What are the different types of central heating systems?

Here’s a guide to the main types of central heating and how they work

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Gas or electric?

There are multiple different central heating and hot water systems available on the market. If you want to know which system you have or are thinking of upgrading and want to know the benefits of different energy, we have everything you need to know here.
There are pros and cons to having your boiler and central heating system powered by gas, and different deliberations to bear in mind for electric boilers.

Electric boilers

The main form of electric central heating is storage heaters. These units store heat at night, when the electricity tariff tends to be at a lower cost, and then releases the stored energy evenly throughout that day.

The pros of storage heaters are they can be easier to install than a gas system, and mean that, if your house isn’t on mains gas, you can still heat your home.

On the downside, using electricity can be a more expensive fuel than gas as it costs more to use per unit. Despite these systems using electricity at night, it could still cost you more in the long term than a gas system.

While you do have the ability to control when the heat is released, you’ll need to consider when to use the heating ahead a little, to make sure the storage heater is harvesting enough energy to keep the house warm the following day.

Gas boilers

Gas boilers are generally more popular and for good reason too. Even though gas prices are set the rise, it could still be a cheaper form of energy than electricity; with advances in technology, gas boilers are becoming more efficient all the time.

If you already have an old gas boiler and you’re looking to replace it with a new, more energy-efficient one, you may be able to get a government grant – check here to see if you’re eligible.

The negative aspect of gas boilers is that if your house isn’t on mains gas, it’s a pricey task to get connected, where electric boilers can be installed anywhere. Gas boilers will need to be serviced every year in order to ensure they’re working efficiently and safely.

Types of central heating systems

To heat a house, the boiler needs to be attached to a central heating system. There are three main kinds: wet systems, warm air systems, and storage heaters.

1. Wet systems This is the most common form of central heating, involving a boiler, radiators, and sometimes a heat exchanger.

Wet systems are very popular in the UK and most homes will have this kind of central heating, whether it’s powered by a conventional or a combi boiler. We have a guide on combi boilers if you’re unsure what they are, but the main difference between the two is that combi boilers provide you with instant hot water.

How they work: The boiler will burn fuel and heat water, which will then be fed through a series of pipes located in the walls of your house, to the radiators. A heat exchanger may be used instead of a boiler in some instances.

2. Warm air systems Warm air systems are commonly used in businesses and office blocks and may also able to provide cool air as well as heating. Years ago these were also popular in homes too.

Although unusual in UK homes, it’s not a problem if you do have a warm air system. You may want to consider replacing it with a wet system, which could be more energy efficient and potentially cost less to run.

How they work: Like a wet system, the process starts with a boiler also. It heats the air and instead of sending it through a series of pipes to your radiators, it enters the room through ducts or vents.

3. Storage heaters Typically used with electric-powered central heating systems, storage heaters collect and store heat at night, when it’s cheaper to do so, and then release it throughout the course of the day.

How it works: The heat is stored in bricks that can hold large amounts of energy, and the heaters themselves are typically wired into the home. The stored heat is then released gradually throughout the day.

These are the three main types of central heating systems usually found in the home and one of these options will most likely be providing you with heat and hot water in your home.

Each have their benefits and downsides, and if you’re thinking of changing your system, it’s worth considering the heating and hot water requirements for your home before deciding.

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