Gas boilers are still very much the UK’s heating system of choice.
Around 80 per cent of British homes are heated by natural gas – a higher percentage than many other comparable countries.
But considering alternatives to a gas boiler could reduce both your heating bills and your carbon footprint.
Here, we explore some of the other options available to heat your home if you’re thinking about a new boiler.
Why not stick with gas boilers?
People are now opting for gas boiler alternatives for financial, environmental or lifestyle reasons.
There are plenty of options out there if you want or need a new boiler replacement, from systems that run on oil or liquified petroleum gas (LPG) to low-carbon heat pumps and solar power.
‘Traditional’ gas boiler alternatives
For those homes not connected to the gas network, traditional alternatives have been oil boilers, LPG and electricity.
LPG or oil boilers
Oil, LPG and natural gas are similar as they’re all fossil fuels, but rather than being delivered through a pipe network like gas, oil and LPG are stored in tanks on-site.
This ability to store the fuel at the property is why oil boilers prove popular with homeowners who live ‘off-grid’.
This reduces energy output (oil is a more efficient fuel than gas) and running costs of an oil-fired boiler are usually a lot lower than an electric boiler.
All modern boilers use electricity to operate, but electric boilers actually use electricity as fuel to heat water.
Electric boilers are said to be safer than gas and oil boilers (there’s no danger of carbon monoxide poisoning) and are less likely to need repairing. But they’re not designed to meet high demand for hot water and heating so are better suited to smaller properties if you’re looking for a boiler replacement.
Low carbon heating systems are better for the environment as they don’t produce carbon when they heat the home.
Many produce heat using sustainable energy sources including the sun, the air and the ground.
Biomass boilers operate in a similar way to conventional boilers, but rather than burning fossil fuel, they burn biological material made from plant-based organisms such as logs, chips or pellets.
Large amounts of waste wood is sent to landfill each year but a significant proportion is now reclaimed and used as fuel for biomass systems.
Unfortunately biomass boilers often require a lot of maintenance – more than other heating systems – and the ash residue from burning wood needs to be cleaned out regularly.
Ground source heat pumps
Heat from the sun warms up the ground every day, no matter the weather.
At a depth of 1-2 metres underground, the temperature is a consistent 10-15C.
Ground source heat pumps extract this constant heat and use it for domestic central heating and hot water.
It can be expensive and complicated to install, as a series of pipes are buried underground, with a refrigerant liquid circulating through them to absorb the heat.
From there the liquid travels up to the heat pump, where it’s then circulated around the central heating system.
Solar thermal panels
Solar thermal panels absorb heat during daylight hours and use the sun’s energy to power a central heating system.
The solar panels contain tubes of fluid which soak up heat from the sun. This is passed through a heat exchanger which then warms up water in a cylinder, or radiators around the home.
It’s worth noting that until March 2022, homeowners can apply for a government Green Homes Grant of up to £5,000 to help pay for renewable heating systems and energy efficiency improvements.
When it comes to boiler replacement, moving away from gas boilers may feel like a big step, but it’s all about taking positive action which adds up to a big win for the planet.