Eco Happy (Solar Expert)

Published February 23, 2024

At a time when many of us are looking to save money on energy bills, choosing the right heating system for our homes is paramount.

It’s crucial to make a smart investment decision. Ideally, you want heating that delivers what your home needs and is cost-effective in the long run.

At Eco Happy we have seen how modern houses benefit from modern heating solutions. That said, there is still a place for traditional systems. In this breakdown, we look at modern gas fireplaces vs traditional heating and explore the efficiency, costs, and advantages of each.

Gas Fire vs Central Heating: A Comparative Analysis

Why is a gas fire and central heating comparison useful? Over over 10 million UK homes have gas fireplaces and over 20 million have central heating. It’s well worth evaluating the efficiency, running costs, and heating capacity of these valued systems.

Analysing gas fires

When considering room-specific heating options, a gas fireplace is always in the discussion. These appliances use natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) to produce heat and flames.

A gas fire can be installed in various types of fireplaces depending on your preference. You may choose an inset fire or prefer it wall-mounted or freestanding.

An array of designs and styles from traditional to super contemporary are available.

Gas fire advantages

  • Cosy – A gas fire can create a cosy, toasty atmosphere in a small room within minutes. These appliances have a heat output ranging from 2 to 7 kW depending on the size and type of the fire, and can reach temperatures around 500°C.
  • Attractive home feature – A gas fireplace produces real flame effects and has an aesthetic appeal. This fireplace is not only great for heating one room but it can be a conversation-starting feature in the home.
  • Unaffected by boiler breakdowns – Separately installed gas fireplaces function independently from your boiler so aren’t affected if it conks out.

Efficiency

Referring to how well the unit converts gas into heat, the label of “higher efficiency” means less gas wasted and lower energy bills. Highly efficient models have an efficiency rate of over 80% which compares favourably to the average boiler rate of 75%.

Balanced flue gas fires have a rate of 94%. Flueless gas fires without chimneys promise a nearly 99+% rate since all the energy stays in the unit. Top modern electric boilers and gas condensing models also approach a 99% efficiency rate.

Running costs

Gas fires cost from £500 to over £2,000. The cost of having a gas fire installed is often less than £1,000. Running costs depend on loads of variables:

  • Size
  • Type – eg. flueless
  • Energy usage patterns
  • Your gas price
  • Energy efficiency of the fire
  • Thermostat settings
  • Size and insulation of the room

The average cost of gas in the UK is 7 pence per kWh based on the latest Ofgem price cap from 1 January 2024 (this may change from April 2024). Here is how you calculate your gas fire’s running cost: Identify the fire’s heat input rating in kWh and multiply it by your gas price per kWh. A gas fire with a heat input of 4 kW would currently cost around 28p hourly for the average homeowner paying 7p/kWh.

If the heat input rating is higher and the room is large and poorly insulated or your gas tariff is above the national average, the 28p could jump significantly.

It will still certainly be cheaper than an electric fire. With the average electricity price at 29p per kWh, an electric fire with a heat input of 4 kW would cost 76p per hour to run.

However, the cost to run an old gas fire with an efficiency rating closer to 50% than 100% is likely more expensive than modern centralised gas heating with advanced controls.

Analysing central heating

The central heating system of gas boilers, radiators, and water cylinders has been part of the UK infrastructure for decades. In recent times electric, combi, condensing, and system boilers have come to market, giving households more choice.

 Advantages of central heating

Central heating comes up trumps in terms of convenience and comfort.

  • Whole-house heating – Good central heating delivers the comforting embrace of whole-house heating. Thermostat controls let you set the temperature and timing of the toasty ambience you’re after.
  • Technological advancements – Technological advancements such as smart meters, wireless gauges, and thermostatic radiator valves help you monitor and adjust your heating more precisely. Remote control and only using what you need are two obvious advantages.
  • High-efficiency rating – The days when 30% or more of your energy was lost in the pipes are long gone. Modern home heating is exceeding 90% in energy efficiency.

 Efficiency

Central heating efficiency is often linked to the type and age of the boiler or heat pump. Its maintenance and servicing record can also be a good indicator of how much gas is effectively being converted into heat. A grumpy old unit that hasn’t seen an engineer for 18 months will be wasting gas.

Modern boilers are unquestionably more efficient than older ones. They have better insulation, modulation, and condensation features. Smart heating controls and electric thermostats empower you to operate the system efficiently.

Simple tips to keep your central heating performing optimally:

  • Check the appliance’s pressure and temperature regularly.
  • Bleed the radiators.
  • Have the system serviced annually.

Running costs

How much does a boiler cost to run? These appliances’ output sizes are also measured in kilowatts.

With a 35 kW boiler and a gas tariff of 7p per kilowatt hour, you would pay about £2.45 hourly to warm your home with gas. This translates to an annual central heating cost of over £21,000! Fortunately, you don’t need heating 24/7 for 365 days. In 2023 Oftec estimated annual central heating costs to be between £1,500 and £4,000 depending on heater type.

Installing a new boiler can cost £3,000 which means you’re in for over £5,000 including the appliance’s price. This is expensive but if you choose a new condensing boiler you will be rewarded with efficiency close to 100%.

 Which is cheaper? Gas fire or central heating?

At face value, the question isn’t an apples vs apples comparison. It might seem that using a gas fire to warm one room is cheaper… Or is it? Is central heating cheaper in certain scenarios?

A lot depends on how “smart” and energy-efficient your boiler system is. If you have adjustable radiators (i.e. those with thermostatic radiator valves) you can target the heat to that one room. If the boiler delivers more “bang for your buck” than a traditional fire, it can work out cheaper, especially in poorly insulated homes.

For an electric boiler, it’s a different story. With the current average unit price of electricity at 29p/kWh a halfway decent gas fire will win this comparison.

However, a gas fire can’t warm the whole house. You would need several gas fireplaces (or electric heaters) around the house for full coverage. This arrangement is more costly than a comparatively economical central heating model, especially if the house is large with high ceilings and isolated sections.

Tips to save on energy:

  • Ensure your home is well insulated. Closing curtains can help.
  • If you have a modern boiler, use the smart temperature controls to only heat where needed.
  • Turning down your thermostat by a single degree could shave £100 off your annual energy bill.

Choosing The Right Heating System For You

Although the right heating system is a highly individualised choice, you want to ensure you are investing in energy efficiency. Being energy-conscious benefits your home, your bills, and the environment.

Key factors to consider are:

The size of your home and how many rooms you need to heat. Larger homes might benefit from central heating while smaller spaces might be perfectly served by a fire (perhaps supplemented by a portable heater).

How often and how long do you use your heating? For example, it’s generally safe to have your radiators on while sleeping. Leaving your gas fire burning through the night is more risky.

How much are you willing to spend: upfront, on maintenance, and running costs? Sometimes, investing more upfront in a larger system can be more economical over time.

Environmental concerns. Gas fireplaces are the least environmentally friendly option. An electric boiler powered by solar or other renewable sources is a far greener option.

How important are aesthetics? One or more stylish fireplaces may suit your small home better than a standard centralised setup.

FAQs

Is a gas fire easy to install?

A gas fire is easier to install than central heating because it is less complex and involves less piping, fittings, and wiring.

Can thermal blinds make my gas fire more efficient?

Thermal blinds are a cost-effective way of reducing heat loss through windows. This makes your heating more effective.

Conclusion

Gas fires and central heating are two of the most common heating systems in the UK. A gas fire is more affordable upfront. It has style, promises decent energy efficiency, and can heat one room wonderfully.

Central heating may be pricier upfront but it offers comprehensive heating of the entire property. Modern boilers with advanced controls are efficient, equalling affordable running costs.

Making a well-informed choice involves considering your home, personal preferences, and budget – plus asking the experts. Eco Happy will be delighted to assist you with personalised quotes and all the advice you need.

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