Gas Boiler Alternatives

Heating in the UK is dominated by fossil fuels, with over 80% (around 24.5 million homes) supplied directly by our mains gas grid. Heating with a gas boiler is not only damaging to the environment, but it is becoming increasingly more expensive and unpredictable, given the volatile nature of energy prices – an average of 60% of energy bills are spent on space heating and a further 15% on hot water.

Heating in the UK is the biggest source of carbon emissions and accounts for about 37% of the total when including industrial processes, of this 13-14% can be attributed to domestic homes.

With a push towards more eco-friendly living and reduction in carbon emissions to tackle the climate crisis, looking at energy-efficient alternatives is a pretty smart idea both for the planet and your pocket with energy bill savings.

It’s possible to future-proof and enhance the value of your property by ditching gas boilers in favour of cleaner options. The UK Government have grants available via the Boiler Upgrade Scheme (replacement of the Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive that ended in March 2022).

So, if you are looking for a more environmentally-friendly and affordable way to heat your home, you may want to consider one of the best alternatives to gas boilers in this post.

I review features, environmental impact, pros, cons, and price. So, whether you are looking to switch to a greener option or are just trying to save money on your heating bill, read on for the best alternative heating options!

What are the best Gas Boiler Alternatives for Heating?

1. Heat Pumps

Overview

Heat Pumps are one of the most popular alternatives to gas central heating systems. They work by extracting heat from the surrounding environment – whether it be air, water or ground – and using it to heat your home.

For those looking for an environmentally-friendly way to heat their home, Heat Pump technology is a great option as they don’t burn fossil fuels (onsite) and are emissions-free. Note: they won’t be 100 per cent CO2 neutral if the electricity used is produced from burning fossil fuels.

They are one of the favourite low carbon heating systems available on the market today.

How does a heat pump work?

A heat pump is an electrically powered device that absorbs heat from the air, ground or water around a building. For example, air-source pumps suck in outdoor air and pass it over tubes containing refrigerant fluids to produce heat.

Heat pumps are extremely efficient, capable of producing 3 to 4 times more heat than conventional electric heaters using the same amount of electricity.

What’s more, heat pumps utilise a clean and sustainable source of power. This natural heat is constantly being replenished by the sun. Furthermore, heat pumps don’t produce carbon dioxide because there’s no combustion involved.

Check out this video from the Technology Collaboration Programme on Heat Pumping Technologies by IEA (HPT TCP) on Why heat pumps are a technology for the future:

Are there government incentives?

The Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (Domestic RHI), the UK government’s financial incentive for renewable heat technologies, covering air and ground-source heat pumps, biomass boilers and solar thermal panels closed to new applicants on 31 March 2022.

RHI has been replaced (April 2022) by the Boiler Upgrade Scheme. The new scheme offers £5000 upfront, to help with the cost of installing heat pumps and in some circumstances biomass boilers.

– Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHP)

Air Source Heat Pump

Overview

Air Source Heat Pump is a type of renewable energy technology that can be used for both heating and cooling your home. Check out The Best Air Source Heat Pumps of 2022: (Reviewed).

Air source heat pumps take heat from the air outside and pass it over a heat exchanger (some models can work in temperatures as low as -25C) and use it to heat your home.

There are two types of air-source heat pumps: air-to-air and air-to-water. They use the same method to generate heat, yet they provide it in different ways.

Air-to-air heat pumps utilise a network of fans to distribute the heat and can be used for cooling during the summer months.

Air-to-water heat pumps are used to heat water then distribute warmth via central heating systems (radiators and underfloor heating)

Pros:

  • ASHPs are popular alternatives to gas boilers
  • They are safer than gas
  • They are extremely reliable and operate all year round with lifespans of around 20 years
  • They don’t produce any emissions, making them a great choice for those who care about being green
  • They are very efficient, using a small amount of electricity to circulate the heat
  • Some models can cool your home as well as heat it

Cons:

  • ASHP can be expensive to install, and they may not be suitable for all homes
  • You may need to upgrade radiators in your home as some heat pumps do not heat water as hot as a traditional boiler
  • Only suitable for homes with outside space
  • Some models can have noisy outdoor fans
  • Efficiency drops when the outside temperature is below zero
  • The home must be well insulated (not necessarily a con and this reduced heating requirements, but not doing first may result in an incorrectly sized solution with poor efficiency and operating costs)

Cost: Typically cost between £8,000 and £12,000 to install

Check Boiler Upgrade Scheme: https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/environmental-and-social-schemes/boiler-upgrade-scheme-bus


– Ground Source Heat Pumps (GSHP)

Ground Source Heat Pumps

Overview

A Ground Source Heat Pump takes advantage of the fact underground temperatures (extending from 1-2 meters down) sit at a consistent 10-15C all year round. GSHPs are able to extract heat from the ground and use it to provide central heating for your home and hot water.

GSHPs utilise a network of pipes that are buried underground where a refrigerant liquid is circulated to absorb the heat from the ground. The liquid then travels back up to the heat pump where it’s further heated before being circulated around the central heating system.

Hot water can also be provided via an immersion heater within a hot water cylinder.

Pros:

  • GSHPs are popular alternatives to gas boilers
  • They are safer than gas and oil boilers
  • They are extremely reliable and operate all year round with low maintenance
  • They don’t produce any carbon emissions
  • They are very efficient, using a small amount of electricity to circulate the heat

Cons:

  • GSHPs can be expensive to install, and they may not be suitable for all homes favouring larger commercial/industrial properties.
  • Only homes with a garden can get one
  • Disruption to your garden during installation
  • Most effective if you have underfloor or air heating systems

Cost: Typically cost for a Ground Source Heat Pump installation is between £10,000 and £18,000

Check Boiler Upgrade Scheme: https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/environmental-and-social-schemes/boiler-upgrade-scheme-bus


2. Heat Batteries

Heat Batteries

Overview

Heat Batteries are a new technology that is starting to gain popularity as alternatives to gas boilers.

They work by storing thermal energy and then releasing it when needed to heat your home, much like more traditional storage heaters.

One of the benefits of using a heat battery is that you can store energy generated from renewable sources, such as solar or wind power, and use it to heat your home.

There are a few different types of heat batteries available, some of the most popular types include molten salt, gas hydrates and lithium-ion.

Heat batteries are still a relatively new technology, so they tend to be more expensive than other alternative gas central heating systems. However, as they become more popular, the price is likely to come down.

Pros:

  • Easy to install, most can fit where your boiler is, or in a space the size of a washing machine
  • You can store energy generated from renewable sources, such as solar PV panels, or wind power, and use it to heat your home just like a regular storage heater
  • Long lifespan with some models expected to last more than 20 years
  • They can work with existing radiators and pipework
  • No need for outside space

Cons:

  • Heat batteries are still a relatively new technology, so they tend to be a more expensive option
  • They are heavy, with smaller units weighing in excess of 100kg. This means they must be installed on a solid floor and will need some lifting equipment to move into place.
  • Expensive if charged during peak times or without a time-of-use tariff – if not using your own source of renewable electricity
  • Not eligible for the UK Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive grant

Cost: Heat Batteries typically cost between £3,000 and £12,000 to install, depending on the size of your home. A typical 3-bedroom house will be around £5,000.


3. Hybrid Heating Systems

Overview

Hybrid Heating Systems are a combination of two or more different heating systems. For example, you could have a gas boiler that is used as your primary heating system, and then use a heat pump or solar thermal panels as a supplementary system.

One of the benefits of using a hybrid system is that you can take advantage of the strengths of each individual system. For example, you could use your gas boiler to provide most of the heat for your home, but then use your heat pump to supplement it when needed.

Another benefit of using a hybrid system is that you can offset some of the costs by using renewable energy sources. If you have solar panels installed, you could use them to supplement your existing gas boiler during the daytime with an electric boiler.

Pros:

  • You can take advantage of the strengths of each individual system
  • You can offset some of the costs by using other energy sources
  • Longer life-span than just a boiler, as the boiler is only used part-time
  • Balances eco-friendliness of a heat pump with reliability of a boiler

Cons:

  • They can be more expensive to install than other gas boiler heating systems
  • A hybrid heating system is not as eco-friendly as some of the other heating systems listed
  • Need some outdoor space

Cost: Typically cost between £5,000 and £10,000 to install.


4. Infrared Heating Panels

Infrared Heating Panels

Overview

Infrared Heating Panels work by emitting infrared radiation that is absorbed by the objects in the room. This then causes them to release heat, which warms the room.

Infrared heating panels are a great option for those looking for an efficient and economical way to heat their home. They are also a good choice for those who want to avoid having radiators on display in their home.

One of the downsides of infrared heating panels is that they can be quite expensive to install. However, they do offer a high return on investment, so you should be able to recoup your costs over time. See my follow-up article on The Rise of Infrared Panels

Pros:

  • They are a great option for those looking for an efficient and economical way to heat their home
  • They are completely silent
  • They are safer than gas with zero heating emissions
  • They are a low maintenance option compared to other home heating systems
  • Ideal for allergy sufferers as air is not circulated

Cons:

  • They can be quite expensive to install, however, you should be able to recoup your costs over time
  • Infrared radiation doesn’t heat the air but materials that absorb heat, so rooms can feel colder when switched off
  • The panels have a short range of up to 3 metres
  • You won’t feel warm if an object is between you and the heater

Cost: Infrared Heating Panels typically cost around £500 per panel.


5. Solar Thermal Panels

Solar Thermal Panels

Overview

Solar Thermal Panels work by capturing the sun’s energy and converting it into heat. This heat can then be used to warm your home or to generate electricity.

They are a great choice for those who want to reduce their carbon footprint and help promote renewable energy. They are also a good option for those who want to save money on their heating bill.

One of the downsides is that they can be expensive to install.

Pros:

  • No carbon emissions
  • Solar systems work will boilers and heat pumps
  • They are low maintenance and low running cost option
  • Can provide up to 50% of a home’s hot water needs

Cons:

  • They can be expensive to install compared to gas or oil boilers
  • They are weather dependent – requiring frequent sunny days.
  • Not compatible with all heating systems
  • Can’t be used as the sole source of heating or hot water on colder, shorter winter days

Cost: Typically costs are between £5,000 and £7,000 to install.


6. Biomass Boilers and Stoves

 Biomass Boilers and Stoves

Overview

Biomass Boilers and Stoves work by burning wood or other organic materials to generate heat. This heat can then be used to warm your home or to generate electricity.

A stove is used to heat a single room, but a biomass boiler is more of a direct substitute for a gas boiler, heating your entire house and hot water.

One of the downsides of biomass boilers and stoves is that they require more maintenance than gas equivalent. Woodburning stove owners must ensure that the chimney and flue pipes are swept professionally each year.

Pros:

  • They are a great choice for those who want a sustainable and carbon-neutral way to heat their home
  • Cheap fuel source and an efficient way to use up waste wood
  • Practical for remote locations
  • Qualify for the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme (RHI)

Cons:

  • They require more maintenance than gas boilers. For example, you will need to regularly clean the boiler and empty the ashtray.
  • They can be quite expensive to install
  • They must have a flue that meets with regulations
  • Subject to the varying cost of fuel pellets
  • Biomass boilers are larger than gas or oil equivalents and you will need space for the fuel
  • All new wood heating systems have to comply with building regulations, so check with your local planning authority before installing
  • Need more space than gas or oil boilers

Cost: Biomass Boilers and Stoves typically cost between £5,000 and £13,000 to install.


7. Solar-powered Electric Heating

Solar-powered Electric Heating

Overview

Solar-powered Electric Heating works by capturing the sun’s energy and converting it into electricity via solar panels or photovoltaic (PV) cells. This electricity can then be used to power your home’s heating system.

One of the downsides of solar-powered electric heating is that it can be expensive to install. However, you should be able to recoup your costs over time through reduced energy bills.

Pros:

  • They are safer than gas
  • Low maintenance costs
  • Solar panels are completely silent, making them ideal for cities and home applications
  • Easy to install on rooftops or on the ground

Cons:

  • One of the downsides of solar-powered electric heating is that it can be expensive to install, although costs are dropping all the time
  • Not all homes are suitable
  • They can be damaged relatively easily so additional insurance is recommended to protect a solar PV investment
  • Solar panels have poor efficiency levels when compared to the efficiencies of other green energy sources.

Cost: Typically costs are between £2,000 and £8,000 depending on the number of PV cells needed

Alternative to gas boilers FAQ.

What will replace gas boilers in 2025?

The gas boiler, a mainstay of home heating since the 19th century, is being phased out in Britain. The government has committed to phasing out “unabated” gas boilers in new homes from 2025 and replacing them with low-carbon alternatives.

Why are gas boilers being phased out from 2025?

There are a number of reasons why gas boilers are being phased out:

1. Gas boilers account for around 60% of domestic carbon emissions
2. They are a major source of air pollution, contributing to poor air quality and respiratory problems such as asthma.
3. Gas is a finite resource that will eventually run out – we need to start using renewable energy sources now.

There are a number of low carbon heating systems alternatives that can provide efficient and cost-effective heating for your home.

Why do people prefer gas boilers?

Undoubtedly, gas is the most popular type of boiler in the UK, as they are efficient and affordable and have a high Annual Fuel Utilisation Efficiency (AFUE) rating, meaning that they convert a high percentage of the energy used into heat.

Despite the fact that burning natural gas generates carbon dioxide, most gas boilers are quite efficient. The advantage of utilising other sorts of central heating systems is that they may frequently be driven using renewable energy, whereas a gas boiler can’t.

What about hydrogen boilers?

Hydrogen boilers are a newer technology that is becoming increasingly popular. Hydrogen boilers have a higher AFUE rating than the gas equivalent, meaning that they are even more efficient. Hydrogen boilers also produce zero emissions, making them an environmentally-friendly choice.

What about oil or Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) boilers?

Oil and LPG boilers are less popular alternatives to gas boilers, but they are still a good option for those who do not have access to gas and are two of the most common alternatives to gas central heating

Oil and LPG boilers both have a high AFUE rating, meaning that they are efficient. However, oil and LPG can be more expensive to purchase and maintain than gas.

From an environmental and safety perspective they are not as good as gas boilers and produce substantially more CO2 emissions than their natural gas-fired counterparts. Both oil and LPG are flammable, which means that they can be dangerous if not installed and maintained properly

Just like gas-fired boilers, LPG and oil boilers come in conventional and combination varieties providing options of heating lots of water at once to supply a large household, or having hot water on demand.

What about electric boilers?

Electric boilers are becoming increasingly popular as they become more efficient. Electric boilers have a high AFUE rating, meaning that they convert a high percentage of the energy used into heat. Electric boilers also produce zero emissions, making them an environmentally-friendly choice, more so as the UK move towards more renewable electricity.

Electric boilers are a good choice for those who want to use renewable energy sources to heat their home. They are also a good option for those who want to save money on their heating bill (and who doesn’t want this?).

What are the benefits of these eco-friendly alternatives?

1. Reduced carbon footprint
2. Reduced heating costs/energy bills
3. Increased home value
4. Helping to promote renewable energy sources
5. Tax credits and grants are available for some options (see the Energy Saving Trust for details)

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