In the UK, our cold winters mean we rely a great deal on our heating systems, and with the changes in technology it’s important to know how to cheaply, reliably and safely keep our homes at a comfortable temperature. The question everyone asks is which heating system is the cheapest. If we look at the figures, the short answer is gas, due to its low cost of 4.5 pence per kWh (average price as of 2018). However, gas has its downsides and in this guide we’re going to take a look at the other costs involved with each method of heating and their relative efficiency.
As we’ve already established, gas systems benefit from a low cost per unit. However, a gas heating system is only 90% efficient and gas appliances tend to come with high installation and maintenance costs. Then there is the issue of whether you can access mains gas. Most homes in the UK are connected to the mains grid, but for the 15% who are not, heating their home with gas becomes more expensive. An alternative heating system is LPG, which stores the gas as liquid in an external tanker. LPG is more expensive per unit and even costlier to install and maintain. So if you are able to heat your home from the mains grid, you have to assess in advance whether the efficiency of the systems available will match the relatively low cost of actually using gas.
Average electricity costs in the UK are around 13 pence per kWH (as of 2018), which on the surface is much higher than gas. However, electric heating systems are much cheaper to install and tend not to break, nor do they have to be checked on an annual basis by a technician. Unlike gas systems electric radiators have much more accurate control, each unit can be controlled individually rather than clumsy traditional radiator thermostats which simply limit the volume of hot water flowing into the radiator.
Unlike gas, electricity is available wherever you live, so it has advantages over gas in terms of efficiency with the downside of being more expensive in terms of initial cost.
Although both gas and electricity are relatively cheap, they both produce carbon emissions. That’s why in the UK we have a renewable heat incentive offering subsidies to more eco-friendly heating systems. Biomass fuelled systems and heat pump heating systems both offer cheap running costs, but are very expensive to install which can put people off. So if you’re willing to invest in a sustainable heating source for the future there is an alternative to gas and electricity, but it’s best to look at what you can afford as a household and your individual heating needs before taking on any of the above options.