The UK has cold and chilly weather all year round, which makes it vital to have a central heating system. A heating system is expensive, not only in terms of installation but also in the monthly bills. However, they are necessary to keep you and your loved ones warm throughout the year, irrespective of the budget.

There are plenty of options available in the market ranging from gas, LPG (Liquid petroleum gas), electric, and heating oil. However, choosing the most cost-effective heating option involves considering many factors. Some of these include the size of your home, its accessibility, energy consumption, and the right service provider. Among these, the most affordable system is the mains gas-fuelled. However, LPG is more suitable if you reside off the grid, especially regarding budget and efficiency.

This informative article describes the different affordable heating systems in the market and the factors affecting their cost. Furthermore, we have given specific pointers that you must follow to reduce your monthly expenses. You will also find details about installing a new heating system and how you can select the right engineer for the job.

If you are looking to change your existing heating system or move to a new property that needs a new system, this is the article for you. It has all the details you need to buy an affordable system that meets your needs.

The Most Efficient and Budget-Friendly Heating Systems

For your ease, we have enlisted different heating systems and the average annual running costs they may incur, as shown below:

Source of Fuel Price/KWH Approximate Yearly Expense Fixed Costs Total Yearly Expense
LPG 7.7p £1100 £89.50 £1189.50
Mains Gas 3.7p £505 £89.50 £594.50
Electric 14.7p £1880 £75.30 £1225.30
Heating Oil 6.3p £550 £89.50 £639.50

The above table suggests that the cost of having an electrical system is pretty high. On average, using LPG costs £1189 annually, while mains gas, electric heating and heating oil cost an average of £594, £1125 and £639, respectively.

In comparison, gas and heating oil are more economical. However, no matter how affordable gas looks on the charts, not every area is connected to the gas grid, and gas is more commonly available in the countryside or in flats.

Besides the cost, there are many other factors to consider when buying a heating system. For example, acquiring heat pumps is a good option if you don’t mind spending on the installation, and this is because heat pump-related costs have subsidy benefits.

However, you must ensure that the heating space is well-insulated, or the heat pumps won’t be affordable. In contrast to electrical systems, a heat pump system saves £500 to £2200.

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Electric Heating System

When compared to other heating options, electric heating systems are efficient. These systems provide individual heaters instead of a central boiling system in each room. It is found in most places, specifically flats and new constructions. These systems give great economic benefits in some areas when combined with Economy 7 or Economy 10 metres.

Electric heating systems are attached to immersion heaters for obtaining hot water. Alternatively, using electrical systems as night storage heaters is advisable. Costs are reduced by warming heat-retaining ceramic bricks with night storage heaters. The heating rates are low at night, saving you a lot of money.

The installation cost of the electrical system is also cheaper than the gas heating system. This is because, unlike gas systems, electrical ones don’t require pipework. In addition, modern designs are much more efficient and come with different thermostat settings that allow electrical savings.

Gas Heating System

A gas heating system requires a gas grid connection to heat your home, and keeping your home well-insulated is vital when using this heating system. Gas heating systems are some of the most affordable in terms of installation and running costs. In addition, it is widely available in most towns and cities. Just like regular water heaters, a gas heating system heats water stored in a tank. The inbuilt pump then pushes the water through heated metal coils and a fan blows over the heated coil.

Gas is a form of fossil fuel that is limited in its availability. However, if you are concerned about this, choosing an electric or renewable energy system is a better option. Selecting a boiler that keeps your monthly bills to a minimum is essential. Additionally, you must check on heating controls to ensure minimal and efficient use of the heating system installed.

Heating Off-Grid Homes 

Over 78% of the population in the UK has access to mains gas systems. However, if you reside off-grid, we have solutions for you, too. Using LPG with a traditional gas system is a highly cost-effective and efficient way to keep your home warm.

LPG fuel is prepared by mixing butane and propane and compressing it into a liquid. This fuel is stored in tanks or bottles and is refillable. However, you need to book refill tanks prior. Hence, keep a check on how frequently you must order refills. Keeping notes will help you formulate a budget and stick to it. Storage of LPG is safe when you take proper precautions. Moreover, it is as reliable as the mains gas system, provided you have a sufficient supply of refills.

Alternatively, using heating oils is also as efficient as the LPG system. However, its installation is slightly expensive. In addition, this system requires specialised heat distribution provisions and frequent maintenance. The advantage of heating oils is that the refills are cheaper when compared to the running costs of other systems.

In terms of usage, LPG and heating oil systems are more affordable than electric heating systems. The cost per unit of energy is as follows:

  • LPG: 7.5/kWh
  • Heating oil: 6.1/kWh
  • Electricity: 14.57/kWh

This concludes that LPG and heating oils are cheaper compared to electrical systems. However, when calculating the most inexpensive system, consider Economy 7. This system has different rates applicable for night and daytime use. The day rate is 15kWh, while the night rate is 5.5kWh. Therefore, if you use an electric system, it is possible to save by making the most of this time frame.

A significant 50%+ savings are possible by using the window as mentioned earlier. However, this may not be an appropriate option for everyone. Hence, choose your heating system accordingly.

In comparison, butane and propane are available in bottled gas forms in different sizes. These sizes go up to 50kg bottles. Could it thus be even cheaper to store these bottles than the electric systems? Let’s calculate:

By considering that 1 kWh=3.6 megajoule and the combustion of propane release 46.44 megajoules/kg, the calculation of the cost of refills are as follows:

  • The price is £29 to refill a 7 kg cylinder for using 79 kWh
  • The price is £37 to refill a 14 kg cylinder using 170 kWh
  • The price is £90 to refill a 48 kg cylinder for using 616 kWh

In total, expect to spend about 15-35 p/kWh.

In conclusion, we understand that bottled gas is not as efficient as an electric heating system. However, there’s only a minor difference in annual expenditure against the efficiency you are getting.

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Factors Affecting the Cost of Heating System 

There are many factors you must consider before installing a heating system to lower your long-term costs associated with it. Some factors that help reduce the overall expense while maintaining efficiency are:

  • Fuel Type

As already calculated above, the fuel you choose will determine your long-term expenses related to the heating system. These expenses include both the installation costs and the running costs. After making all sorts of assessments, the mains gas heating system is the most cost-effective. On the contrary, the electric heating system is three times costlier than the gas heating system.

However, not everyone benefits from the mains gas system. If you reside off-grid, you may have to choose from electric and LPG heating systems. Making the best use of discount deals in your neighbourhood helps save some bucks.

  • House Insulation

Insulating your house should be on your priority list, and this is because poor insulation will lead to the escape of heat from the leakage areas. As a result, your heater will have to work harder to adjust to your selected temperature. As a result, not only will your bill increase, but your heating system’s longevity will also be affected.

In addition, decreased fuel efficiency will compel you to buy more fuel and disrupt your budget. Therefore, it is necessary to address these issues before installing a new system. Then, you can approach a specialist to evaluate the leakage spots and fix them accordingly. This minor expense will help you save a lot in the future.

  • Maintenance of Radiators and Boilers

Proper insulation is not all that is needed to keep your system running efficiently. In addition to insulation, it is essential to ensure heat retention within the house. The radiated heat should not dissipate fast and keep the room warm for extended periods.

If the radiators are overused, they may stop producing air bubbles. In addition, hindrance in hot water flow affects heat distribution. As a result, the radiator may show the presence of cold patches, indicating a need for repair.

If you leave your boiler unmaintained, it may get blocked by debris. Hence, signing up for regular cleaning and maintenance services will help improve its productivity and longevity. In addition, it will prevent any unexpected expenses in the long run.

Therefore, it is necessary to maintain your radiator and boiler from time to time to avoid any unforeseen incidents or breakdowns. Remember that maintenance and repairs cost less than buying a new one altogether.

  • Using Electricity Saving Devices

Electricity-saving devices such as Economy 7 and Economy 10 reduce your bills by up to 45%. However, the savings also depend on how judiciously you use your home appliances and the heater.

It is advisable to make the best use of the night window, and this is because the energy rates are as low as 50% of the standard rate at night. In addition, the discounts allow you to save a lot of money in the long run.

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Tips to Reduce Monthly Bills and Save Money 

Lowering your electricity bills by following simple routines with your system and overall insulation is possible. Some tips to reduce your annual expenses include:

  • Regular Maintenance of Equipment 

Timely maintenance of heating equipment keeps them in good shape for a long time and ensures your bills are stable. With regular maintenance, your devices will function better and prevent replacement expenses. Also, well-maintained systems tend to consume less energy. Additionally, you will not have to adjust your thermostat to higher temperatures for comfort.

  • Insulation

As stated above, having proper insulation prevents excessive load on your heating equipment. In addition, adequate insulation ensures that the heat within the room does not dissipate fast and remains for a longer time. As a result, using your appliance is prudent and prevents larger bills.

  • Alternative Energy Sources

Looking for alternate ways to heat your home might be a good option. Having multiple energy sources is conservative and compensates when one breaks down. For instance, installing heat pumps and your existing system can be beneficial.

  • Discount Deals

During the winter season, many discount coupons or sales are available for you to use. Refills are available at discounted rates, especially when purchased in bulk. Making the best use of these sales will help you save money big time. For more information on these deals, contact your local dealer.

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Installation of a New Heating System

Boiler for Gas Heating System

The installation technicians will first assess your home for the existing boiler system for a gas boiler. They will remove the previous system and replace it with a new one. If your home is newly constructed, they will plan the pipe network and proceed with the installation.

Boiler for Electric Heating System

Electric boilers don’t require heavy pipework to eliminate the waste gases that result from all the heating. Also, they work amazingly in confined areas. Moreover, their installation is hassle-free and inexpensive in comparison to other boilers.

Boiler for LPG Heating System

LPG boilers require underground work of piping and storing gas tanks. This is because LPG is a fuel-based heating system that requires storage in a safe place. Suppose you do not have an underground system installed. In that case, the installation company will dig a trench and complete the necessary procedure.

Boiler for Oil Heating System

Oil heating systems function to heat the water at home when you need it. It is an excellent off-grid heating system that is highly durable. Ensure a connection of the boiler to an oil tank that supplies heat.

How to Find and Choose the Right Heating Engineer?

When it comes to installing a heating system, it is vital that you hire the best professional. This is because the best in the market will be experienced and ensure safety. We advise taking recommendations from your neighbours or friends, and family. Alternatively, you could search online and find reputable service providers by assessing the reviews given by their previous clients.

Ensure you take a written quote from the hired professional before the work begins. You should ask them about pricing or additional costs incurred during or after installation. You should hire a professional with prior experience and a good reputation in the market. Finally, you must ensure that the company is insured before they sign your contract.

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Final Checklist

Choosing an affordable yet competent heating system is challenging for most of us. Here’s a summary of everything you need to keep in mind when selecting a new heating system for your home:

  • Firstly, consider your location and check which systems are accessible.
  • Second, pay a visit to your neighbours to enquire about which system is readily available in your area.
  • Then, evaluate your options keeping in mind the size of your house and budget.
  • Ensure by reading reviews and assessing the company profile before you hire an expert for installation.
  • Then, obtain a written quotation of the entire plan before the work begins.
  • In addition, you must check how good your house’s insulation is. If that, too, requires repairs or adjustments, get that done along with the heater installation.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is the cost of renewable energy?

Most of us wish to keep our environment more sustainable with changing times. Replacing fossil fuel consumption with a renewable source is convenient and effective. Some areas of the UK receive grants through a special Boiler Upgrade Scheme to switch to more sustainable sources.

With this scheme, you get about £5000 off on buying and installing the biomass boiler and an air source heat pump. On the other hand, you receive benefits of about £6000 on purchasing and installing a ground source heat pump. The scheme, launched in April 2022, encourages consumers to switch to more efficient renewable energy sources.

  1. How do we improve and maintain the heating system’s efficiency?

Appropriate insulation ensures that the generated heat does not escape from leakage areas. Moreover, maintaining your equipment, such as removing debris from clogged boiler pipes, will ensure its longevity. In addition, you must maintain your equipment by servicing it regularly. Finally, avoid adjusting the thermostat too much.

Switching off the heaters when not in use is another way of increasing their efficiency.

  1. Which is the cheapest heating system?

The cheapest heating system depends on how judiciously you utilise the appliance. This depends on a multitude of factors; for instance, the correct insulation of your house matters. Proper insulation ensures that the house’s heat distribution does not escape leakage spots. Moreover, you must maintain your equipment by servicing it regularly. In addition, if you are using the electric system, install Economy 7 metres to enjoy slashed night rates.

It is also vital that you maintain the thermostat at an optimum level. Also, switch it off once the desired temperature is achieved. This will ensure that your bills remain to the minimum. If all of the above is followed, the mains gas system seems most efficient compared with others.

  1. Does keeping the heater on low all the time cost less money?

This is quite a controversial question that has no scientific basis. We recommend that instead of keeping your thermostat on low, you should switch it off when not in use. This will lower your bill and allow enough time for the radiator to maintain heat. Alternatively, installing multiple sources of heat generation also helps keep the expenses low.

  1. How safe are LPG heating systems?

Since LPG requires fossil fuels to be stored in tanks, the storage unit is built underground, and the unit is connected to a network of pipes that run throughout the house. Moreover, this system of heating has been running since ancient times, and it has proven highly safe if proper storage, refills, and leakage precautions are taken.

The underground placement of storage tanks helps prevent the chances of leakage and external combustion. Moreover, the storage units are leak-proof. However, they should be inspected regularly to avoid any untoward incidents. When correctly installed, maintained and used, LPG systems are safe.

  1. What is more efficient – using the central thermostat or the thermostat on each of the radiators?

Adjusting individual radiators is better than using the central thermostat. The main thermostat should be set at a comfortable temperature and kept unchanged. However, if a room is small, it gets warm quickly compared to large rooms. Hence, switching off the radiator in the smaller rooms will be beneficial. Also, switching off their radiators is recommended if some rooms are not in use.

All these factors not only improve efficiency but also reduce your overall costs.

  1. Which is better – an electric heating system or solar thermal panels?

Electric heating systems and solar thermal panels both have their advantages and disadvantages. When selecting a heating system, considering personal factors is essential. Compared to solar thermal panels, electric heating systems are more efficient and affordable. This is because the cost of buying solar thermal panels is considerably higher than the electrical system.

Moreover, solar thermal panels require a direct and constant source of sunlight for functioning, and this may not always be possible. Hence, a need for an additional heating system becomes mandatory. Furthermore, the solar panels require a large area for installation since the panels are enormous in size. Hence, they are not ideal for those with confined spaces or flats.

  1. Which is cheaper to use – combi boiler or conventional?

A combi boiler system provides better heat efficiency and is comparatively cheaper than traditional boilers. Considering the above assumption, it is cheaper to use a combi boiler than conventional boilers.

  1. Are renewable heating systems better than the conventional options?

Global warming is on the rise, and fossil fuels are limited. Hence, switching to cost-effective and renewable energy sources is the hour’s need. Conventional options, though efficient and cheap, are limited, and the time is not far when these resources will exhaust and may be available at greater prices.

Considering the above factors, the government has issued a grant scheme for switching to renewable energy sources. Through this scheme, people in certain areas will receive benefits of up to £6000. Renewable heating systems are faster and a modern way of heating homes. They are reliable and help everyone, including the planet earth.

  1. Which alternative sources of heating systems can I install?

Having only one heating system in the home is sometimes inadequate. Additional heating systems ensure savings and provide a great alternative if one of them breaks down. Some alternative systems to install are heat pumps, biomass, solar thermal panels, and geothermal heating systems. All these systems are efficient and cost-effective. Installation of some of these systems may cost higher. But rest assured, these have abundant long-term benefits.

Some systems, as mentioned, utilise renewable sources of energy. Hence, they prove to be not only pocket-friendly but also earth-friendly. In addition, these are low-maintenance and require less attention as compared to conventional heating systems.

Conclusion 

To summarise the above article, we understand that selecting a heating system for your home involves three factors. Heat generation source, heat distribution, and how much heat is emitted. Before buying a heating system, consider the above factors and your needs, such as the size of your house, the areas that require heating, and your budget.

Ensuring you select the right system involves a great deal of research. However, the data from the above article suggests that the mains gas heating system is the most affordable among all the available options. However, this statement is valid only if you maintain proper insulation, timely maintain your equipment and use available discount offers.

If you live off-grid, heating pumps and an electrical heating system might be a good choice.

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