Older properties do not have central heating, they have either old-style electrical storage heaters or solid fuel fireplaces. These are inefficient and cost a lot more to provide enough heat to make the modern home comforts. Most homes in the UK either have mains gas piped directly to the property or have bottled gas, LPG or heating oil delivered by a road vehicle. This is then stored on the property and burned in a boiler to run a central heating system. The type and cost of heating installations will always depend on the size of the property, the fuel you use and what type of boiler you have.
The typical central heating installation costs for a fairly standard 3 bedroom house in the UK will average around £4,000. The average cost of gas for heating and hot water in the typical house is about £550 per year.
How much does central heating cost?
The traditional methods of heating are electricity, heating oil, gas or solid fuel and are the commonest types available because the technology is well known and understood. If you have electric central heating, the electricity is used to heat up an element inside a water reservoir. The other types operate by burning fuel in the presence of oxygen to provide heat which is then used to increase the water temperature. There are other non-traditional types of heating available, although in their infancy, show great promise both in economics and efficiency. These modern types are Solar, Ground Source Heating and Air Source Heating. They work by harvesting background heat from the sun, ground and the air respectively and through a series of heat exchangers transfer the energy to stored water.
The following table shows a comparison between the costs of selected fuel types. All costs are approximate and will vary over time due to market fluctuations.
|Bottled gas||15p to 35p/kWh|
You can see that the cheapest traditional fuel is mains gas at about 4.7p/kWh. This article will be concentrating on mains gas central heating and the cost to buy and install the system.
Fitting a gas central heating installation into a home, either new or upgrading an existing installation is not something that is suitable for a DIY project. By law, anyone who works on gas central heating boilers must be registered with Gas Safe and be on their register. “Which? Magazine” runs a competent traders scheme. Visit their website Which? Trusted Traders for more information on finding a Gas Safe registered heating engineer.
When a heating engineer plans and designs a central heating boiler installation, he or she must match the boiler size to the local climate, house size, number and size of rooms, and the number of radiators. This means that to be properly balanced each installation must be custom designed to suit the house and its location.
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Central heating installation for a 3 bedroom house
For a typical three-bedroom house with two storeys, the complete new central heating system cost will be about:
|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|
|Miscellaneous parts & labour||£200 to £300|
|Pipework||£1,000 to £1,500|
|Total||£3,550 to £5,500|
*These costs are an estimate of the average prices prevalent at the time of publication.
You can expect to pay a lot more if your system is unusual or custom-built. For the simple example shown here, you will be charged about £200 per day for a heating engineer and approximately £100 per day for a labourer. Although the gas central heating installation costs seem very expensive to buy and install, the subsequent low running costs of the fuel will more than compensate for it, making it one of the cheapest types of central heating around.
Typical factors affecting the cost of new central heating systems include:
- It will be colder in the North of Scotland than in the West of Cornwall.
- House size: A large house will have longer pipe runs between radiators and therefore more heat loss. A large house will also need a larger boiler and probably a different type.
- Room size: A large room (tall) will have more unusable space resulting in wasted heat. A large room will also need larger radiators.
Central heating grants available in the UK
The UK government wants to reduce the United Kingdom’s carbon footprint and the incidence of fuel poverty amongst the poorest of the UK’s inhabitants. They have set up a free boiler replacement scheme, to help lower-income citizens who cannot afford to buy a new and efficient boiler themselves.
The idea of the free boiler service is to target those who live in their own homes, social housing and private rentals and who qualify for certain government benefits. It offers them the chance to have an interest-free boiler replacement or repairs and upgrades to their existing heating system to make it comply with modern requirements.
The UK Government’s Affordable Warmth Obligation offers ways for householders, those living 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 bring it up to modern energy efficiency standards. Private landlords with low-income tenants may also be eligible to receive help too.
If you are a tenant and live in a social housing property that has an energy efficiency rating of E, F or G, you may get finance to help with the purchase and installation of a modern heating system. The Energy Performance Certificate Register (EPCR) is there to help you find out your property’s energy efficiency rating. If you find it too complicated to use then you can ask your Housing Association or landlord. The Simple Energy Advice website gives advice on all kinds of energy efficiency improvements from draughtproofing, installing a new boiler, to cavity wall insulation. It also gives information on the type of home energy grants that are available to help with heating costs and equipment installation costs.
So who is paying for this?
- Innovative new designs from the country’s largest boiler manufacturers make boilers more energy efficient.
- Energy suppliers install boilers free of charge for tenants and homeowners that cannot afford to buy their own.
- Most boilers will be completely free to eligible householders and landlords and they are under no obligation to pay back their boiler replacement grants.
Also, check out our full guide on central heating grants in the UK.
Zoning heating controls & energy savings
Zoned heating is all about separating out the areas of your home that need different ambient temperatures. For example, a living room will need to be heated differently to a bathroom, bedroom or hallway. The amount of heating required will always be a function of its purpose and whether it is in continual use.
Older central heating installations made do with 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 were unfortunate enough to have the thermostat in the hallway, usually one of the coldest areas, then the boiler was continually being asked for more heat with the result that the other rooms suffered and received more heat than was needed. If the thermostat was in the lounge and stayed warm because it was the place where most people congregated, it meant that less heat was called from the boiler and the bedrooms did not receive enough heating to be comfortable.
The solution to this problem is to have TVRs (Thermostatic Radiator Valves). These are valves sited on each radiator and can be set according to the desired temperature of the room. The valve opens and closes automatically depending on the room temperature.
Zone-Controlled Heating is great for larger houses where different rooms need different temperatures or where the house needs varying heat emissions from the same boiler. An example of this is underfloor vs wall radiator heating. Underfloor needs to be set at a lower temperature for a longer period whereas radiators need instant and higher heat output. The big advantage of Zoned Heating is that you heat a room to its set temperature without wasting heat in unused rooms.
Electric central heating system vs gas
There are many advantages to having gas central heating:
- A modern condensing gas boiler is highly efficient, some are even more than 90% efficient. Although expensive, these boilers will give a quick return on your investment by using the gas efficiently.
- Replacing an old boiler with a modern and efficient condensing boiler is an easy task for a qualified heating engineer.
- Fuel does not need to be stored at your property. Gas is piped directly to your property. This is less of a fire hazard and less chance of environmental spills.
- If the boiler needs servicing or repairing, a Gas Safe Registered heating engineer will be able to do the work and issue a certificate.
There aren’t just advantages to gas central heating, some of the disadvantages include:
- Gas is not a clean or sustainable source of energy. It is a fossil fuel that produces carbon dioxide as one of its combustion byproducts.
- The UK purchases some of its mains gas from other countries so the prices are dependent on price fluctuations around the world.
- If you haven’t had a central heating system before, installing the radiators and pipework can be expensive and will be disruptive if you are 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.
- Service mains gas boilers annually to keep them working as efficiently as possible.
How do we use heat more efficiently?
Make sure your home is fully insulated 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 go a long way to reduce the need for a large output central heating boiler.
You can also reduce heat losses by making better use of the heat you have. Conventional radiators are notorious for wasting heat. If you are renovating your home, consider the feasibility of installing underfloor heating in all rooms rather than wall mounted radiators. Underfloor heating makes far better use of the available heat and allows you to purchase a smaller heat output boiler.
With wet central heating, you have the same water recirculated around the radiator and pipework system over and over again. In time, a layer of sludge builds up which coats the walls of the pipes and radiators. This reduces heat flow efficiency and water flow. Make sure that the central heating system is regularly maintained and the pipework is thoroughly flushed through. You can ask advice from your local heating engineer on the interval between flushes.
Make sure the boiler is regularly maintained and serviced to keep it operating in top condition.
Another thing to do, that is not really a way to reduce costs, but is probably even more important is to fit a carbon monoxide detector in the room in which the boiler is stored. 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 accommodation.
Central Heating Intelligent Controls
Intelligent controls or ‘Smart Thermostats’ are heating controls for different rooms that can be set up using a programmer at a central position or can be set up remotely from a phone, tablet or laptop without even being home.
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.
Gas central heating is probably the most efficient and cheapest of the traditional methods currently available. Ensure you have your system installed to comply with the current building regulations by a qualified heating engineer.