Every year home-owners think about ways to heat their homes both effectively and cheaply, but the options seem endless.
How do they decide between gas and electric, or underfloor and open fires?
In most cases people simply accept whatever option is already in place.
But if you have the luxury of installing a new system or building a home from scratch, the following list may well help you to make that all important heating decision.
If you are installing a new gas central heating system, it is likely to be a super efficient condensing boiler. This will save you money and heat your home quickly and efficiently. Condenser boilers will:
- Produce less carbon dioxide
- Reduce heat loss through the flue
- Convert almost all the fuel into heat
- Be smaller and easier to install
Some older properties will have the old style non-condensing boiler which works well but is not as cost effective.
It is important to get the correct radiator for the design and size of your room. Many designer radiators are on the market now, as well as radiators which can be used as heated towel rails for bathrooms.
Radiators come in several different materials and types:
- Steel – these are the easiest to use for different shapes and designs.
- Cast Iron – These will hold the heat for the longest amount of time, but take a while to heat up.
- Stainless Steel – durable and nice to look at.
- Glass – an unusual choice, but can be almost invisible against a wall.
- Stone – great designer look and holds the heat well.
It is also possible to reclaim old radiators from reclamation yards. These will need to be carefully checked for any holes or leaks. It is best to have the reconditioned by an expert.
It is possible to have a warm air heater connected to a central heating system. The air enters the home through grills or vents in the walls, ceilings or floors. These systems can be slightly noisy, but do heat up a room almost instantly.
Even though most homes in the UK have central heating, there will be times or areas of the home when another source of heat is required. In this case an electric heater is the best option. An electric heater will emit 100% of its energy as heat and are therefore energy efficient, depending the cost of your electricity. They will only heat a small area at a time. One way around this is to purchase a heater which also circulates the air, forcing the heat into the room. It is also a good idea to find a heater with a thermostat to prevent it from running constantly.
- Underfloor heating works on the theory that warm air rises, so the floor is heated first followed by the rest of the room as the warm air circulates. The radiant warmth on the floor creates a steady temperature with no hot spots, as the system is spread across the entire floor rather than on one wall as with radiators.
- It can be difficult, but not impossible, to retro-fit underfloor heating. But if a new floor is being laid it is always a good option to consider. It is particularly useful in small rooms like bathrooms where wall space is at a premium.
- Underfloor heating will maintain an even temperature in difficult to heat rooms like conservatories.
- It is important to consider the type of flooring being installed when choosing the correct system. Some electric underfloor heating systems may make wooden flooring warp. Ask advice from an expert before installing.
- Make sure the insulation in the walls is good. If not – much of the heat may be lost at the edges of the room.
- There are two types of underfloor heating – wet or electric.
- This system is connected to the boiler system, just like central heating. It circulates water through the pipes hidden under the floor.
- It is always more cost effective to fit this type of heating in larger areas due to the invasive work involved. If it is used all around the home it will be cheaper to heat your home overall.
- Caution needs to be taken to ensure that the system is free from leaks before laying the floor over top.
- Great for smaller areas or for rooms which do not have easy access to central heating pipes.
- Slightly more expensive to lay, but is a perfectly reasonable DIY job, providing the electrical work is done by an expert.
- The heating element is often laid inside a woven mat or in heating films. This makes it easy to ensure it is evenly spread throughout the room.
Fires and Stoves
Whether gas or real, a fire is the perfect way to heat a room while adding a touch of elegance and cosiness. A fire will not usually do the job of heating a large room on its own, but as a back up to central heating it is a great option.
Before deciding which is best for you, you need to find out what sort of flue you have. An expert fitter should be able to tell you this. Most traditional chimneys can cope with any fire, while metal gas flues can be restricted.
Some parts of the country operate a Smoke Control area. This means you will be restricted on using an open fire or stove. They may restrict you on the types of fuel you can burn or the times it may be used.
It is very important to have a chimney for an open fire checked each year and cleaned if required. Chimney fires are very common and can cause real damage to your home.
It is also important to keep the hearth clean and well maintained. A fire surround is also a good idea.
A wood burning stove will give out a huge amount of heat and are very efficient with the best stoves emitting 90% of their energy into the room. They come in a number of designs, with cast iron being a popular choice. They can be fitted into the wall or stand separate.
A cheap and easy option, with various designs and types available. These will fit into nearly any décor. Once again they can fit into the wall or stand on their own.
These should be installed by a gas expert to ensure the carbon monoxide produced is vented to the outside of the home.
Electric fires and gel burners are more for their decorative feel than any heat they will produce. But gel burners in particular, can offer an attractive feature to a room and give the impression of a fire without all the maintenance. Both of these types require no flue and are easily installed.
Hopefully this has offered a comprehensive list of the options available when thinking about how to heat your home. But remember that if all else fails and the winter is really closing in – a few layers of extra clothing and a thick blanket will also do the trick.