This week, we’re going to guide you through improving your home with a new central heating system.
Many houses in the UK have central heating these days, but if your home doesn’t, it’s something you should be seriously considering.
As well as often reducing the amount you need to pay to heat your home, a good central heating system can help make your property more energy efficient. Not only this, but it could also add as much as 5.5% to your home’s value.
It’s getting hot in here
If you don’t have central heating, adding it can prove an invaluable asset to your home. If you have plans to sell, you may struggle to find a buyer if you don’t have it, as it can be costly and disruptive to install. Even if you’re not planning to move out, the money you may be able to save on your energy bills by investing in a new system means it’s well worth doing.
Just which type of central heating system you decide on depends on your budget, where you live, how old your home is and how conscious of the environment you are.
A gas system
This is the most common way to heat your home, and it’s also one of the cheapest to run. A gas fire in your boiler will heat up water that then passes through your water pipes into your radiators, and to your hot taps in sinks, baths and showers.
If you only need to replace the boiler, this isn’t too big of a job. But, if you’re installing a new system from scratch, you must be prepared for the work to be quite invasive. Floorboards may have to come up, and you may have to re-plaster walls once you finish the work. This is because all the relevant pipework and radiators will need fitting.
Not every home is hooked up to the gas network, which can mean extra costs and further delays if you want a gas central heating system. Just who you need to get in touch with about this depends on where in the UK you live – you can get the contact details of each here.
Hooking your home up to the gas mains can be expensive and may take a while, especially if your home is not within 23 metres of a gas pipe, or if the existing pipes are in a poor condition. There may be a waiting list to get you connected, so you’ll have to be patient.
Tip: Gas is generally quite energy efficient, which means you get a lot out of each unit of energy. The more modern your boiler, the better, so it’s worth paying a bit extra for a newer condensing boiler to make the most of the gas you pay for. You can find out more about the different types of gas boiler here.
An electric system
Although not as common, an electric central heating system might be a route you wish to consider – especially if you’re not hooked up to the gas grid. The vast majority of homes in the UK have access to electricity, so it can be a cheaper and easier way to get your home heated if you don’t have instant access to a gas pipe.
If you’re on a time-of-use electricity tariff – like Economy 7 or Economy 10 – a storage heater is worth considering. These tariffs mean you pay less for electricity during off-peak times, usually the night. A storage heater charges up and stores heat when your electricity is cheapest, and then heats your home during the day. You can pair this with an immersion heater in your hot water tank to heat up the water in your home.
Other options, like electrical radiators, might be suitable in certain rooms in your home. But, as they are very expensive to run, they are best used sparingly in short bursts, and work best if your home is well insulated.
Tip: If you are thinking of an electrical storage heater, it’s worth investing in a more expensive, modern model with features like automatic charge control and a convection heating option. This is because the more modern heaters give you greater control over the temperature you want.
A convection model lets you control when your heating comes on, and having an auto charge control feature means the temperature is measured automatically and your heating adjusted accordingly.
Solar water heating systems, biomass boilers and heat pumps are all ways you can harness your own energy from renewable sources. This reduces your carbon footprint, so it’s the best alternative if you’re conscious about doing your bit for the environment and your home has the right features.
As you’re making your own energy, you won’t have to rely on gas or electricity supplies. These are in ever-increasing demand, and the prices can fluctuate quite dramatically. Having your own energy supply means you should have a consistent way to heat your home, and you won’t have to worry about rising electricity or gas prices.
If it’s solar thermal panels (these solar panels heat water) you’re looking to install, it’s important to weigh up whether your home is suitable. For example, you’ll need either a southward-facing roof or a large garden that gets enough sunlight to be worth the investment.
A biomass boiler involves burning wood logs, chips or pellets and using the energy to heat your home. Although it may not sound very environmentally-friendly, the carbon emissions are far lower than those produced by a standard gas boiler – especially if you buy in the wood locally. Plus, you may be able to save quite considerably by switching to this kind of boiler. You can find out more about biomass boilers here.
So long as you own your home and have a biomass boiler, solar water heating system or certain types of heat pumps, you could receive payments from the government for installing the technology. You can find out more about this on the gov.uk website here.
Tip: It’s a good idea to pair up solar panels with an electrical storage heater. Using the energy you harness from your panels to store heat this way can save you money and is often more cost-effective than selling your spare electricity back to the grid.
If you’re not hooked up to the gas supply, you might be weighing up other alternatives like LPG (liquid petroleum gas) or oil central heating.
Here, the fuels are stored in a tank or container and hooked up to your boiler. This works in much the same way as a gas system, where the water is heated in your boiler, but this time using the LPG or oil as fuel. You may wish to consider these, but bear in mind that you must rely on deliveries of LPG or oil, so you may be left without heat if you don’t order it in time. Plus, although prices are cheaper than electric heating currently, there is no price regulation here so it has the potential to rise by quite a lot.
To keep heat trapped in your home, it’s a must to look to solutions like loft and wall cavity insulation, sealing any drafts you have and even fitting double-glazing. These can bring your energy bills down considerably as less hot air escapes your property so you don’t have to use your heating as often.
Tip: Some energy providers offer loft and wall cavity insulation for free, so it’s worth checking with your supplier whether they provide this service. Otherwise, insulation can be bought from most DIY stores and is quite cheap and easy to set up.
How much will it cost?
The cost ultimately depends on the type of central heating system you are looking to install.
Gas is far more expensive to set up than an electric system, especially if you’re not hooked up to a gas supply. According to Uswitch, a new boiler can cost anything from around £500 to £2,500. If you can afford to, it’s a good idea to go for the most energy-efficient model you can, as this will save you more on your utilities bills in the long-run.
An electric central heating system is usually much cheaper to install and set up, but the costs in the long-run are much more expensive than a gas system. This is because electricity is generally much more expensive and you’re likely to run up quite a high bill if you have your heating on often – especially during the day.
Solar panels or wind turbines can be very costly to install, but they may pay for themselves rather quickly if you don’t need to pay much – or anything - to an energy supplier to use gas or electricity to heat your home. According to Which?, you could save around £609 on an average yearly gas bill, or £2,053 on an average electricity bill.
An auto-feeding biomass boiler can cost between £9,000 and £21,000 to install, according to the Energy Saving Trust. Models where you put the wood in yourself are cheaper.
Are there any restrictions?
Generally speaking, there won’t be any planning permission requirements for central heating, but it’s worth checking this. Head to the Planning Portal website here to find out if you’ll need permission to carry out the work. If you’re installing a biomass boiler, you may need permission for the flue. Similarly, any work that happens on the outside of the property means you might have to apply for permission.
You’ll need to make sure any work installing a central heating system is done by someone who is licensed to do so. Gas, electrics and other fuels are all potentially very dangerous things to work with, so it’s important to get someone who is licensed to carry out the work.
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By Dan Griffiths