The Electric Heating System Defined
The key feature of an electric heating system is made clear in its name. It relies on electricity to generate heat rather than burning gas or oil. Electric heating systems are growing steadily more popular, and they can provide hot water as well as heating.
The Advantages of an Electric Heating System
Most of the traditional heating systems rely on fossil fuels, and supplies of those fuels are poised to become more expensive and difficult to obtain. This gives electric heating systems a significant advantage – they’re likely to age better than fossil fuel systems. Electric Heating Expert advises that there are many additional benefits; here are just a few:
- Zero emissions produced in the home
- Zero-risk of hazardous leaks (gas or carbon monoxide)
- Faster response time when the heating system is activated
- No need to connect a property to the gas network
Different Kinds of Electric Heating Options
Depending on the specifics of your home, one or more of the following electric heating options could be an effective solution to your heating needs:
An electric central heating boiler operates in largely the same way as a more traditional boiler. It simply uses electric heating elements to generate the heat your home requires instead of burning gas or oil.
Electric boilers are best suited to smaller homes with modest heating and hot water demands, particularly properties that are not connected to the gas network.
Infrared heating panels deliver warmth directly to the occupants of a room instead of heating the air as conventional radiators do. Infrared panels respond very quickly when you turn on the heating system; an added advantage is that they raise less dust than ordinary radiators due to reduced air circulation.
Although there are some unfounded safety concerns around infrared heating panels, they are quite beneficial to your health. They deliver heat as a form of light – like sunlight, but without the potentially-harmful UV component.
Electric Storage Heaters
An electric storage heating system is designed to generate heat from mains electricity during the most affordable time of the day. This is typically done at night, allowing you to make use of cheaper tariff schemes like Economy 7. The heating system gradually releases stored heat throughout the day; this is why such systems are also called night storage heaters. An electric storage heater needs to be sized and installed correctly to ensure that you have an ample supply of stored heat for the entire day and night.
Air Source Heat Pumps
An air-source heat pump is designed to extract ambient heat from the outside air. It does this by forcing air over refrigerant in an exchanger coil. The air causes the refrigerant to evaporate and turn into vapour. Compressing this vapour produces heat for use in your home’s central heating system.
Air pumps are highly efficient and represent an excellent heating choice for larger properties. The latest, most efficient models can productively extract heat even when external air temperatures drop as low as -25 °C. Air source heat pumps do require a significant amount of outdoor space for their equipment.
Ground Source Heat Pump
A ground source heat pump is another high-efficiency renewable system, very similar to an ASHP. As suggested by the name, GSHPs rely on the ground beneath a property rather than the air around it to collect heat. A GSHP uses a pipe network embedded roughly two metres beneath the ground to exchange heat and power your central heating system. Temperatures at this level of the Earth sit at a consistent 10 to 15 °C throughout the year. Refrigerant pumped through the pipe network absorb this heat and feed it into a heat exchanger.
The Renewable Heat Initiative
In addition to their in-built efficiency, air and ground source heat pumps offer an additional advantage: If you install such a system, you may be able to receive payments from the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive, or RHI.
The RHI has been in place since 2014 to encourage wider adoption of renewable heating technology. Homeowners with a renewable heating system receive incentive payments for seven years paid quarterly.
The Cost of Electric Heating
In terms of the initial outlay, the least expensive electric heating elements are storage heaters and infrared panels. These generally cost £100-£150 each. You will need to buy a heater for each room in your property, though.
Air and ground source heat pumps are property-wide heating systems, so both the equipment and the installation will be costly.
Operating costs for electric heating systems are, as a general rule, higher than for those using fossil fuels. There are some significant benefits to consider, though:
- Electric heating systems can be powered with renewable solar energy
- Electric systems do not require fuel storage as with oil and LPG
- Faults are less likely and repair costs are cheaper
- Electric systems do not require annual servicing
- Electric systems are generally higher in efficiency — less energy waste
- Properties need not be connected to the gas network
- Electric systems begin generating heat more quickly than gas and oil systems.