Older properties don’t usually have central heating. Instead, they have either electrical storage heaters or solid fuel fireplaces. These are inefficient and expensive to run. So, nowadays most homes in the UK use gas piped directly to the property. Otherwise, they use bottled gas or heating oil delivered by truck. The type and cost of central heating systems vary and depend on the size of the property, the fuel, and your boiler.
But how much does it cost to install a boiler and new radiators?
The estimated cost to install central heating into a typical 3 bedroom house in the UK will be about £5000. This, however, depends on various factors. So let’s look at the results of a cost calculation for the entire job to see what we come up with.
|Item||Cost to supply and install|
|New condenser boiler||£950 to £1,800|
|Set of radiators (say 9 radiators)||£1,200 to £1,600|
|Water tank (if needed)||£200 to £300|
|Parts & labour||£200 to £300|
|Pipework||£1,000 to £1,500|
|Total||£3,550 to £5,500|
These estimated and average prices may vary depending on where you live in the country and how much installation work you have.
Remember that these figures represent a typical standard installation. You can expect to pay a lot more if your system is unusual or custom-built. For this simple example, you’ll be charged about £200 per day for a heating engineer and £100 per day for a labourer.
Although the installation costs seem expensive, the subsequent low fuel bill will more than compensate for it. The average cost of gas for heating and hot water in this house is about £550 per year. Therefore, it’s one of the cheapest methods of central heating around.
However, factors affecting the cost of a new installation include:
- Location. It’s colder in the North of Scotland than in the West of Cornwall. Also, wages are more expensive in London and surrounding areas than elsewhere in the country.
- House size. Large houses have longer pipe runs between radiators. Therefore, they lose more heat. A large house also needs a large boiler.
- Room size. High ceilinged rooms have more unusable space resulting in wasted heat. Furthermore, large rooms will need large radiators.
Types of heating and associated costs
The traditional domestic heating methods are electricity, oil, gas and solid fuel. They’re not only the commonest but the technology is well known and understood. If you have electric heating, the electricity heats an element inside a water reservoir. However, the other types of burn fuel in oxygen, providing heat to a reservoir. In turn, this increases the water temperature. There are other innovative heating methods available, but they’re in their infancy. However, most of them show great promise for the future, both in economics and efficiency. The modern methods include Solar, Ground Source Heating and Air Source Heating. They harvest background heat from the sun, earth and the air respectively. And, through a series of heat exchangers transfer the energy to stored water.
The following table compares the costs of selected fuel types. They are approximate and will vary with market fluctuations.
|Bottled gas||15p to 35p/kWh|
You can see that the cheapest traditional fuel, mains gas, costs about 4.7p/kWh. In this article, we’ll concentrate on mains gas central heating and how much to buy and install the system.
Fitting a gas central heating installation into a home, either new or an upgrade, isn’t suitable as a DIY project. By law, every gas central heating boiler engineer must register with Gas Safe and appear on their Register. “Which? Magazine” runs a competent traders scheme too. Visit their website Which? Trusted Traders for help with finding a Gas Safe registered heating engineer.
When a heating engineer plans and designs a central heating boiler installation, the boiler size must match the local climate, house size, size of rooms, and the number of radiators. Therefore, they must custom design a properly balanced installation to suit the house and its location, and each one is different.
Central heating grants available
The UK government wants to reduce the United Kingdom’s carbon footprint and fuel poverty amongst the poorest of the UK’s inhabitants. They set up a free boiler replacement scheme, to help the poorest citizens who can’t afford to buy a new and efficient boiler.
The UK Government’s Affordable Warmth Obligation offers ways for householders, and those in rented accommodation and who qualify for certain government benefits, to make their homes more energy–efficient. It includes the cost of repairing or replacing a boiler to comply with modern energy efficiency standards. Private landlords with low-income tenants can also apply.
If you live in a social housing property with an energy efficiency rating of E, F or G, you may receive help with the purchase and installation of a modern heating system. The Energy Performance Certificate Register (EPCR) will help you find out your property’s energy efficiency rating. But, if you find it too complicated to use, you can ask your Housing Association or landlord for help. The Simple Energy Advice website advises on all kinds of energy efficiency improvements. From draughtproofing, and installing a new boiler, to cavity wall insulation. It also advises on the type of available home energy grants to help with heating and installing equipment.
So who pays for this?
- New designs from the country’s largest boiler manufacturers make equipment more energy efficient.
- Energy suppliers install boilers free of charge for customers who can’t afford to buy their own.
- Most boilers will be completely free to eligible householders and landlords. And, they’re under no obligation to re-pay their grants.
Zoning heating controls & energy savings
Zoned heating is all about separating the areas of your home that need different average temperatures. For example, a living room needs different temperatures to a bathroom, bedroom or hallway. Therefore, the amount of heat depends on its purpose and whether it’s in continual use.
Older central heating installations had one thermostat, usually placed in either the living room or the hallway (the warmest or the coldest part of the house). This governed the temperature for the entire house. If you had the thermostat in the hallway, usually one of the coldest areas, then the boiler was continually supplying heat. This meant that the other rooms had more heat than they needed, and your bills went up. On the other hand, the living room thermostat measured temperature in the place where most people congregated. So, the room stayed warm with less heat supplied by the boiler. Consequently, the bedrooms received less heat than they needed.
The solution to this problem is to install TVRs (Thermostatic Radiator Valves). These valves attach to each radiator and control the temperature of each room. The valve opens and closes automatically depending on the room temperature.
Zone–Controlled Heating works best for larger houses where different rooms need their own temperature or where the house needs varying heat levels from the same boiler. For example, let’s consider underfloor vs wall radiator heating. ‘Underfloor’ needs less heat for a longer period whereas ‘radiators’ need instant and more heat. In fact, Zoned Heating allows you to heat a room to its set temperature without wasting heat in unused rooms.
Electric vs gas central heating
Gas central heating has many advantages:
- A modern condensing gas boiler is highly efficient. Some are even more than 90% efficient. Although expensive, these boilers offer a quick return on your investment by using the gas efficiently.
- It’s easy for a qualified heating engineer to replace an old boiler with an efficient condensing one.
- Fuel doesn’t need to be stored at your property. Piped gas arrives directly to your property. This is a lesser fire risk and a smaller chance of environmental hazards.
- If the boiler needs servicing or repairing, a Gas Safe Registered engineer can do the work and issue a certificate.
There aren’t just advantages to gas central heating. Unfortunately, some disadvantages include:
- Gas isn’t a clean or sustainable source of energy. It’s a fossil fuel that produces carbon dioxide as one of its exhaust gases.
- The UK purchases some of its piped gas from other countries. So, the prices depend on price fluctuations around the world.
- If you haven’t had a central heating system before, installing the radiators and pipework can be expensive. It’ll also disrupt your life if you’re living in the property at the same time.
- Connecting mains gas to your home can be expensive if the pipework isn’t already in place.
- Mains gas boilers need annual servicing to keep them working efficiently.
How do we use heat more efficiently?
Make sure you have a fully insulated home to efficiently use the heat from your new gas central heating system. Installing cavity wall insulation, 270mm of loft insulation, double or triple glazing and insulated external doors will all help to reduce the need for a large output central heating boiler.
You can also reduce losses by making better use of the heat you have. Conventional radiators waste heat. So, if you’re renovating your home, consider installing underfloor heating in all rooms rather than wall mounted radiators. Underfloor heating makes far better use of the available heat and uses a boiler with lower heat output.
Wet central heating recirculates the same water around the radiator and pipework system over and over again. Eventually, a layer of sludge builds up which coats the walls of the pipes and radiators. This reduces heat flow and water flow efficiency. Make sure you regularly maintain the boiler and central heating system, and thoroughly flush the pipework. Also, you can ask advice from your local heating engineer on the interval between flushes to keep it operating in top condition.
You don’t have to only reduce costs with your new heating system. Probably, it’s even more important to fit a carbon monoxide detector in the room in which you place the boiler. Although a modern boiler is almost foolproof, it still pays to monitor the exhaust gases and ensures they don’t end up in the living rooms.
Central Heating Intelligent Controls
Intelligent controls or ‘Smart Thermostats’ control your system from a central location. You can monitor and control different rooms directly from a central programmer which you control remotely via WiFi from a phone, tablet or laptop.
Programmers are central controls that allow the user to specify times the boiler turns on and off and the temperatures supplied to each room. It also allows sharing of heat between hot water supplies and room heating.
Types of Boilers to consider
Let’s look at the types of available domestic boilers.
This only provides heating and stores hot water in a hot water cylinder. They work with either an open vented system with tanks in the loft or a sealed system.
This is a single device that generates all heating and hot water for the home. It doesn’t use hot water tanks so doesn’t store vast quantities. Many combis have a small reservoir built into the unit in case you need hot water immediately.
This has all the same features as a combi but provides heating only, without producing hot water for the taps. It uses a steel hot water cylinder to store the hot water for the heating system.
Central Heating Installation FAQ
How long does it take to install central heating?
Usually, an average central heating system containing a boiler and 6 to 8 radiators takes about 3 days to install. However, you must take into account other factors, such as type of property and its size, type of flooring and whether you have to move lots of furniture and carpets.
Can I install my own central heating?
It is possible to install your own central heating system. However, designing and installing is very complicated and you have to follow regulations. You can design the system, install radiators and programmer. You can even install the boiler. However, you must design and install the system according to the relevant Building Regulations. Finally, you must be a registered gas installer to connect the boiler to the mains gas. You should also realise that most boiler manufacturers won’t guarantee their equipment if it’s not installed by a registered heating engineer. If you aren’t sure, always hire a qualified heating engineer.
What regulations, trade body or organisation does my tradesman need to be a part of
The Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineers is the professional body in the UK for this industry.
CORGI (Council of Registered Gas Installers) started the Gas Registration Scheme in the UK. Although it has now passed this role over to Gas Safe, it is still a recognised body for gas engineers.
The Gas Safe Register ensures that all heating engineers and plumbers who work with gas are qualified and competent. All gas related businesses and contractors must register with Gas Safe. Anyone can contact Gas Safe to confirm they’re hiring a registered gas engineer.
Gas is dangerous as an explosive and as a poison. Because of this, all people working with it or installing equipment that uses gas must be properly qualified and competent to do so. They must be a member of Gas Safe and also one of the professional bodies. The gas engineer must have passed a recognised qualification. First, an NVQ or apprenticeship in plumbing and heating engineering or gas installation. Next, be on the Gas Safety Register which specifies exactly what appliances they are qualified to work on.
Because technology continually improves, a gas engineer must continue further training throughout their working life.
A registered gas engineer will also have appropriate insurance and have a certificate proving they are registered with Gas Safe. If in doubt, a customer can check on the Gas Safe website for the contractor’s name.
Get Central Heating Quotes
Gas central heating is probably the most efficient and cheapest of the traditional heating methods currently available. You can install the system yourself. But, because of the regulations you have to follow, it’s better to hire a registered and qualified heating engineer. If you fill out the form on this page you’ll receive 3 or 4 estimates from heating engineers local to you.