Eco Happy (Solar Expert)

Published February 23, 2024

When winter’s icy chill is all around, will your central heating system defend you against the cold, or is it going to add to your shivers and quivers?

Imagine sitting all warm and snug watching your favourite show, enjoying the warmth within, when your heating system decides to give up the ghost. Then you would sit there under a pile of blankets, iced to the bones, shivering with the cold. Your central heating system holds the key to a cosy winter. It needs to meet your needs, so you need the best central heating system possible.

Living in the UK without a reliable central heating system is a winter nightmare. That is why it is important to know what type of central heating system you are using as well as your boiler type. Let’s explore the importance of knowing your central heating systems to keep your home a cosy haven.

Types Of Central Heating Systems

If you want to uncover the best central heating systems, you need to understand them. So what types of central heating systems are there, and how do they work? What are their features and advantages?

Let’s turn up the heat as we do a heating system comparison in the UK.

Wet heating system

Wet central heating systems are usually boiler systems to heat the water, which then circulates through pipes throughout your house to warm it up. Sometimes the water is used for underfloor heating, and sometimes the heat is dispersed through radiators and grills. Typically, the same water can be used for a relaxing shower or to clean some dirty dishes.

In the UK, 90% of dwellings have a wet heating system installed. There are three types of boilers: a combi boiler, a regular boiler, or a system boiler (we will discuss these in greater detail below). And this is what gives you hot water on demand. With modern boilers, you have climate-appropriate heating solutions at your fingertips.

The heat is distributed evenly throughout the building, which makes every nook and cranny cosy. Because the system works efficiently, you can also save money on your utility bill. It’s quieter than older heating systems, and because it is water, there is less dust being blown about.

Best for: Wet central heating systems work well in homes with existing pipework, especially in older buildings, or in new developments.

How to identify: The system will have a boiler that heats the water. The hot water is then circulated through radiators or used directly out of the taps.

Warm air heating system

Historically, warm-air heating systems were prevalent in UK dwellings. Approximately 0.5% of dwellings still have a warm air heating system, but they only have a lifespan of up to 20 years. Finding spare parts is becoming increasingly difficult as they are rare and therefore more expensive.

When renovating homes where warm air systems are already in place, it may be easier to maintain the existing heating system. However, consideration needs to be made for the cost-efficiency of maintaining an old system compared to installing and maintaining a new central heating system. (We’ve prepared a guide on central heating installation costs if you want to know more).

The warm-air heating system works simply. A furnace pulls in cold air, then heats it, generally with a boiler, and the hot air is pushed through ducts and vents throughout the dwelling.

A warm-air heating system is often controlled with a thermostat to help regulate the heat. Some buildings have zone control so that different areas can receive different amounts of heat.

Warm-air systems were popular in the mid-1900s because they were easy to install and integrate. However, they often give rise to issues like uneven heating and higher energy and maintenance costs.

Best for: Warm air heating is best kept in older properties where this system is already installed. While the hot air is blowing inside, the Arctic winds can stay at the door.

How to identify: Look for a system that heats cold air with a central boiler and distributes hot air through vents and air ducts.

Storage heating systems

Storage heating systems work differently from conventional heating systems. They work on a concept very similar to a battery, which, once charged, can power different devices. These systems use ceramic blocks, water tanks, and boilers to generate and store heat during off-peak times and then gradually release the heat throughout the day.

The benefit of a storage heating system is that it requires less maintenance than a conventional heating system and is quieter. Overall, they are cost-efficient because they rely on off-peak electricity to generate heat.

The downside of this type of system is that it is often bulky and too large to fit comfortably into a modern home. The heat isn’t necessarily evenly distributed, and you cannot quickly adjust the heat if the temperature suddenly plummets. This can leave you shivering in your boots while you wait for the next time the heat is released.

Best for: This type of heating is best for eco-conscious households who would like to save costs by using off-peak electricity.

How to identify: This system uses electric storage heaters that store heat in firebricks overnight and release it gradually during the day.

District heating system

A district heating system, which is also known as a heat network, is an underground heating system. Pipes are laid underground in a city or village, and the heat is produced and distributed from a central place to the buildings connected to the network. Each building doesn’t need a separate boiler, as the hot water travels through the pipes to each building.

The district heating system is quite rare in the UK, with less than 2% of households using this system. A district heating system aims to reduce costs. It is a more eco-friendly option for heating because fewer boilers are burning to produce the same amount of heat.

District heating systems could potentially have a positive impact on communities and the environment. This is because the system-connected network relies less on individuals using fuel, so there are fewer emissions. Implementing a heat network system, though, would take a massive initial outlay. Also, if the system did use fossil fuels (as some do), this wouldn’t have any positive impact on the environment.

Best for: Close-knit communities or developments looking for sustainable heating options.

How to identify: This system has a central location where the heat is produced centrally and distributed via insulated pipes to nearby buildings.

Central Heating Systems By Boiler Type

At the heart of the heating system is the boiler. Whether you have a gas central heating system or electric boilers, your central heating system relies on this unit to fuel the heating system so that you can stay warm. Let’s look at the combi boiler, system boiler, and regular boiler.

Combi boiler heating system

Combi boilers make use of advanced heating technologies to heat water and provide central heating. Everything happens in a single unit, and as it provides water on-demand, there is no external water tank to hold additional water. It is generally a compact unit, which is perfect for smaller dwellings.

Advantages

  • The combi boiler systems are compact and save space.
  • It is an on-demand heating system, so you don’t have to wait for the water to warm up.
  • Energy efficient, as they save money on your utility bill.

Best for: This compact unit is best for small to medium-sized homes with limited space.

How to identify: This compact unit provides both heating and hot water without the need for separate cylinders or tanks.

System boiler

A system boiler heats water in a separate water tank to power the central heating system in your home. It offers even heat distribution throughout your home, keeping you warm and snug through the winter. A system boiler can be an electric, gas or oil boiler.

Advantages

  • Highly efficient.
  • It is easy to control temperatures through the thermostat.
  • Durable with simple internal parts.

Best for: Homes with high heating and hot water demand.

How to identify: This central heating system is designed for high heating and hot water demand, typically with a separate water cylinder for a continuous hot water supply.

Regular boiler

A regular boiler is a traditional boiler. It has a hot water tank with an additional cold water tank and heats the water for your heating system.

Advantages

  • It is flexible, as you can upsize the hot water cylinder if you have a higher demand for hot water.
  • It is highly efficient and can help you save money on your utility bill.
  • You can control the temperatures of the water and the heating system separately.

Best for: This heating unit is best for larger homes with multiple bathrooms and high hot water demand.

How to identify: The traditional boiler has a separate hot water cylinder and cold-water tank for heating and hot water.

FAQs

Are gas boilers more cost-efficient than electric boilers?

Yes, gas boilers are generally more cost-efficient than an electric central heating system. This can be affected by regional costs of gas and if your boiler system is well maintained.

Can I control my central heating system remotely?

Some systems offer digitally controlled systems. This means that you can make the central heating system work remotely. It is useful if you are always wondering if you turned off the heating system before you left home.

Is a wet central heating system better than a dry central heating system?

This is purely dependent on your situation and circumstances. If you have allergies, then it is best to stick to a wet central heating system. If you want hot water on demand, then having a boiler with a hot water cylinder may be a good choice.

Conclusion

It is very important to know which system you have and what it can do for you. It is always advised to consult a professional for advice and to assess your unique requirements. Get a professional consultation from Eco Happy and get the best heating advice. This will save you from fighting over blankets and blanket-piling on the bed at night, so contact us today.

Never underestimate the power of a cosy blanket and a steaming mug of hot chocolate. These are the perfect companions in winter, along with your favourite friend – your central heating system.

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