Heating & Hot Water

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Heating And Hot Water

Heating and hot water account for half the energy bills in the average UK household. 

With the frequent increase in fuel costs, it’s smart to look for a cost-effective heating system. 

Besides this, choosing a carbon-neutral heating system is essential for reducing carbon dioxide emissions. 

As a homeowner, understanding your heating system is quite important. 

The average UK home has either a central heating system, such as a boiler or radiator, or electric storage heater.

Many UK homes also have a secondary heating system that works together with the central heating system. 

All there are what we’re look into in this guide.

Central Heating

A typical UK home uses a central heating system. 

This system involves a boiler heating up water that the collectors receive through the pipes and send to the radiators. 

The water also goes to the bathroom and the kitchen taps.

While mains gas is the common fuel for boilers, some boilers run on wood, coal, electricity, or oil. 

Mains gas is preferred to other fuels for its low cost and low carbon emissions. For increased efficiency, some boilers have electric immersion heaters.

Energy-Saving Improvements For Central Heating System

You can increase the energy-saving capacity of your central heating system with certain improvements, including:

  • Replacing the boiler with a more efficient model
  • Using better controls and using the boiler only when needed
  • Using a carbon-neutral fuel or technology
  • Improving your home insulation 
  • Using chemical inhibitors increase the system efficiency

What Type Is My Boiler?

Condensing Boiler

The most common gas boiler in the UK is the condensing boiler. Gaining since 2005, condensing boilers are more efficient as they have bigger heat exchangers that generate more heat from burning gas.

To know if you own a condensing boiler, check for the following:

A plastic flue: most condensing boilers have a plastic flue, so your boiler might not be a condensing boiler if the flue is made of metal.

Plastic pipe from the bottom: you’re likely to own a condensing boiler if it has a plastic pipe extending from the bottom to the wall and into a drain.

Combi Vs Regular Boiler

Both boilers are efficient but at different sections. 

While a regular boiler will produce hot water with low energy, it easily loses some heat through the hot water in the cylinder. 

For overall efficiency, a combi boiler is a great deal.

Combi Boiler

Instead of storing the hot water in a cylinder, a combi boiler heats the hot water directly only when needed. This combination might be oil, gas, or LPG boilers. 

Regular Boiler

The only difference between a combi and a regular boiler is the presence of a hot water cylinder. 

A regular boiler heats hot water and stores it in a hot water cylinder and provides the water when requested for.

Electric Heating

In the absence of a boiler and radiator, electric storage heaters are a suitable option. An electric heating system works with dual-rate electricity tariffs. 

The heaters charge during the supplier’s off-peak, cheaper period. It stores this heat for when needed. 

A storage heating system requires you to install panel heaters and immersion heaters for heating up your hot water.

This system is more common in UK homes with no mains gas connection.

It’s important mentioning that electric heating is not cheaper and is the most expensive heating system in the UK. Besides, electric heating is known for high carbon-dioxide emission. 

However, these shouldn’t be a concern since the UK is gradually shifting from using oil and gas, and the national grid now focuses more on low-carbon renewable energy.

Energy-Saving Improvements For Electric Storage Heating System

Consider these energy-saving improvements for your electric heating system:

Fit new, automatic charge control storage heaters: this helps the heating system automatically work on its own without the owner having to use the output and input dials. 

Insulating the system also helps maximize efficiency, as this ensures it stores more heat against when needed.

Add draught-proofing and insulation improvements.

Consider replacing the system with a more efficient central heating system. Options for this replacement include a heat pump or any other renewable heating system.

How To Use The Manual Controls For Energy Saving

  • You can save more energy with your electric heating system by switching off the output section about an hour before going out or going to bed
  • Switching the heaters off in summer
  • Keeping the thermostat at 18 to 21 degrees, depending on what is comfortable for you

Secondary Heating

Secondary heating means combining another heating system with your central heating system. Common options of seconding heating are fixed gas fires and portable electric heaters. 

Though most central heating systems installed since 2005 are efficient, it’s ideal to install an individual heater that can help heat one space when the need arises.

Older, manual electric storage heaters should be used with caution. Only use them when necessary, as they usually work with more expensive, peak tariff.

Installing A Heating System

The first thing to bear in mind when planning to install or replace a gas heater is the installer you hire for the project. It’s always ideal to use a Gas Safe Register installer. 

Using a qualified electrician for storage heaters ensures you’re trusting your work to a competent hand. 

If you find it hard finding a qualified electrician, the Competent Persons Register is a good place to source for a government-approved professional.

Note that installing a wood-burning stove or boiler requires meeting the requirements of the Building Regulations. 

One of the requirements is to use a trained installer. HETAS is a government-established body that inspects and approves biomass services and appliances.

Most portable heaters don’t need the service of a professional. You can buy them from DIY, take them home, and start using them.

Solar Water Heating: An Ideal Renewable Secondary Heating System

Solar water heating is a system of generating energy from the sun for home heating purpose. 

Since the UK is working hard to switch to renewable energy sources for heating purposes, solar heaters are a great option for low carbon emission. 

It’s worth noting that solar water heating is quite different from solar panels. 

While solar panels generate electricity with the sun’s energy, solar water heating works by using the sun’s energy only for water heating purposes.

This hot water heating system is not only efficiency but also helps save money. 

While the average solar water heating will meet at least one-quarter of the hot water need of a family of four in the UK, such a home can also save up to £80 on water-heating bills yearly. 

What makes the system a great secondary heating system in the UK is its eligibility to the Renewable Heat Incentive, which compensates UK homes and businesses for investing in renewable heating systems.

How Does Solar Water Heating Work?

The system functions by generating heat from the sun’s energy and using it to heat water for domestic and commercial purposes. 

People often mistake solar panels for solar water heating, believing that the two work the same. Though they both leverage the energy from the sun, they work differently.

In solar water heating systems, the collectors are fitted to the roof and collect heat from the sun. 

The collectors can be mounted on any type of roof – flat or pitched. They can also be ground-mounted where roof-mount is not achievable. 

Mounting on a south-facing wall is also a great idea, but it should be kept in mind that the efficiency of the collectors depend on how exposed they’re to the sun.

If the heat provided by the solar water heating system is not enough to meet the hot water needs of the home, a boiler or an immersion heater can be used to increase the temperature of the water.

Thermal collectors are of two types. Though they work similarly, they’re different in aesthetics. The two types are flat plate and evacuated tubes.

In flat plate collectors, the solar panels have flat glazing mounted on a roof, while for evacuated tubes, there’re no glazing but vacuum tubes packed into a manifold mounted on a roof. 

Besides the collectors, another important module of the solar water heating system is the insulated pipes. 

The pipes collect water from the bottom of the hot water cylinder and send it to the collectors that heat up the water. 

The water is sent to the top of the hot water store. The hot water cylinder here can be an existing one or a new one.

How Much Does Solar Water Heating Cost?

The cost of a solar water heating depends greatly on the size of the house it’s installed. 

Besides, the cost increases with the need for installing a new hot water cylinder. 

However, it’s generally difficult to know the cost of a solar water heating system. 

The only way out is to consult a professional installer to inspect the property and estimate the system’s cost.

Regardless of the cost, solar hot water systems are a great investment, going by their money-saving benefit.

If you’re considering a solar water heater for your primary heating system, how much you save with it depends on which system you’re switching from. 

If you’re switching from a gas heating system, you can expect to save up to £60 per year, and £70 per year if switching from an electric immersion heating. 

Your energy usage also plays a significant role in how much you save with the system.

Financial Support

Besides reduced running costs that the system offers, the government’s financial supports are another benefit to enjoy from the water heater. 

Since the systems fall under renewable heating systems, they’re eligible to Renewable Heat Incentives. 

The UK government established the scheme to reward homeowners that heat their properties with low carbon heating systems.

The current tariff for solar thermal panels is 21.36 p/kWh.

Though they’re an expensive investment, they’re cost-effective in the long run, especially with the RHI.

Benefits Of Solar Water Heaters

Installing a solar water heater offers several benefits. Here’re a few of the benefits the system offers:

  • Reduced utility bills by meeting at least one-quarter of your hot water needs.
  • Reduced carbon emission by cutting back up to 500kg of carbon dioxide yearly.
  • Low maintenance with high durability, with a warranty of up to ten years.
  • Low running cost: since they run on the sun’s heat, you can expect to spend less running the system, with the only cost being the cost of electricity for running the pump powering the system.
  • Compatibility with existing hot water boilers and heating systems like heat pumps.
  • Eligibility to the Renewable Heat Incentive.

Choosing A Solar Water Heater

Before choosing a solar water heating system, consider these factors:

The location: the location where you install the solar collectors influences their efficiency. It’s always best to install them facing the south. 

If you find it difficult finding a good location to place them, invest in a thermodynamic panel that can be fixed on any side of the property.

Depending on your preferred type and the system’s size, the land area you need for placing the collectors differs. 

If you consider installing flat plat collectors, you may need about one square meter of collector for every member of the house. This can heat up to 60 litres of water.

Necessary changes: It’s smart to make necessary changes before starting the project. To help maximize the energy use, carrying out an Energy Performance survey is equally necessary.

Solar Water Heater Maintenance

The only significant concern about solar water heating system is the initial cost. Besides this, the running cost is on the low. 

In addition to this is the impressive warranty of between 5 to 10 years, meaning that they have a long lifespan. Just like solar panels, once installed, solar heating panels don’t require additional costs.

However, the system requires adequate maintenance, as this helps maintain high efficiency.

Always check your system yourself at least once in a year and call a professional installer to inspect it for you every three to five years. 

This is most important to know if it’s time to change or top up the antifreeze. Calling a professional for an inspection also helps prevent possible damage, such as leaks. 

It usually cost around £100 to change the anti-freeze fluid in a solar water heater.