Heating Systems
Electric boilers are a fairly new invention in the world of heating appliances, with many types of electric boilers still on the rise as more discoveries are made regarding their improvement.
An electric boiler can replace any other small to medium size boiler in the home, and as the technology advances we are even seeing larger electric boilers capable of meeting the demands of a large house with a large family.
They tend to need less gizzards than their gas counterparts making them extremely light, small and compact, often completely silent and, of course, boasting the main benefit of being 100% efficient.
Electric is still a relative new-comer to the central heating market, so you’d only really find them in rural areas where oil or gas access was not be available.
However, we are now seeing some new housing projects or flats that are being fitted with electric boilers by choice due to its environmental benefits.
If you currently have a gas powered system but are liking the sound of the electric boilers, do be aware that the cost to convert your heating system to electric may cost a few thousand pounds, and that’s before you even purchase the boiler and pay for installation.
Here’s Some of the Electric Boilers Currently Available
Several brands in the UK offer a range of types and makes of electric boilers, with a range of 4kW up to 14.4kW as required. These include:
- Heatrae Sadia – The ElectroMax Electric Combi Boiler; a compact boiler, designed to fit easily into a standard domestic airing cupboard, well adapted to apartments or flats. The Heatrae Sadia Amptec Electric Heating Boiler; a boiler with several available sizes depending on need, more suited for mobile homes or family houses.
- Electric Heating Company – Fusion Electric System Boiler; these run in a range from 6kW to 14.4kW, requiring no flue, suitable for underfloor heating and suitable for central heating only, or central heating with hot water using a hot water cylinder. Fusion Electric E10 Combination Boilers; larger units, running from a 9kW/150 litre electric combination unit right up to a 14.4kW/170 litre electric combination unit for the more demanding household.
- Thermaflow Electric Combi Boilers – Thermaflow 9kW Electric Combi Boilers; with 210, 250 and 330 litres, these are large and heavy in stainless steel. The components of the boiler comes with a 2 year guarantee, with the main stainless steel cylinder protected by a 25 year guarantee.
- Thermaflow 12kW Electric Combi Boilers; also with 210, 250 and 330 litres, these are similar in size to the 9kW boilers by Thermaflow, and are also protected by a 2 year component part guarantee and a 25 year guarantee on the stainless steel cylinder of the boiler.
- Dimplex Electric Boilers – Dimplex Ascari Modulating Electric Heating Boiler; a low maintenance boiler requiring no annual check, compatible with both standard radiators and underfloor heating, with 4-12kW maximum power. Small and stylish, this is ideal for the kitchen and will fit well beside most kitchen cabinets.
- Trianco Electric Boilers – Trianco Aztec Classic Electric Boilers: a wall mounted practical central heating system that is well-suited to nearly all applications. The Aztec electric boiler range is available in five outputs, which range from 2kW to 12kW, as well as the option to link the boilers in combination to create even larger outputs. Trianco Aztec Gold Electric Boilers; a small electric boiler, designed for heating smaller areas, such as caravans, conservatories and loft-extensions. The Aztec Gold range is aesthetically pleasing and compact, and requires no flue, meaning it can be installed in many places at your convenience. Maintenance wise, it has its own self-diagnostic checking system and a thermal safety cut-out. It is also compatible with most underfloor heating.
With more and more electric boiler models becoming widely available and with natural gas unavailable in many rural areas it makes sense to consider installing an electric type as a new system or even as a boiler replacement.
What are the Advantages of Owning an Electric Central Heating System?
We’ve touched on a couple advantages already, but let’s list them all out so we can see what we’re dealing with:
- If mains gas is not available in your area, electric central heating is an affordable alternative to storage heaters, oil, and even Lpg
- Radiators can be plugged directly into a 13 amp socket
- Can be run on a cheap rate electrical tariff
- Heat available on demand where & when you need it
- Less service requirements than with gas powered systems
- Electric is 100% efficient
So is it Cheaper to Heat my Home with Gas or Electric
This is the ultimate question, one that we get asked all the time.
It’s not a simple black or white question, but put simply – a gas-fueled central heating system will be cheaper in the long run.
The numbers speak for themselves – to buy one unit of mains gas (measured in kWh) you will pay about 4p / kWh. Conversely, one unit of electricity from the mains (also measure in kWh) will cost you about 15p / kWh.
This means that gas is about 3-4 times cheaper than electricity per kWh.
Now we get onto why this questions isn’t as cut-and-dry as it first seems, as we mentioned before, Electric boilers are 100% efficient whereas a good modern gas boiler will see about 95% efficiency. As you might expect, some energy from gas boilers is lost through heat.
However, even when you take into account the efficiency shortfall, electric boilers simply can’t compete with the cheap 4p / kWh cost of gas.
What About Warm Air Replacement Heating Systems?
The installation of warm air boilers and heating systems (also referred to as ducted air systems) peaked in the 1960s and 1970s.
Pros and Cons of Warm Air Heating Systems
Warm air systems like those seen in the 60s and 70s still exist and are kept with little complaint from those who have them.
- Pro: If well designed a system is quiet, warms the house quickly and eliminates the need for radiators – giving more freedom to layout a room.
- Pro: A modern air system will provide faster warm up times and with some the air can also be electronically cleaned, eradicating the dust dilemma characterised by older models.
- Pro: Modern warm air heaters with electronic controls provide stable room temperatures and greater fuel efficiency, combined with the usual quiet operation. They also have intelligent control systems ensuring the most efficient operation.
- Pro: The majority of air heaters offer the option of an integral domestic hot water circulator. Mounted within the air heater it provides efficient and economical hot water. Larger output circulators are available on some models to supply hot water to radiators as well as domestic hot water.
- Pro: Other benefits of new air heaters are that running costs can be as much as 18 per cent lower in comparison to other systems of heating yet still include the option of generating hot water.
- Con:The negatives of a warm air heating system can be draughts and problems with temperature control.
- Misconception: Warm air systems can blow dust and other particles around the house – in actual fact if it is fitted with special filters it can provide a cleaner level of air.
More About Electronic Filtration
Modern heaters have the option of electronic filtration. This means that all of the air in your house can be electronically cleaned approximately six times in an hour or every 10 minutes.
The filter removes 95 per cent of all airborne particles down to one micron, effectively minimising the amount of pollen, human and pet hair, mould, bacteria and tobacco smoke in the air.
This will provide a cleaner, healthier air which is especially beneficial for hay fever sufferers and those with respiratory complaints.
The 3 Most Popular Central Heating Systems Today
There is a wide range of central heating systems available today, however, they can all be classified as one of three main forms:
- a combination or Combi boiler system
- a mains pressure or System boiler
- a conventional gravity fed or Regular system
If you are looking to upgrade or replace your central heating it can be hard to decide which might be the right system for your property, so we’ve taken a look at each type and its pros and cons.
|Central Heating Type||Pros||Cons||Avg. Cost||Compare Prices|
|Combination System||Heats water on demand, no tank or cylinder required, cheap to run||Low flow rate, only suitable for homes with one bathroom||£1,200 – £2,500+*||Compare Now|
|Mains Pressure System||High flow rate if mains pressure is good, no tank in the loft||Unsuitable if mains pressure is low, requires annual servicing||£1,500 – £2,500+*||Compare Now|
|Gravity Based System||Can add a power shower, can work well for larger/older homes||Tank required in loft space, low pressure if un-pumped||£1,200 – £2,100+*||Compare Now|
|*Estimation only. Actual cost is dependent on the state of your current heating system.|
More Details on the Combi Boiler System
The combination boiler central heating system is easily the most popular today.
These systems don’t require a feed tank, expansion tank or a hot water cylinder because they heat water as and when you need it. This means that they require a lot less space and are also economical – they only heat the water that you need.
- A combi boiler heats water on demand requiring no tanks within the loft space
- Electronic controls paired to your boiler
- Mains supply fed directly to the combi system
- Modern thermostatically controlled radiators sized accordingly
- Great for space saving
- Perform well with showers
- Endless amounts of hot water on demand
- Very economical – you only heat what you use
- No risk of loft pipework freezing
- Less need for pipework so installation in generally cheaper
As with the other systems, combination boiler systems also have their drawbacks. The main one is that their flow rates can be quite low as the water has to be heated as it travels through the boiler i.e. there is no stored hot water to fall back on.
Are Combi Boilers Good for Heating Your Home?
Combi boilers have two heat outputs:
- Hot water for your taps and shower
- Hot water for your central heating system and radiators
It takes more effort and therefore heat to get hot water to your taps and shower than it does to your radiators, so what you must consider when deciding on the right central heating system for your home is the hot water output your household will need.
Do you go for something on the low side, say 24 KW, or do you have a higher demand so will need something in the 42 KW range?
Don’t worry if you have no clue how to work this out, once you reach out to your local Gas Safe registered installer they will be able to make a recommendation to you based on your daily heating requirements.
More Details on Mains Pressure Heating Systems
These systems supply mains pressure hot water through the taps in your home.
- Water is drawn in from the cold water mains and is heated by your boiler
- It is then stored in a storage tank (called an unvented cyclinder) until required
- When you open a tap in the house, cold water from the mains forces the heated water into the central heating system and out through the tap
The pressure at the tap of a high pressure heating system is the same as the pressure of the mains which in most cases is a lot higher than you would normally experience.
These particular central heating systems are great if you have a high mains pressure to start with but if the mains pressure is low then the system is unsuitable. They can also be costly to install and some authorities require a certificate of annual maintenance to be submitted to them.
You want to be 100% sure that your mains pressure and flow rate is strong enough to power a mains driven central heating system. If you go through the expense and hassle of having this type of heating system installed, but you get a trickle of water coming out of your shower – there is little you can do to rectify it at this point.
This is largely due to the Water Bye Laws not permitting any type of booster pumps on mains driven heating systems.
Are System Boilers Effective for Heating your Home?
It’s important to understand that a mains pressure heating system is only as good as the mains supply feeding it, also known as your ‘pressure’ and ‘flow’. If you have good water pressure and you need to heat a 3 or 4 bedroom house then a mains pressure central heating system will no doubt be a good choice for you.
Alternatively, if your pressure is low and you have a mains system then you could find that it takes two or more hours for your radiators to get hot; on those cold winter mornings this becomes more than a little inconvenient.
The best advice is to schedule a visit from a local Gas Safe heating engineer to come to your home, test your mains pressure, and then advise you further on the type of central heating system that is right for you and your home.
These central heating systems use a boiler – either a regular boiler or a system boiler – to heat both the radiators and the hot water.
The hot water circulates around the system and is then stored in a hot water cylinder until needed.
The water that travels into the boiler for heating often comes from a feed tank or expansion tank in the loft space of the house and it ensures that the volume of water in the system is always at its optimum level.
In addition to the feed tank, there is normally a larger tank present as well that replenishes the hot water cylinder when water is used around the household.
Water from this tank is drawn down into the system by the force of gravity alone – hence the name of the central heating system. The main drawback to this type of system is that you need loft space for the two tanks and an airing cupboard or similar space for the hot water cylinder.
As already mentioned the combination boiler system is becoming very popular in homes today although in some circumstances these systems aren’t suitable. Each of the central heating systems has its pros and cons so you need to decide what features you require before deciding on the system for you.
Are Regular Boilers Effective for Heating your Home?
These gravity based heating systems can work well, especially if you live in a low mains pressure area as the gravity aspect of this system can provide you with some decent water pressure if your mains pressure isn’t up to the job.
However, you will find that heating professionals tend not to recommend this type of central heating system anymore as there are quite a few negatives. For example, the need for two tanks in your loft and a cylinder in your airing cupboard can mean that installation costs will begin to creep up given the need for extra pipework and tanks.
If you do live in an older property that already has this Regular style central heating system, then it can be cheaper just to replace certain elements like the loft tank for example, rather than rip it all out and replace it with something else like a mains pressure system.
For new build houses, only in very low mains pressure areas will builders consider installing a gravity based system these days.
Central Heating Boiler Types
The market today offers a wide range of types of central heating boilers in all shapes and sizes.
From small and compact boilers that can fit in the space of a kitchen cupboard to larger, high-output monoliths, there is an option for every property.
Each of the types of central heating boilers available have their own pros and cons, some vastly different, while others seem to only change aesthetically.
Boilers can run on gas, oil and even electricity, so it can be often confusing working out exactly what you need, and what you can really have.
What Boiler Type for What Purpose?
Depending on your requirements, there are a range of types of central heating boilers to consider, ranging in size, cost, output, storage and efficiency but whatever your need it’s imperative that you get professional advice and quotes before you proceed. These include:
The most popular boiler type on the market today, sales of combination boilers (often referred to as a ‘combi’ boiler) account for more than half of boilers sold within the UK. This is mainly due to its convenience, as most central heating systems will heat a copper cylinder located in an airing cupboard using a boiler to provide hot water, but a combination boiler will heat the water needed around the house for taps and such from within its unit, and is combined with a central heating system.
A combi system will not require a cold water tank or separate water cylinder to supply it, which means that the costs of hot water will be a little lower than with a boiler that holds water in a cylinder. The only downside to the lack of water cylinder in a combi boiler is that the rate of hot water produced is likely to be lower than with a boiler with a water cylinder, even more so in the colder months.
Wall Mounted Boilers
Most boilers produced today are made to be wall mounted, with more compact and lighter heat exchangers created with materials including lightweight cast iron, stainless steel, copper or aluminium.
Wall mounted boilers come in many versions, such as with a Fanned Flue or Room Sealed. As with most new boilers, the wall mounted type of boiler is required to have fitted a “system by-pass”, which is required to filter water throughout the boiler appliance to prevent the often loud noise that boilers are known to create, called “kettling”.
Free Standing Boilers
Usually created to be narrow enough to fit snugly between fitted kitchen units as other appliances would, these floor standing boilers can be installed in other suitable locations also. Free standing boilers were a popular choice in the 70’s and 80’s but are still a great option for homeowners who may not have the wall space for a wall mounted boiler now.
This type of boiler boasts an effective “heat exchanger”, which allows heat to be re-circulated rather than lost up the flue of the boiler, making it more energy efficient and therefore reducing fuel costs significantly for the owner.
One of the issues often mentioned with condensing boilers is the pluming effect it creates from the flue terminal, which is often mistaken for steam. The pluming is due to droplets of water that are held in suspension throughout the boilers flue, and is not a danger, although is considered a nuisance and will occur for all the time that the boiler is running. Because of this, the placement of a condensing boiler can be more difficult.
Old back boilers located in fireplace areas in homes must be replaced due to recently passed building regulations, and these are usually replaced by a high efficiency or a condensing boiler. Back boilers should not be sold in many cases because of the open flued model, unless it is much too complex or pricey to install a new boiler replacement.
Back Boilers can only be fitted if they can fit the Seasonal Efficiency of Domestic Boilers rating in the UK, which is a minimum of 78% efficiency.
Often people will choose to fill the space a back boiler leaves with a gas fire and a new condensing combination boiler elsewhere in the household.
All In, How Much Will a New Central Heating System Cost Me?
Central heating is often a must have in the UK, keeping our homes warm and cosy in the dark and chilly winter months.
Despite this, many homes across Britain rely on gas fires or electric heaters – often because of the cost of installing a new central heating system in the home.
Central heating can be expensive, and often the cost of installation and parts vary wildly depending on where you research which is why you should always request quotes from more than just one company.
Factoring the pipes, the boiler, worker labour, call out fees, tanks, radiators, and any other hidden surprises that may crop up often leads to a frightening total. In this short guide we took a look at what you would need to factor in, to help you estimate the cost of installing central heating in your home.
Cost for central heating system parts
Depending on how you acquire the parts for your central heating, the costs will vary. Often your central heating installer will provide the parts for you, using his or her trusted sources, and charge you accordingly (though sometimes with a little extra on the top).
This is the most convenient way to acquire the parts, and ensures that you get exactly what you need, but is not the cheapest method.
Always get a quote for the cost of parts from your fitter, and if you feel you can get a better deal acquiring them yourself from an independent parts dealer or online then ask for a list of all the items the fitter requires, going into as much details as possible.
To work out the cost you would need to consider parts such as the water tank and its fixtures and fittings, the pipes, the radiators and add a little more on top for any miscellaneous parts. You would the need to add the costs of the labour required to fit these.
If asked, most fitters and fitting companies will do a detailed breakdown of their quotes for parts, rather than confronting you with the one large number – this should be more helpful when you are collecting quotes from many fitters to see who is offering the best deal in what area.
There are many companies that will send around a qualified engineer to your home to assess the size and type of boiler you need, depending on how big your home is, your budget, and the amount of hot water you will need on a day to day basis.
There is a wide variety of boilers on the market today – most of which we have already discussed. So as you can imagine, it is difficult to give even a rough quote of a boiler cost on average.
To keep your boiler costs at a minimum, always get as many quotes as possible, and don’t be lured into buying an oversized boiler that runs surplus to your requirements.
Plumber and Fitting Costs
If you are buying your system through a large company, they will often quote based upon the whole job done with the fitting and labour costs included.
Smaller companies and independent plumbers will often charge by the hour. An average hourly rate for plumbers is around £20-£40 an hour according to What Price, often on top of a call out charge.
Always make sure your plumber is Gas Safe registered if working with a gas central heating boiler, as well as experienced and reliable.
Cost in Conclusion
The overall cost of installing a central heating system will vary depending on the size of your house and your needs.
In general, the large central heating companies will be marginally more expensive than independent plumbers, especially if you hire a reliable local plumber and acquire the parts yourself.
Nevertheless, the piece of mind from having all the fitting carried out by a well-known brand can be a great comfort to many, and reduces the worry of if things do not go as planned.
To get the best deal for your central heating, always get as many quotes as possible from as many reliable sources, and decide your yourself what is best for you.
A New Central Heating System or Replace Some Parts
If you’re considering a new central heating system you may be interested to know about the benefits of your investment.
It is recommended to replace an older boiler or central heating system if it has been in use for a period of 10 years or more.
The benefits of a new central heating system
New boiler models are much more environmentally friendly and can save up to 40 per cent off your fuel bills when compared to conventional boilers.
High efficiency condensing boilers are particularly good as they convert more than 88 per cent of their fuel into heat, meaning less wasted energy.
As well as saving you money using a high efficiency condensing boiler with heating controls will significantly cut your home’s CO2 emissions.
A modern appliance will allow for more evenly distributed household temperatures and simple, easy to use controls.
Quotes and more
When the time comes to look for a new boiler replacement, get several quotes to make sure you get the best possible price.
The average cost for a standard replacement is around £2,300. It’s advisable to get three quotes so you can compare and choose the one which suits you best. Get free no obligation quotes from boiler and heating engineers.
Commonly Asked Questions About Central Heating Systems
No matter what central heating system you choose for your home, there will inevitably be some problems or further questions you might have.
So here at BoilerGuide, we have put together a list of common problems/questions that our visitors ask us the most.
Why is My Central Heating So Noisy?
Banging, tapping, humming and any other unusual noises coming from your central heating and pipes are not only annoying but could also point towards bigger problems with your system.
Certain noises can help tell you what kind of issue you might have and if you will need a qualified heating engineer to examine and repair it.
From gurgling radiators to banging pipes, here are some of the most common central heating noise complaints and what they might mean.
- Gurgling radiators: Gurgling noises are often a sign of built up air inside of radiators. You might also notice other symptoms such as part of the radiator not warming up (or even the whole radiator staying cold in some cases).
It can be easily fixed by bleeding the radiators in your home – something you should be able to do yourself with the help of a radiator key.
We have a handy guide to bleeding radiators that can take you step by step through the process.
- Tapping pipes or radiators: Tapping in your radiators could point to a thermostatic radiator valve being incorrectly fitted – this is especially likely if you have had the radiator put in or moved recently. This is not something you should look to fix yourself, instead hire a Gas Safe Registered engineer who will be able to investigate the problem and remedy it safely.
The other cause of tapping in your pipes and radiators could be a build-up of limescale in the system. This is often an issue in areas with hard water as there are more mineral deposits that can cling to pipes and elements.
This can generally be treated with a de-scaler or non-acidic cleaner but if the problem is severe you may need to hire a professional to perform a powerflush on your system.
- Knocking and banging in pipes: If your pipes are making banging, knocking or clanging noises it might be because they are not fitted correctly. As water flows through your central heating system it causes pipes to expand and contract which can be especially noisy if they are close to floorboards or not positioned well.
If you think this might be the case have a plumber take a look and if necessary they will ensure the pipes are positioned and fitted properly.
- Humming boiler: A humming boiler can point to something being wrong with the heating elements – often they will be set at the wrong time or pressure. The first step to deducing the problem is to check that the boiler thermostat is working correctly, if it is then the problem might instead lie with the pump or pressure.
You should always seek the help of a qualified installer, especially when it comes to dealing with the boiler itself.
You can get free quotes to compare from rated and reviewed Gas Safe Registered heating engineers with Boiler Guide.