Updated on 3rd January, 2023 by Martin Astley
A central heating system is popularly used in colder climates where the need for heating is more significant, particularly in the UK. In fact, according to results from Statista, 95% of homes depend upon a central heating system for heat and hot water, out of which 78% use a gas central heating system. Moreover, when compared to fireplaces and wood stoves, central heating systems offer better temperature control, frequently with automatic furnace management.
In this article, we will cover the following aspects of a central heating system:
- How does the central heating system work?
- Types of central heating systems
- The cost of installing a central heating system
- How to choose the best central heating system
How Does The Central Heating System Work?
A central heating system distributes heat around your home via pipes, boilers, underfloor heating, and radiators to provide a warm and cosy environment during the winter. It is usually located in your home’s basement, attic, and garage with your boiler. Central heating belongs to the HVAC system (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning).
Types of Central Heating Systems
There are four types of heating systems that are available on the market, which are:
- warm air system
- district heating system
- wet central heating system
- electric storage heating system
1- Warm Air Heating System
A warm air heating system (also known as a hot air heating system) or dry system is one of the oldest types of central heating systems. It was a popular choice in the early 1970s but not so popular now. It operates by capturing cold air from outside and then heating it with the help of a boiler to circulate it around your home or building through air vents and ducts. Warm air systems are ideal for large buildings but not for small homes. It can only be installed while a house is being built.
2- District Heating System
District heating is also an old type of central heating system that uses a centralised heating source to distribute heat and hot water through a network of insulated pipes into your homes and buildings. The heat exchanger captures the heat from the network of insulated pipes and sends it to the source in your home, i.e., radiators, boilers for hot water, and heating. Although it is not that popular, it is gaining popularity due to its energy efficiency and zero carbon emissions. According to research, around 2% of homes are connected to the district heating system.
But this number is likely to go up, which will help the UK reach its goal of having net-zero carbon emissions.
3- Wet Heating System
If we talk about popularity, the wet central heating system is widely used among UK households. They are used for both heating and hot water. A wet heating system allows your boiler to heat the water and then pump it into the radiators via a network of pipes. From the radiator, the amount of heat and rate of flow of water can be controlled through the thermostatic radiator valve (TRV), a boiler thermostat, a programmer or timer, and a room thermostat. Further, it uses two types of boilers: combi-boilers and system boilers.
The combi boiler is a tankless system that provides hot water and heating on demand. On the other hand, the system boiler consists of a separate tank to store water and deliver it when needed; compared to the combi boiler, the system boiler takes up more space.
4- Electric Storage Heating System
Electric storage heating systems store heat overnight in firebricks containing electric elements. The electric storage heating system can also be described as a “centralised” system as it depends on a wiring system within the home to use off-peak electricity. When you have electric storage heaters, your home radiators will use electricity to charge and release heat; that’s where bricks come in handy. Electric radiators don’t heat the room through convection but through infrared. They are not similar to electric boilers as they come under a wet central heating system.
Types of Heating Systems in Terms of Fuel Consumption
Gas-fueled central heating system
The most popular fuel used for heating is gas. Therefore, it would be best if you were linked to the gas network to use gas as fuel. Gas-fueled boilers consume natural gas to generate heat and hot water for a wet central heating system. In the UK, gas is a common choice of fuel for heating. However, in response to the worldwide gas crisis, the government is adopting the required measures to ban gas boilers and lower carbon emissions. As a result, liquid petroleum gas and electric boilers are being heavily marketed as alternatives.
Electricity-generated central heating system
Having an electricity generated central heating system allows you to heat your home through a wet heating system without using gas as a fuel. An electric boiler won’t burn gas and will use electric elements to heat water. This doesn’t mean that it is entirely energy efficient, as it burns fossil fuels, but it is still a lot greener and more environmentally friendly option compared to the gas fuel type.
Oil-generated central heating system
Central heating systems that run on oil are comparable to those that run on gas. However, if you want to utilise oil as fuel, you won’t need to connect to a network of oil suppliers; instead, you’ll need a separate tank kept in a convenient location outside or inside your home. A truck from an oil supplier will visit your home to refill your oil tank as part of the refilling process. The tank typically lasts a few months in the winter and possibly longer in the summer. Remember that running your tank with an empty tank is terrible for boilers. Additionally, it would help if you bleed out your tank before replenishing it.
Biomass Central Heating System
The least popular but most environmentally friendly alternative is a biomass boiler. They burn natural resources like wood pellets and logs to produce heat and hot water. Although burning wood also contributes to carbon emissions, it does so in a far smaller way than using a gas or oil boiler. Thus, biomass boilers are a great option if you want to support environmental sustainability.
Cost of Installing a Central Heating System
The size of your home, the type of boilers you choose, the number of radiators, and the time it takes to install the system all affect the cost of establishing a central heating system. If your property has ductwork and a furnace that is fairly mid-efficient, the cost should be between £ 2000 and £ 5000, and if the furnace is highly efficient, the cost might be between £3000 and £ 6000. (Note: If your ductwork needs to be replaced because it’s broken or inoperable, the cost will be doubled.)
The cost of installing a central heating system will be between £10,000 and £16,000, whether you are building a new home or remodelling an existing one. Adding a second central heating zone will cost between £1000 and £2000.
For a detailed insight into the cost of installing a central heating system, click here.
How to Choose the Best Central Heating System for Your Home
The selection of a heating system is crucial since it locks in your heating expenditures for more than ten years. The fuel you have access to and the amount of area you need to heat will determine how energy-efficient a system is. If you’re replacing an old heating system, you should consider whether doing it like for like is the wisest course of action.
There are subsidies available to help switch to new electric heat pump systems since they are more cost-effective and efficient than gas-ducted heating. Although, as was already said, gas boilers and wet heating systems are more common, considering the gas crisis, an electric boiler will be an excellent alternative if you want to upgrade to a more sustainable option.
Now that you know what a central heating system is and the wide varieties offered on the market, we hope you can choose the best option according to your needs. In addition, you should never delay maintaining a domestic central heating system since maintenance is crucial regardless of the efficiency and fuel type you select. Draining the central heating system is one method of accomplishing this. Click here for additional information on keeping a home’s central heating system in working order.
Is Gas central heating cheaper than an Electric central heating system?
A mains gas supply is used for central gas heating, which is often far less expensive than using a comparable quantity of electricity. Due to this, gas central heating units are a much better option than electric ones. Installing the pipes to carry the gas to the unit will cost you much less.
However, an electric central heating system is the most efficient choice if you want to contribute towards a more sustainable environment. Although installing it costs you more, if you think for the long-term, it will save you money, especially on maintenance.