Central heating is the easiest and most cost-effective way of heating your home in the long term, soon proving much more economical than using freestanding gas or electric fires, or burning solid fuels such as coal. While the initial cost of central heating installation can be rather hefty, the cost savings for the medium to long term soon outweigh the outlay for the system’s purchase and installation, and so it is a false economy to try to get such things done on the cheap and risk ending up with a poor installation that is not fit for purpose, or worse, unsafe.
In this article we will look at some of the different options for central heating systems, the pros and cons of the most popular systems, and how to pick the right person to install your new central heating system for you.
Central heating systems availble in Sheffield
There are three basic types of central heating systems, and the vast majority of homes’ systems will fall into one of these three broad categories. We will cover the basics of each of these three systems below.
Boiler/heat exchange unit with radiators, also known as a wet system
A “wet system” involves the use of a boiler or heat exchanger, which feeds radiators installed throughout the house.
A system of pipes, usually made of copper, connect radiators to each other and to the boiler or heat exchanger, and through these pipes, water circulates to feed the entire system. This type of system is the one that is most widely used in the UK. Additionally, the piping for the radiators may also connect to a hot water storage cylinder, to heat and provide hot water to serve the sinks and baths or showers.
The boilers involved in wet central heating systems are most commonly fuelled by gas, although LPG and heating oil options are also available, albeit less common. Electric boilers are another option, but again, gas boilers outnumber electric systems by quite some degree.
Warm air central heating
Warm air central heating systems reached the peak of their popularity in the 1960’s and 1970’s, but today, are rarely installed new, having been overtaken in the popularity stakes by wet systems.
Warm air central heating systems work by means of heating air through a boiler (usually powered by gas) which is then pumped out through ducts distributed throughout the home, by means of vents in the walls.
Whilst warm air systems have fallen out of favour in domestic installations, they are still widely used in many commercial buildings, where they may form part of a multipurpose HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system.
Finally, the third common type of central heating system is a storage heating system, which is powered by electricity and can be widely found in homes that are gas-free. Storage heaters are large, wall-mounted units that contain heater bricks that can absorb and retain heat for several hours at a time. This heat can then be pumped out from the unit later on, with adjustable controls on each individual unit.
The basic function of storage heater systems relies upon the variance in electricity pricing depending on the time of day-storage heaters are designed to use power, and so, heat the internal heater bricks during the off-peak electricity tariff hours of the day, known as Economy 7 and Economy 10. The retained heat can then be controlled and vented into the home throughout the day.
Because storage heater systems rely on being able to operate and use power during the off-peak tariff periods only, they are usually wired into the home as a standalone system, separate from the main electrical installation that is used throughout the peak hours of day. If the weather is particularly cold or the storage heaters have not had time to build up heat, they can also be used to provide instant heat using peak-rate electricity at any time, although regular use of the system in this way can soon prove to be prohibitively expensive.
A Short Video Explaining How Central Heating Works in a House
The above 7 minute 22 second video gives you a basic insight into how centreal heating works in a home.
Which system is best?
Warm air central heating is rarely installed in new systems today, and so ultimately, the two main choices for a new installation come down to either a wet system, or a storage heater system.
The benefits of the storage heater system is that it is available to all homes, including those that do not have a mains gas supply, and also that they are less complex to install and maintain than a gas-fired boiler and wet system. However, like for like, the cost of heating one’s home with electricity as opposed to gas is usually notably higher, due to the cost per unit for electricity when compared to that of gas.
Additionally, whilst storage heater systems can offer instant heat, in order to keep costs down, making proper and effective use of the storage option does require some pre-planning.
Wet systems tend to be a lot cheaper to run than electric storage heater systems, and are very efficient. However, for homes that are not on the grid for mains gas, the options for running a wet system also include oil, electricity or bottled LPG gas, which makes finding a supplier of fuel an additional issue.
Choosing the right person to install your system
As mentioned, warm air central heating and wet central heating systems are very different, both in terms of how they work and the fuel that they use, and the type of skills ad competency required to install and maintain them.
For a wet system that operates on gas, you should ensure that you hire only a Gas Safe Registered heating engineer to design and install your system, in order to make sure that your system is both safe and fit for purpose, and that it complies with all of the current legislation for domestic gas usage.
An electrician is the right person to install a storage heating system, and whilst the installation of such is often more straightforward than a gas installation, it is still a large, complex job, and so it is important to find a qualified and experienced electrical engineer to undertake the task of installing your system.