Heating our homes comes with a hefty price tag. According to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, on average 60% of energy bills is spent on space heating, and a further 15% on hot water. With such a large sum of money needed to power home heating systems, finding the best possible alternative to gas boilers is paramount to minimise monthly outgoings.
Why look at alternatives to gas boilers?
It’s an expensive business upgrading or replacing a gas boiler. Given the volatile nature of energy prices and the current push for eco-friendly living, looking at the alternatives to gas boilers is a pretty smart idea. Not only will you reduce the risk of carbon monoxide building up in your home, you’ll also be future-proofing and adding value to your house.
We hope to make your life a little easier by listing our top 4 alternatives to gas boilers.
Top 4 alternatives to gas boilers
1: Infrared heating panels
We consider infrared heating panels as a fine alternative to gas boilers. Unlike convection heating systems that warm the air, these panels emit infrared energy, which is absorbed into solid objects. This absorbed energy causes the molecules to vibrate, warming the object, person or room.
Infrared heating panels prove a highly effective method of heating – remarkably, even more so than many convection heating systems.
- Operates silently
- Takes up little space
- Little maintenance
- Ideal for allergy sufferers as the air isn’t circulated
- May not be as effective if objects are placed between the panels and people
- Doesn’t warm up the air, so the room will feel colder immediately when switched off
- Infrared energy travels through glass, so mustn’t face a window
- Has a short range of up to 3 metres
2: Solar thermal panels
Solar thermal panels are worth considering as a gas boiler alternative. These eco-friendly systems absorb heat from the sun in solar collectors, which are fitted to your roof. The heated fluid is then transferred to your hot water tank, where it’s ready to use.
Sadly, solar thermal panels aren’t enough to meet a typical house’s heating demands on its own, so they’re often used in conjunction with infrared heating panels or heat pumps. As with all renewable energy technologies, you can expect a high upfront cost, but the returns are significant.
- Eco-friendly home heating system that uses heat from the sun
- Little maintenance required
- Eligible to recoup a large portion of the initial payment back from the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI)
- Can provide 50% of hot water needs
- Weather dependent
- Can’t meet the heating demand of a whole house, must be used as a secondary heating system
- High upfront cost
3: Biomass boilers and stoves
Domestic wood-fuelled heating systems (biomass systems) burn logs or wood chips and pellets. Biomass fuels may also include animal, food and industrial waste. A stove is used to heat a single room, whereas a biomass boiler is more of a direct gas boiler alternative, heating your whole house and hot water. Stoves are only eligible for the Renewable Heat Incentive if it is a pellet stove with a back boiler.
The carbon dioxide emitted when wood is burned is the same as was absorbed over the same time that the plant was growing, thus making the process sustainable. Worth bearing in mind is who can provide and deliver these fuels locally to you.
The bad news is that biomass boilers and stoves require regular cleaning to remove ash (some of have self-cleaning systems). Wood burning stove and boiler owners must ensure that the chimney and flue pipes are swept professionally each year. Furthermore, wood boilers are larger than gas or oil equivalents. You will need space for the fuel and a regulation-meeting flue – either an existing lined chimney or a new insulated stainless-steel pipe. All new wood heating systems have to comply with building regulations, so it’s best to check with your local planning authority to find out if planning permission is required.
We therefore recommend looking at biomass boilers, which can use the same fuel to heat your home evenly via a central heating system and heat your water. Although initially pricey, biomass boilers are superb alternatives to gas boilers. They offer returns that more than justify the initial expense.
- Eligible for Renewable Heat Incentive payments
- Green heating option (potentially carbon-neutral)
- Potential savings of up to £800 a year (Energy Saving Trust)
- Cheap fuel source
- Require more space than a typical gas boiler
- Must have a flue that meets with regulations
- Labour intensive – refilling with fuel, cleaning
- High upfront cost
- Subject to varying cost of wood pellets
4: Heat pumps
A heat pump is a device that uses a small amount of electricity to absorb the natural heat from a cold space and release it in a warmer one. It does this by employing the same method of heat transfer as a fridge, only in reverse. Additionally, reversible heat pumps can provide heating in the winter and cooling in the summer.
Heat pumps are extremely efficient, capable of producing 3 or 4 times more heat than conventional electric heaters using the same amount of electricity. They’re also extremely reliable and operate all year round, making them an excellent option for homes. Although the initial cost of installation is high, when combined with the RHI payments and energy bill savings, they make a lot of sense.
What’s more, heat pumps utilise a clean and sustainable source of power. This natural heat is constantly being replenished by the sun, unlike most other fuels. Furthermore, heat pumps don’t produce greenhouse gases because there’s no combustion involved.
- Relatively high upfront cost
What is the best alternative to gas boiler for me?
To conclude, now is a great time to consider your heating options, the reason being the current sky-high energy prices and the large amount of money available from the Renewable Heat Incentive. Upon studying the best gas boiler alternatives, we assure that less of your cash will be flying up your flue. In light of this, we consider the heat pump as the most effective alternative to gas boilers.