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Electric heating: A guide to choosing the right system for your home

electric heating

Electric heating has gained popularity as a versatile option in the heating landscape, providing various systems to cater to different needs. With the rising global demand for natural gas, electric heating, alongside other low-carbon alternatives, becomes an attractive choice.

In this article, we’ll explore different electric heating options, their benefits, drawbacks, and how they compare to traditional gas heating in terms of costs, efficiency, and environmental impact.

Understanding electric heating systems

Electric heating systems rely on electricity as their primary energy source. They are highly efficient, providing options for homes of various sizes and energy requirements. Notably, these systems, such as electric boilers, are prevalent in homes without a connection to the gas grid, and particularly in smaller homes and flats.

One significant advantage of electric heating is its eco-friendliness, producing zero CO2 emissions during operation. The potential reduction in electricity costs, however, hinges on a increase in renewable energy production and supportive government policies.

Types of electric heating systems

Let’s take a look at some of the best electric heating options available today.

Electric boilers

Electric boilers serve as efficient water-heating systems utilizing internal electrical elements, supplying warmth for central heating or underfloor heating setups. There are two primary types: direct electric boilers that heat water on demand and storage boilers that store heated water for later use.

The appeal of electric boilers lies in their efficiency, low maintenance requirements, and flexible installation options. With no need for a flue or condensate pipe, they present a space-saving alternative that can be easily integrated into various home layouts. Additionally, these boilers are compatible with renewable energy sources such as solar PV or solar thermal.

However, their efficiency tends to be best suited for smaller homes with heating outputs up to 24kW, making them less ideal for larger residences. What’s more, the relatively higher electric running costs, especially when compared to gas heating, may be unfeasible for homeowners with extensive heating needs.

Electric underfloor heating

Electric underfloor heating operates via electrical wiring or heating mats installed beneath the floor to provide space heating. Known for its straightforward installation process, efficient heat-up times, and the ability to provide precise temperature control, this system ensures even heat distribution throughout the designated space.

The advantages of electric underfloor heating extend to its ease of installation, which is less disruptive than traditional heating systems. Quick heat-up times contribute to immediate warmth, and the system provides superior control over temperature settings compared to conventional radiators.

Despite these benefits, potential drawbacks include higher upfront installation costs, comparatively higher running costs, and a dependency on floor insulation for optimal performance.

Infrared panels

Infrared panels represent an innovative approach to electric heating, converting electricity into infrared light that directly emits heat to people and objects in the vicinity. These panels are highly efficient, easy to install, and often feature a space-saving design that aligns with modern aesthetics.

The merits of infrared panels include their efficiency, reduced heat loss, and simple installation, making them an attractive option for homeowners seeking effective space heating solutions. Moreover, their unobtrusive design, which can even be integrated into mirrors, adds a versatile element to their application.

However, prospective users should consider factors such as relatively higher upfront installation costs, susceptibility to room temperature fluctuations, and the limitation of providing only space heating.

Electric storage heaters

Electric storage heaters use electricity to generate and store heat within clay bricks. These heaters are designed to release the stored heat gradually, providing a controlled and efficient heating solution. Noteworthy benefits include the utilization of cheaper tariff rates, extra control options, and reduced heat loss.

Another primary advantage of electric storage heaters is their ability to leverage cost-effective tariff rates, allowing users to optimize energy usage during off-peak hours. The provision of additional control features, including modern ‘boost’ functions, enhances the user’s ability to regulate heating based on specific requirements.

Nevertheless, users should be mindful of potential limitations, including the risk of running out of stored heat before the evening, relatively higher running costs, and the energy-intensive ‘boost’ function.

Air source heat pumps:

Air source heat pumps (ASHPs) represent a cutting-edge heating technology that extracts heat from the outside air and transfers it indoors, providing both space heating and domestic hot water. Operating as either air-to-air or air-to-water systems, ASHPs are known for their high efficiency, compatibility with existing systems, and suitability for large properties.

ASHPs offer several advantages, including efficiency rates of up to 400%, the ability to combine with existing heating systems, and a lifespan of 20-25 years.

However, potential drawbacks encompass higher upfront installation costs, the requirement for adequate insulation, and the need for regular maintenance, which may increase to twice a year if the system is employed for cooling.

Ground source heat pumps (GSHP):

Ground Source Heat Pumps (GSHPs) share similarities with ASHPs but differ in extracting heat from below the ground, utilizing a closed-loop system with water and antifreeze. These systems are great for their high efficiency, compatibility with various heating setups, and a lifespan that can extend up to 50 years.

However, prospective users should consider factors such as higher upfront installation costs, reliance on specific underground conditions, the spatial requirements of the system, and the recommendation for implementation primarily in new builds.

Electric Heating vs. Gas Heating

If you’re debating between electric and gas heating, consider these factors:

Costs

Electric heating can be relatively more expensive than gas heating per unit. Despite higher electricity costs, efficient heat pumps can result in significant savings compared to gas boilers.

With that being said, if you’re wondering how much a boiler will cost for my home, you’ll likely find that electric boilers tend to cost less in terms of upfront supply and installation costs.

Environmental impact

Electric heating systems produce zero CO2 emissions during operation, contributing to a cleaner environment.

Ease of maintenance

Electric heaters generally require less maintenance than gas boilers, saving homeowners on service costs.

Conclusion

In summary, understanding the specific needs of your home and weighing the pros and cons of each system will guide you in choosing the most suitable electric heating option. Evaluate running costs, environmental impact, and available grants to make an informed decision for a cost-effective and eco-friendly heating solution.

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