Electric heating is direct heating. Electricity is used to power a heating system that, in turn, heats a space. Gas heating is indirect heating. Gas heats water, the water circulates through radiators and this heats a space. This technical difference means that electric and gas heating systems have very distinct benefits and drawbacks.
If you’re ready to take the leap and update your current heating system and not sure which type of heating is most beneficial to you, Rio Heating, specialists in smart eco-friendly heating, have put together some helpful advice on the benefits and advantages of gas and electric heaters.
Electric heating is easier to install
Electric heating systems are much simpler than gas heating systems. Therefore, on a like-for-like basis, they are easier and hence more affordable to install. Right now, however, there is some nuance to consider.
Most homes in the UK have already been fitted with gas central heating. If you want to change to electric heating now, you will need to have the old infrastructure decommissioned and new infrastructure put in. This can work out more expensive than just getting a new gas boiler.
On the other hand, all houses in the UK are going to have to switch to electric heating at some point. Gas is a finite resource. It will run out eventually. What’s more, it is more than possible that the UK government will mandate a shift from gas before the supply has completely run out.
Gas heating still needs electricity to run
Most gas boilers rely on electricity to ignite the pilot light and also to run the pump and the fan. Gas boilers use a lot less electricity than electric heating systems. This means that they may be able to keep going if the current is weakened (a brownout). If, however, the electricity goes out completely, then you’re still going to be out of central heating.
You can, however, use a portable gas heater as a backup. As long as you choose one that is intended for indoor use, these are safe options. They do not need electricity (not even batteries). You can also keep extra gas bottles so you can be confident of having off-grid heat for an extended period if necessary.
Electric heating is easier to maintain
Electric heating systems are much simpler than gas heating systems. This makes them easier and hence more affordable to maintain. It’s also safer than gas. It cannot leak and is much less likely to cause a fire.
Gas boilers heat a room more quickly
Although gas heating is indirect heating, gas boilers still heat a room quicker than electric heaters. This is because the burner produces maximum heat from the moment it is ignited. Electrical heating systems, by contrast, need a bit of time for the electricity to heat the actual heating elements.
Electric heating is quieter
Electric bar and storage heaters are essentially silent. Electric fan heaters do make a noise. Modern fan heaters are, however, relatively quiet as compared to their predecessors. They also only tend to be used for short bursts. Gas heating always gives off a background hiss or hum. It’s also prone to making random gurgling sounds.
Gas boilers have traditionally been more economical to run
Technically, the fact that electric systems are direct heating means that they are 100% efficient. Gas systems cannot match this as they are indirect heating. Despite this, however, the relative prices of electricity and gas have long favoured gas. This difference increased as gas boilers became more efficient.
Now, however, the situation is much less cut-and-dried. The recent increases to gas prices have been hugely challenging to householders. These increases may (or may not) have been temporary. They have, nevertheless, highlighted the danger of relying on gas imports.
At the same time, electric heating systems have been getting “smarter”. This has helped to make them a lot more efficient, particularly when combined with effective insulation.