GUIDE: ‘Gas free’ heating options this winter

Stephen Hankinson, managing director at Electric Radiators Direct, gives his advice on where to start , if you want to move from fossil fuels to greener heating options.

With household energy bills still set to rise by about 6.5% under the UK government’s new price cap, many Brits may be looking to switch to alternative heating solutions to improve their home’s energy efficiency.

In the last three months alone, searches for ‘electric radiators’ have increased by 50%, with 40.5k Brits searching for the heating solution each month. Meanwhile, searches related to heat pumps have soared by 83% in the same period, to 60.5k per month.

But at the end of 2021, almost half (43%) of UK residents admitted that cost was the biggest obstacle to ‘going green’ with their home heating, in a study we conducted. With the cost of living crisis having worsened throughout 2022, the affordability of heating will be a significant concern for many Brits this winter.

For some, investing in new energy solutions may not be a viable option right now. However, for those choosing to make the switch, ditching gas has a few benefits, including first and foremost lowering your home’s carbon footprint and minimising energy waste.

For those looking to make improvements that could lower their emissions, make their home more energy-efficient and reduce their bills, there are options available.

What to consider before ‘making the switch’ 

If rising energy costs are your immediate concern, it may not be feasible to invest in new energy solutions for your home right now. It could be helpful, however, to consider the long-term benefits of ditching gas, and plan ahead for a switchover in small steps.

Although gas is a cheap energy source per unit, there are other options that can work out less expensive in the long run and are also better for the planet.

Electricity, for example, is more expensive per unit, but electric heating is 100% efficient at its point of use which means that every watt of electricity you use is converted into heat, and nothing goes to waste.

Gas central heating, however, sustains system losses, which naturally occur at the point of combustion, as well as across the pipe network. Up to 50% of the heat produced by a gas boiler can be lost through the pipes, especially if they’re not well insulated. This means you end up paying for warmth that you aren’t benefiting from.

Your options 

As our survey has shown, many feel they need more information about what their options are and would like some guidance on what the best solution would be for them. If you’re looking to move on from gas central heating for example, you may want to do some research into the best alternatives for your home before you commit.

Heat pumps 

The government is offering help and grants to encourage the nation to install low carbon heating systems, including heat pumps for example.

Air source heat pumps

Heat pumps work by taking the heat from outside a property, either from the surrounding ground or the air, and transferring it indoors. They are highly efficient and could also be used to cool down the house in warmer months. As such, for the right household, they could be the answer.

Typically, air heat pumps cost around £8,000 to install, while ground source pumps, which extract solar energy from the earth and convert it into power, can be closer to £35,000 for a 2-3 bedroom house. Even with government help, the total cost to install could be around £3,000 for an air pump, and £30,000 for a ground pump so for many this is a big investment and something they’d only consider installing in a property they’re planning on living in for some time.

In terms of running costs, outgoings for a heat pump in an average-sized home could be around £1,725 a year in total.

Biomass boilers 

Biomass boilers are another carbon-free heating solution the Government is offering grants for, as part of their new scheme to encourage Brits to move away from gas.

They use materials such as wood pellets or logs to create heat. As such, they could be a good option for rural homes, and for those able to source suitable matter that can be turned into fuel.

On average, they can cost between £5,000 and £13,000 to install, but can be quite cheap to run as the cost of fuel needed is around £5p per Kw/h. If you’re looking to choose a biomass boiler as an option, though, you must ensure you have enough space to house it, as they can be a considerable size.

Electric radiators 

If you’re not able to install a heat pump or biomass boiler but are still looking to switch to a greener alternative, you could also choose to adopt a green tariff and pair this with electric heaters.

Switching to a green tariff means that your provider is agreeing to buy energy only from renewable generation methods. Green energy suppliers can also replace the electricity you use with renewables and feed it back into the National Grid, making your home heating carbon free.

In terms of costs, electric radiators can be between £200 and £550 per unit, depending on wattage and model. They generally have no installation fees and could cost around £2,247 a year collectively to run for an average 3-bedroom home.

Electric radiators can also come with a range of smart features to help you minimise your energy usage.

Zoned heating

Some electric radiators come with built-in thermostats can not only allow you to choose the temperature of your home precisely, but and allow you to manage your heating in different rooms individually, so you can program different timings and temperatures across your home. This minimises wasted heating unused spaces.

Smart features

Ranges such as those from Electric Radiators Direct also come with a range of smart features that can help further ensure no energy is wasted. For example, ‘open window detection’ senses any sudden drop in temperature and switches your radiator off until a more stable temperature is reached.

WiFi control allows you to adjust your heating settings via an app, meaning no energy need be wasted if you forget to turn them off. 24/7 digital programming additionally allows you to match your heating schedule exactly to your routine.

Infrared heaters 

Infrared heaters could be a good solution if your home is not perfectly insulated, as they don’t work by warming the surrounding air, but produce heat that travels in a wave.

Through this, they heat surfaces directly, reducing the chance of warmth being lost to draughts. They are generally of a lower wattage compared to radiators, which means they use less electricity, but may need to run for longer if your home is very spacious or poorly insulated.

Like electric radiators, they can be paired with a green tariff, to ensure your home heating is carbon free. They cost between £200 and £500 per unit and are generally up to £675 to run collectively.

It’s always worth noting that running costs and potential savings for each solution vary based on a number of factors, including the size and location of your home, as well as insulation, so it’s always advisable to consult a professional before you make your final decision.

Getting rid of your gas system 

Due to high risks involved, whichever solution you choose, you will need professional help to get rid of your gas system, which includes your boiler and pipework.

The overall cost will depend on several factors, such as the size of your house, the age of your boiler and how many radiators and pipes you have, so it’s always worth comparing quotes from a few different professionals in order to get the best one.

Before you do so, always ensure you’re only getting in touch with Gas Safe registered engineers, in order to avoid any risks.

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