5 min read

What’s cheaper? Gas or electric heating?

What’s cheaper? Gas or electric heating?

The energy price cap continues to dominate the news and it’s not going to disappear anytime soon. For many of us, the cost of heating our home in the winter months is a worry. There is government support via the Energy Bills Support Scheme where a £400 discount, administered by energy suppliers, which will be paid to consumers over 6 months from October 2022. However, this seems to be a drop in the ocean compared to the rate that energy bills are rising.

Many of us have already started to weigh up the pros and cons of the different ways we can heat our homes, so we thought we’d take a detailed look into them to give you food for thought. We are going to try and help answer What’s cheaper? Gas or electric heating?

How much will gas and electric cost from 1st October 2022?

Let’s start by looking at the unit cost of both gas and electric. There’s also the standing charge to consider. ‘What’s the standing charge?’ I hear you ask. This is a daily charge that you pay to your energy supplier, no matter how much gas or electric you use. Some people think of it like the line rental you are charged when you have a landline. It’s basically the cost associated with administering and supplying you with your gas and electric. This is illustrated in the table below.

 

April 2022

October 2022

 

Unit Cost

Standing Charge

Unit Cost

Standing Charge

Gas

7p/kWh

27p per day

15p/kWh

28p per day

Electric

28p/kWh

45p per day

52p/kWh

46p per day

At first glance you may think that it’s cheaper to use gas over electric and on face value you’d be right. But there’s much more to it than that.

Comparing the running costs of gas vs electric heating

When we talk about running costs, the following three associated costs should be included:

  • Installation costs
  • Costs incurred when the system is on
  • Any maintenance costs

For the purpose of this comparison, we’ll be looking at a traditional gas central heating system and compare it to an electric version using electric radiators (electric panel heaters).

Installation costs

Installation costs can vary depending on where you live and the specification of the heating products you are installing. Websites like Checkatrade are a great resource to find out exactly what the installation cost will be.

According to Checkatrade, to install a gas central heating system can cost around £5,250 and for an electric equivalent it is £3,790.

If you are installing gas, materials will include the boiler, pipes and radiators. If you are installing electric, you’ll need just the electric radiators which can either be plugged in or hardwired to the mains supply. If you are installing multiple electric radiators, it is worth consulting your electrician for two reasons:

  1. The first is to ask them to make the connection to the mains (if you are not plugging them in directly).
  2. The second is to ensure that you won’t overload the electric system if you are installing multiple electric radiators. In the long run it’s worth hardwiring your electric radiators to a radial circuit. This means that they won’t be sharing the load with any other appliances and can be connected to the mains via a dedicated MCB (mini circuit breaker) at the distribution board (consumer unit). This means that your electric radiators won’t be sharing the load with any other appliances and you’re less likely to overload the circuit.

Running costs when in use

To calculate the running costs we will be using an example of a typical two to three bedroom semi detached home at around 160m2 in size. It requires 8kW to heat comfortably

Firstly, let’s look at gas. For traditional gas central heating the cost comes from the boiler which heats the water in the central heating system. In the UK, the average wattage of a boiler is between 24kW – 27kW. So, let’s take the most common which is 24kW. It’s important to note that it is not uncommon for the specification of the boiler to be significantly greater than what is required.

So, to run the system each day for 8 hours, it would cost:

8 (No. of hours) x 24kW (Boiler) = 192kWh

Then…

192kWh x £0.15 (Unit cost in October 22) = £28.80 per day

Now, let’s look at electric radiators. We’ll use two with an output of 2kW each and four with a 1kW output each.

8 (No. of hours) x 8kW (Total electric radiator output) = 64kWh

Then…

64kWh x £0.52 (Unit cost in October 22) = £33.28 per day

So, even though the cost per unit of gas is almost 3.5x less than electric, the cost of running electric is not 3.5x greater than gas.

Maintenance costs

Ongoing maintenance costs is where gas fuelled heating systems start to lose out. The average one-off annual boiler service can range between £80 – £120. But there are products such as HomePlan by Corgi which give you peace of mind by providing annual boiler and home emergency cover. Some of these plans include the annual boiler service and cost between £13 – £21 per month depending on the level of cover you take. When looking at these types of policies it is important to read the small print and see what is not covered.

If you decide to go with electric heating such as electric radiators. There is no maintenance required so no service plans needed at an extra cost per month.

What other benefits are there with electric heating?

100% efficient

Electric heating is 100% efficient at point of use. This means that every penny you spend is converted to heat which helps to save energy and reduce running costs. Whereas a gas equivalent loses efficiency because up to 50% of the heat can be lost through poorly insulated pipework around the home so the heating will need to be on for longer to reach the desired temperature.

Fewer carbon emissions

With the increase in both wind and solar farms in the UK, there are more green energy tariffs available which means the carbon footprint of electricity is more favourable compared with gas. Electric heating also does not emit polluting gases or heavy metals. So, if you are like the growing number of homeowners who are becoming much more environmentally conscious, then electric heating is the way forward. Although ca.50% of our electricity is currently created by gas, the trend towards renewables means that an electric heating system installed today will become more ‘green’ as the proportion of renewables becomes greater in the electricity grid.

Fast warm up time

Electric heating heats up faster than traditional central heating. Why? With traditional central heating the water needs to be heated, then transported to the radiator. Whereas with electric, as soon as it is turned on, it starts heating the environment straight away as there are no energy consuming pumps or heat losses to be concerned about.

Controllability

Being able to accurately control and programme your electric heating is a must have to ensure energy efficiency is maintained and your heating bills don’t go through the roof. You have access to energy saving features, energy usage statistics and lots more. The features allow you to identify opportunities to reduce your energy consumption. With smart electric heating you can even pre-heat your home via an app so that it’s the perfect comfort level when you arrive home.

Additionally electric radiators with inbuilt digital thermostats are known for accuracy. By looking at the technical specification of an electric radiator you’ll find information on the thermostat’s accuracy. For example, ‘accurate to +0.30C’ or ‘accurate to +0.80C’. The lower the number, the more accurate the thermostat.

Zone heating

Electric heating allows you to create heating zones throughout your home. For example, you may only want the heating on in a spare bedroom only when guests are staying. That means that you aren’t wasting energy and spending money on heating spaces in your home that aren’t being used. This is one of the drawbacks of gas fuelled central heating because it warms up a room using a centralised control on the boiler. As a result, you end up heating spaces that don’t need to be which means you waste energy and money. This can be mitigated in part by installing thermostatic valves on each radiator.

So, is gas or electric heating cheaper?

The unit cost of gas is cheaper than electric but when you start factoring in other costs, electric has the potential to cost you less in the long run. The advancement in technology means that electric heating systems last longer than their gas counterparts too!

If you have any questions, reach out to our team who are always on hand with helpful advice.

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