Eco Happy (Solar Expert)

Published February 28, 2024

Are you seeking alternatives to gas boilers? Since the UK Government is focusing on renewable heating systems, you may feel lost on which option to pick. There are plenty of heating systems on the market, but not all are built equal – especially in terms of carbon emissions.

You may have a central heating alternative in mind to replace your gas boiler. But before you commit, you’ll want to ensure it’s a viable selection. At Eco Happy, we’re here to help you make the best choice! This guide to 12 gas boiler alternatives will brief you on what each entails, the cost, pros, and cons.

12 Alternatives To Gas Boilers

  1. Biomass boilers
  2. Solar thermal panels
  3. Hydrogen boilers
  4. Air source heat pumps
  5. Ground source heat pumps
  6. Water source heat pumps
  7. Hybrid heating systems
  8. Infrared heating panels
  9. LPG or oil boilers
  10. Electric Boilers
  11. Electric radiators
  12. Combined heat and power (CHP)
    • Micro-CHP Systems

1. Biomass boilers

A biomass boiler is a low-carbon heating system that burns organic matter, such as wood pellets, logs, or chips, to generate heat. They work by burning the natural fuel in a combustion chamber. A biomass boiler can supply both central heating and hot water to your home.

Cost: A biomass boiler system costs around £4,000 to £21,000, including installation.

Pros:

  • If you replace your gas boiler with a biomass boiler, you may be eligible for a £5,000 grant under the Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS).
  • Produce around 37-50% less CO2 emissions than gas boilers.
  • Biomass fuel is more environmentally sustainable than gas.
  • Biomass fuel is typically locally sourced and readily available.
  • Well-engineered with advanced technology that maximises efficiency at a rate of up to  94%.

Cons:

  • Even with a grant, biomass boilers have higher upfront costs than conventional gas boilers.
  • Maintaining your biomass boiler is more effort compared to gas central heating systems. You’ll need to clean the combustion chambers and inspect the fuel storage systems regularly.

2. Solar thermal panels

Solar thermal panels, also known as solar thermal collectors, are a brilliant option for those seeking a renewable heating system.

Thermal panels consist of flat-plate or evacuated tube collectors that absorb solar radiation. They then transfer heat to a fluid-circulating system, where the harnessed energy goes through a heat exchanger. This energy is then transferred to your central heating system or water cylinder.

Cost: The typical cost with installation ranges between £3,000 and £8,000.

Pros:

  • Sunlight is an entirely renewable and abundant energy source. This makes thermal panels environmentally friendly and more sustainable compared to gas boilers.
  • Quality solar thermal panels have a lifespan of 20-30 years (or more) when properly maintained, compared to a gas boiler’s 15-year lifespan.

Cons:

  • The UK lacks enough sunlight for this option to work on its own, so you may need to pair it with another heating system.
  • For solar thermal panels to work, you should store heated water in an additional hot water cylinder. Only some combi boilers accept pre-heated water, which may incur extra costs for installation.

3. Hydrogen boilers

Hydrogen boilers are a much-talked-about zero-emission option for gas boiler alternatives. These boilers work the same as gas boilers but run on hydrogen instead of fossil fuels. Hydrogen-blend-ready boilers are regular boilers that can handle a gas-hydrogen fuel blend.

The UK Government has done extensive research and planning to make hydrogen the new norm. However, the effectiveness of hydrogen boilers is still undergoing research.

Cost: Currently, hydrogen-ready boilers are priced similarly to traditional gas boilers, between £500 and £2,000 (excluding installation).

Pros:

  • They work the same as gas boilers but use hydrogen instead of gas, making them more convenient.
  • Hydrogen is a renewable energy which means that there will never be supply shortages.
  • They produce zero greenhouse gas emissions when burned, reducing your carbon footprint.
  • The government is working on making this a viable option, so you may receive rebates for installation in the future.

Cons:

  • The infrastructure for hydrogen supply is not yet in place in the UK. If it is to come into play, it will happen in phases, beginning with small percentages of hydrogen gas mixed with fossil fuel gas.
  • For this gas boiler alternative, you might need to renovate and replace pipes to prepare for installation.

4. Air source heat pumps (ASHPs)

Air source heat pumps extract warmth from the surrounding air and transfer it indoors for heating purposes. ASHPs consist of an outdoor unit and a heating system. The indoor unit has a compressor and heat exchanger coils which extract heat from the surrounding air, and raise its temperature through compression. The heating system then heats your home.

Costs: The upfront cost of installing an air source heat pump in the UK ranges between £8,000 and £18,000. However, you can get a BUS grant of up to £7,500.

Pros:

  • Highly energy efficient – three times more so than gas boilers, so you’ll be saving on energy bills over time.
  • Easy to install and suitable for the UK climate.
  • ASHPs count as low-carbon heating options, as they produce heat without CO2 emissions.

Cons:

  • You need outdoor space to install a heat pump.
  • The upfront costs are higher than traditional gas boilers.
  • You may need to add insulation to your home for the ASHP to be most efficient.
  • Air source heat pumps become less effective in colder weather. You might need to supplement your heat pump with another heating system, like an electric heater.

5. Ground source heat pumps (GSHPs)

A ground source heat pump, also known as a geothermal heat pump, provides heat by extracting it from the ground. These pumps consist of buried pipes known as ground loops, which are filled with a heat transfer fluid that absorbs warmth. The warmth is then circulated through the home’s heating system.

Cost: A ground source heat pump is expensive and ranges between £14,500 and £45,000 or more. UK BUS grants offer up to £7,500 to alleviate the financial burden.

Pros:

  • GSHPs are one of the few renewable heating systems that can provide year-round warmth, as they don’t rely on outdoor air temperature fluctuations.
  • Once installed, GSHPs generally require minimal maintenance. This is excellent compared to other heating systems, including ASHPs.
  • A GSHP is an energy-efficient renewable heating system that saves on energy bills over time, and also reduces your carbon emissions.

Cons:

  • GSHPs have far higher upfront installation costs compared to conventional gas boilers. This is because installation is complex and involves drilling to make place for ground loops.
  • GSHPs need adequate space for the installation, making them unfeasible for people with limited outdoor space.

6. Water Source Heat Pumps (WSHPs)

Are you comparing heat pumps vs gas boilers? A water source heat pump is one alternative that extracts thermal energy from water, such as a lake, river, or well. It transfers heat indoors similarly to GSHPs but uses water as the heat source instead of the ground.

Cost: The price can easily pass the £50,000 mark.

Pros:

  • Water sources, like lakes or groundwater, typically have stable temperatures year-round, allowing WSHPs to provide reliable heating and cooling. They function regardless of what the weather may bring (as long as the water source doesn’t freeze).
  • Water provides renewable energy, making WSHPs far more environmentally friendly than gas boilers. Using WSHPs also lowers your carbon footprint as you don’t rely on fossil fuels to generate heat.

Cons:

  • The need for specialised equipment and installation is expensive.
  • You can not get a BUS grant for this heat pump option.
  • WSHPs require access to a suitable water source.
  • Although WSHPs reduce carbon emissions, they can affect the environment during installation. Installation can disrupt habitats or cause water quality concerns.

7. Hybrid heating systems

Hybrid heating combines two different heating technologies to provide efficiency and flexibility. Hybrid options typically add a secondary renewable heating system to a traditional one. For example, you can install an air source heat pump alongside your gas boiler.

You can equip your hybrid heating system with controls and sensors to switch between the primary and secondary heating sources automatically. You can also adjust the system based on temperature and heating needs.

Cost: This varies widely depending on what heating systems you use. For example, adding a hybrid air source heat pump to an existing gas boiler system could cost around £16,000 with installation.

Pros:

  • You can switch between systems to suit your needs. For example: a solar thermal panel automatically switches to the gas boiler when there isn’t enough sunlight.
  • Adding a renewable alternative helps reduce your gas boiler’s cost and carbon emissions.
  • Hybrid alternatives offer a reliable heating system year-round.

Cons:

  • Adding a system like this can be costly initially, and you might not be able to get a grant to alleviate the fees.
  • You still impact the environment with carbon emissions if your system has a gas boiler.

8. Infrared heating panels

Infrared heating panels are a unique alternative to gas boilers. They emit heat to objects and surfaces directly. Infrared heating panels generate warmth using electricity, which transfers to a heating element. The element then emits infrared radiation – a safe and energy-efficient way of providing heat to your home.

Cost:Infrared heating panels cost around £500 each, but you’ll need multiple to warm an entire home.

Pros:

  • If you’re looking for gas boiler alternatives that use electricity, infrared heating panels could be the solution. They transfer heat to objects and surfaces in the room, like walls and furniture, preventing energy wastage through the air. It is typical for gas boilers and other heating systems to lose heat this way.
  • These panels produce less environmentally damaging emissions than other electrical heating systems.

Cons:

  • These heaters can be helpful alternatives in heating smaller, singular rooms, but gas boilers remain a better option in larger spaces.
  • The panels distribute heat unevenly.
  • Using electricity instead of gas is more costly.

9. LPG or oil boilers

LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) and oil boilers are two popular options. They can easily replace natural gas boilers to provide heating and hot water.

LPG boilers typically use propane or butane as the primary fuel source. They work similarly to natural gas boilers but require a separate storage tank for the LPG fuel. Oil boilers are the same but use kerosene or diesel gas oil.

Cost: The total cost generally ranges between £1,000 and £4,500.

Pros:

  • LPG and oil boilers help to provide heating to locations without gas pipelines.
  • The upfront installation rates of these boilers are relatively affordable.

Cons:

  • Both these boiler types are the opposite of a green alternative. They produce carbon dioxide emissions when burned and still contribute to climate change and air pollution.
  • These boilers require more ongoing maintenance compared to gas boilers. Maintenance includes things like cleaning combustion chambers and chimney inspections.
  • LPG and oil fuel prices can be expensive and may fluctuate based on global energy trends.

10. Electric boilers

All boilers need electricity to work. However, electric boilers generate heat using electricity rather than burning fossil fuels. Electric boilers are 99-100% efficient, while gas ones have an efficiency rating of 93% or less. This statistic makes electric heating systems a worthy consideration over gas boilers.

Cost: The cost to buy and install a new electric boiler ranges between £900 and £4,500

Pros:

  • Electric systems work as alternatives to gas boilers because they produce no emissions.
  • Electric boilers are typically compact and require minimal installation space and effort, cutting installation costs.
  • You can install heating controllers, allowing for precise temperature control in different rooms.
  • They have lower maintenance requirements and costs than gas boilers.

Cons:

  • Electricity typically costs more per unit of energy compared to natural gas and fossil fuels.
  • You may need to install multiple electric boilers to meet the heating needs of larger homes and properties. A gas boiler is better suited for larger spaces.
  • These boilers still produce carbon emissions indirectly because fossil fuels are used to make electricity.

11. Electric Radiators

Electric radiators may be an electric heating system lacking the renewable energy factor. But, their energy consumption still reduces your carbon footprint. These gas boiler alternatives convert electrical energy into heat through heating elements. They operate independently to warm individual rooms.

Cost: You can buy one for around £500, but it could reach upwards of £1,365 with installation. For reference, it costs around 51p an hour to run a 1.5 kW oil-filled radiator.

Pros:

  • They are typically affordable and easy to install due to minimal setup requirements compared to a gas boiler.
  • You can heat specific rooms instead of your entire home, saving on energy bills.
  • You can control the radiator’s temperature to match your heating needs.
  • Electric radiators produce no emissions during operation, as there are no combustion processes involved. This makes them more environmentally friendly than gas boilers.

Cons:

  • Electricity typically costs more per unit of energy compared to natural gas and fossil fuels. The operating costs are especially expensive when you heat larger rooms.
  • Although electric radiators don’t emit CO2 as a byproduct, it still uses electricity. Sadly, this means that they still negatively impact the environment.
  • Electric radiators take longer to heat up than central heating systems.

12. Combined Heat and Power (CHP)

Combined Heat and Power (CHP), also known as cogeneration, is a highly efficient method of generating electricity and heat from a single fuel source. In a CHP system, electricity is generated through a turbine or combustion engine. The byproduct of heat then transfers to a heating system.

Cost: An industrial 100 kW CHP can cost around £100,000

Pros:

  • CHP systems can provide significant combined savings on electricity and heating.
  • This option offers environmental benefits by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants. CHPs are better compared to separate power and heat generation methods.

Cons:

  • The upfront capital cost of installing a CHP system is steep and not subject to BUS grants.
  • You need ample space to install this system. It is more suited for industrialised businesses.
  • CHPs require a steady fuel supply, such as natural gas, biomass, or biogas, to generate electricity – which can be costly.

Micro-CHP systems

You can get micro combined heat and power (micro-CHP) boilers for your home. These systems are designed to provide electricity while simultaneously collecting heat waste. The heat waste is then used for space heating, hot water, or other thermal needs.

Cost: It will cost between £5,000 and £7,000 to install a typical micro-CHP boiler.

Pros:

  • Micro-CHPs are considered low-carbon technology. They have an electrical efficiency of 37% and a heat-recovery efficiency of 52%.
  • These systems can save on your heating and electricity costs.
  • There are numerous types of micro-CHP boilers available.

Cons:

  • Fuel supply, availability, and cost may fluctuate, which can complicate the system’s reliability.
  • Micro-CHP systems are complex and require regular maintenance to ensure optimal performance.
  • They’re noisy, and the vibrations they produce can be disruptive.

Why Consider An Alternative To A Gas Boiler

The main reason UK citizens should consider switching out their gas boilers is due to the government’s net-zero mission. This idea came into effect in 2015 to phase out the use of gas heating systems due to their effect on the planet. The government also plans to ban the sale of gas boilers by 2035.

Besides the government’s mission to make a greener change, there are other benefits to making the switch. These are the main advantages:

  • Energy efficiency: While gas boilers are efficient, alternative heating technologies may offer more efficiency.
  • Lower costs: Greener options may be costly to install at first, but you could save money on your energy bills in the long run.
  • Living off-grid: Off-grid heating systems, like heat pumps, protect you against external factors that may disrupt your heating energy supply. Extreme weather events, natural disasters, or infrastructure failures are some examples.
  • Increasing your home’s resale value: Buyers may perceive a renewable heating system as a valuable feature. This is especially true due to energy costs and environmental concerns continuing to rise.

Reducing your carbon footprint

Reducing carbon emissions is a top priority to protect our planet – our only possible home. When choosing one of these alternatives, it’s worth taking into account that making a greener change is an essential aspect. Not all heating systems help make a positive change, especially those running off fossil fuels. It’s best to find the balance between cost and the greater good.

FAQs

Can a gas boiler be replaced with an electric boiler?

Yes, you can replace a gas boiler with an electric one. Swapping over is a straightforward and affordable process. The UK Government is pushing towards low-carbon heating to achieve their net-zero quota. This means that they prefer electric boilers because they don’t directly produce carbon emissions.

How much do gas boiler alternatives cost?

There is a wide range of choices that vary in cost. The cheapest greener alternatives include electric boilers (between £900 and £4,500), air source heat pumps (between £8,000 and £18,000), and biomass boilers (£4000 to £21,000). Renewable energy heating systems can save you money in the long run.

What will replace gas boilers in the UK?

The UK Government is focusing its resources on hydrogen boilers but these systems are not yet in place. If the government is to ban gas boilers, the cheapest switch would be to electric boilers. In the meantime, you can opt for hydrogen-ready boilers to prepare for the predicted changes.

Conclusion

Some alternatives to gas boilers cost less to implement, while others save on energy bills in the long run. To help make things easier, the Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS) offers grants to UK residents. You can get grants for biomass boilers, and air source and ground source heat pumps. You can also opt for a hybrid system if a significant change isn’t possible.

Here at Eco Happy, we help you make the best choice. Feel free to get a quote from us for your new alternative heating system.

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