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The best heating options for homes without gas

If your home is not on the gas grid, you will have to find an alternative way to heat it. There are a wide range of options out there, but it can be hard to know which the best one is.

We take a look at the best heating options for homes without gas, breaking down the pros and cons of each, as well as their costs and relative impact on the environment.

How can I heat my house without gas?

If you are looking to buy a new home, or build your own, finding out that it won’t be on the gas grid could cause you to panic.

We’re here to tell you that there is no need to worry. You can heat your home without gas relatively easily. The hardest choice you have to make is how.

Each of the off-grid heating options have their own advantages and disadvantages. You will need to weigh them up and decide which option would best fit your lifestyle.

Take a look at the most common heating options for homes without gas. Some of these won’t be possible for new builds, so it’s best to research before committing.

Renewable off-grid heating options

Traditional off-grid heating options

Electric off-grid heating options

Solar thermal heating

Solar Thermal

Solar thermal panels work by utilising the heat from the sun, absorbing heat from the sun in order to heat water in a hot water cylinder. This makes it an extremely environmentally friendly option, however, it does incur some limitations as a result.

Pros

  • Extremely cheap to run as it relies on a free source of energy.
  • Reduces your impact on the environment.

Cons

  • Requires adequate space and for best performance need to be placed on an unshaded south east to south west facing pitched roof.
  • Requires a system that includes a DHW cylinder.
  • Needs to be included as part of another heating system.
  • Probably the cheapest renewable option for people.

Costs

The cost of installing a solar thermal panel water heating system for your property will depend on a variety of different factors. How many panels you need, how large your property is and whether or not you will need your current heating system to be converted will all increase the installation cost. As such, these prices can vary depending on the individual requirements.

Solar panels (average for a family of four): £3000 – £5000
Hot water cylinder: £600 – £1000
Installation cost: £2000

Environmental Impact

A solar panel heating system is one of the most environmentally friendly options you can choose for your heating. Once the initial setup and manufacture of the components is complete, you will not be generating carbon nor using any non-renewable resources to generate heat. Although, minimal electricity usage is still required to run circulating pumps. This makes it a very attractive option for anyone looking to reduce their impact on the planet, especially for homes without gas.

5 things you need to know about Heat Pumps

Heat Pumps

Around 30,000 heat pumps are fitted every year and this is expected to rise dramatically to meet the carbon reduction targets set by the government.

Heat pumps are becoming more popular every year, with two main types available – air source and ground source. Air source heat pumps draw in outside air and extract heat from it. Ground source heat pumps circulate a water and antifreeze mixture through pipes buried in the ground. Both types of pumps require space for operation and setup, and can be expensive for the initial setup.

Pros

  • Extremely efficient and inexpensive to run.
  • Can heat your home for up to 25 years.
  • Longer lifespan and a conventional fossil fuel boiler.
  • Very little maintenance required.
  • No local emissions and so no requirement to flue poisonous gasses.
  • Boiler Upgrade Scheme giving £5-6k off a system.

Cons

  • Heat pumps are best installed in properties that have good levels of insulation.
  • Ground source heat pumps require disruption to install.

Costs

If you’re thinking of switching to heat pumps for your property then the cost is probably the largest factor to consider. They are extremely cheap to run once installed, but that installation can cost more than almost any other option.

Average UK Air Source Heat Pump Cost: £4000 – £9000
Average UK Ground Source Heat Pump Cost: £8000 – £12000
Installation costs: £2K min, but could easily be £4-5K and beyond

This cost is offset with the running costs, which can be cheaper than many options available to you. Once running, you would usually only be looking at electricity costs, which are lower than other electricity-based heating options.

Environmental Impact

The energy required for heating using heat pumps is entirely renewable, coming from ground heat and the heat present in the local air. However, electricity is required to process this free environmental energy into a useable temperature, like many other options, and will have an indirect effect on the environment.

Biomass boilers

Biomass Boilers

There are a variety of biomass boilers available on the market currently, each burning a different type of biological material to create heat. With a biomass boiler you will require storage space for the fuel and you will need to make sure that the boiler is fed with fuel in order for it to work. Modern biomass boilers can include automatic options, so that refuelling occurs in the background.

Pros

  • Biomass fuel is generally cheap and easy to procure.
  • Depending on the fuel source, biomass can be carbon neutral.
  • Renewable source of fuel.
  • Suitable for large properties with poor insulation.
  • £5,000 form BUS providing the property is in a rural area.

Cons

  • Space requirements can be significant (you may even need a separate building).
  • Biomass boilers are expensive to install.
  • Biomass has the same issues as oil, i.e. expensive to buy in winter, cheaper in summer.
  • Some biomass boilers require cleaning to remove ash and other waste.
  • High levels of maintenance required.
  • You need to provide access to a big lorry for delivery.
  • Produce poisonous gasses which must be flued away from human inhalation.

Costs

Biomass boilers tend to have a heavy financial impact for installation.

  • Average UK Manual Biomass Boiler Cost: £4000 – £10000
  • Average UK Automatic Biomass Boiler Cost: £9000 – £21000
  • Biomass Boiler Installation Cost: Up to £10000

Biomass boilers are around the same cost to run as an oil boiler @ 6.77pkwh, and are harder to maintain than almost all of the other heat sources listed here.

Environmental Impact

The main reason to consider a biomass boiler would be for environmental reasons. Between renewable sources of fuel and the potential for carbon neutral heating, biomass boilers are one of the best ways to be mindful of your environmental impact whilst keeping your home warm. It suits large rural, hard to insulate properties where people want to reduce emissions.

LPG

LPG

Liquid Petroleum Gas, or LPG for short, is a type of gas which is most commonly purchased and stored in tanks. This sets it apart from other types of gas, such as natural gas, which is delivered via pipelines.

LPG heating systems are flexible with combi, regular, and system boilers but can take up space due to the fuel tank requirement.

Pros

  • Scalable heating system.
  • LPG boilers can be cheaper than oil boilers.
  • Can be used for both heating as well as an oven or hob.

Cons

  • Is more expensive to run than natural gas or oil.
  • Requires top-ups and constant monitoring.
  • Storage tank requires space and initial investment, and also access from the road.
  • Produce poisonous gasses which must be flued away from human inhalation.

Costs

An LPG boiler can have a varied cost, depending on the requirements. Here’s the average price range and cost for an LPG boiler and installation:

  • LPG Boiler Cost: £400 – £2500
  • LPG Boiler Installation Cost: £500 – £2000

In addition, LPG will cost on average 6.66p/kWh in the UK, making it more expensive than either natural gas or oil.

Environmental Impact

Whilst LPG is a fossil fuel meaning it will have an environmental impact, it does release less carbon than some other alternatives such as oil, making it greener to run. On average LPG produces 15 to 20% less carbon than oil, which can make it an attractive heating alternative for those looking to minimise their environmental impact. However, impact also comes from having to deliver the LG using lorries.

Domestic oil heating

Oil

Similar to a gas boiler, oil fired boilers burn fuel to heat water and provide central heating for a property. The difference is in the fuel, as oil fired boilers will burn oil instead of gas. Oil fired boilers can come in combi, regular, and system types and in a similar fashion to LPG boilers, they require a fuel tank in order to store oil.

Pros

  • Oil is easily accessible to purchase (although price can be volatile)
  • Oil has a variety of providers, meaning you can find the best price and supplier for your needs
  • Oil fired boilers have the potential to be very efficient

Cons

  • Price tends to be cheaper in summer and more expensive in winter, so people tend to have to purchase ahead (not everyone can afford this bulk up front cost)
  • To use oil you will need an oil tank, which requires investment and space.
  • Oil is a fossil fuel so will have negative environmental effects
  • There is the potential for oil to run out, globally (which could accelerate price increases due to supply and demand)
  • Internal oil boilers can produce odour
  • Unlike mains gas there is no price cap on oil
  • Require tanker access to oil tank
  • Risk of theft
  • Produce poisonous gasses which must be flued away from human inhalation

Costs

Oil fired boilers can be a heavier investment to set up, but once set up they can be quite efficient and comparatively cheap to run:

  • Oil Fired Boiler Cost: £1000 – £3000
  • Oil Fired Boiler Installation Cost: £500 – £2000

The fuel for an oil fired boiler will on average cost 6.69p/kWh in the UK, making it more expensive than some options, but far cheaper than others. However, it is important to keep in mind the relative scarcity of oil with the associated potential for its price to rise.

Environmental Impact

As a fossil fuel, oil releases carbon into the atmosphere when it is burned, meaning by using it to heat your home will have a detrimental impact on the environment.

Recent advances in technology have meant that modern oil fired boilers are extremely efficient at converting fuel into heating, minimising this impact, but it will remain a concern for those looking to be conscious of their environmental impact.

Wood burning stove

Wood Heating Stoves & Log Burners

When it comes to wood heating for your house, there are a few different options that you can utilise depending on what you require. With additional wood heating stoves and log burners to top up your existing heating system, wood is a surprisingly adaptable solution for your heating needs.

Pros

  • Wood is cost effective to purchase.
  • The supply of fuel is renewable.

Cons

  • Frequent maintenance is required to keep the system working efficiently.
  • Initial costs converting to a wood supply can be high.
  • Carbon is released through the burning of wood.
  • Storing wood requires additional space.
  • Burning wood can impact local air quality.
  • Produce poisonous gasses which must be flued away from human inhalation.

Costs

The initial setup for a wood heating system can be quite high, depending on the requirements of the home or property in question.

  • Wood Stove Cost: £4000 – £8000
  • Wood Stove Installation: £500 – £1500

Wood can be expensive to run (unless you have your own supply). Nottingham E partnership state 8p/kwh, so it’s actually more expensive than heat pumps, gas, oil, pellets and LPG.

Environmental Impact

The impact of a wood heating stove has both positives and negatives. The positive is that the source of the fuel for this type of heating system is renewable, meaning you are not relying on fossil fuels. The negative side comes from the carbon released from burning the wood, which is performed efficiently in modern systems, but it is something to be aware of when choosing a wood heating stove for your property. In addition, the burning of wood releases harmful pollutants into the air that can affect local air quality, particularly when poor-quality, wet logs are burnt.

Coal burner

Coal

Coal has declined in popularity over recent years due to the availability of alternatives. It’s worth noting that House Coal is highly polluting and has been largely banned in built-up areas. It is highly unlikely that coal heating system in a new build would get through building regulations.

Pros

  • Coal is easy to purchase, but its more expensive than mains gas per kwh and only just marginally cheaper than heating oil.
    Can be simple to set up and install, and is easy to operate.

Cons

  • Coal is not a renewable source of fuel.
  • The ash from burning coal can contain harmful heavy metals which require specialist disposal.
  • The burning of coal is harmful to the atmosphere.
  • Coal requires space for storage.
  • Overheating – a coal fire is likely to significantly overheat a property with high levels of insulation.
  • Produce poisonous gasses which must be flued away from human inhalation.

Costs

Prices for a coal heating system differ depending on your intended usage. If you’re simply buying a coal fire for a living room the cost will be significantly lower than if you were to purchase a coal boiler.

  • Average UK Coal Boiler Cost: £800 – £1800

Environmental Impact

Coal is the worst way of heating from an environmental point of view. Three different areas cause an environmental impact, the extraction of coal from the ground, the emissions caused from burning coal, and the ash left over. Coal is a fossil fuel meaning it is non-renewable, becoming more scarce as time goes by. Mining coal can cause deforestation and subsidence, furthering its impact on the world. Burning coal creates ash which can contain heavy metals. In addition, carbon is added to the atmosphere when burned.

Storage heaters

Storage Heaters

If your house uses electricity for heating, a storage heater may be an attractive solution. Storage heaters store thermal energy during the night by heating ceramic bricks, this is then released when needed during the day to keep the house warm.

Pros

  • Can be cheaper to set up than some alternatives.
  • When not needed, they use little to no energy.
  • Quiet to operate.
  • Standalone units that don’t require further logistical support.

Cons

  • Electricity is more expensive to use than some alternatives.
  • Excess heat can be dumped into the room, causing some rooms to become overheated.
  • Will not heat a room indefinitely, needs time to store heat again.

Costs

The cost of storage heaters depends on how many you require for the property you intend to heat. Each room you require heat in would need one heater, meaning that prices for both the electricity and the initial units can increase exponentially. However, the initial price for a storage heater is low, with installation costs also similarly competitively priced.

  • Storage Heater Cost (Per Unit): £150 – £200
  • Storage Heater Installation Costs: £70

Environmental Impact

Direct electric (and night storage heaters) produce around the same emissions per kWh as an oil boiler. They are actually 3 to 4 times worse than a heat pump. They do not create emissions, so running them will not incur negative effects on the atmosphere, aside from those potentially generated by the power station. When paired with a renewable source of electricity, such as wind or solar panels, they can contribute to running costs and environmental impact.

Electric Boilers

Electric Boilers

Electric boilers are often an ideal solution for a smaller property and with efficient designs they can fit into small spaces with ease.

Pros

  • Quiet with no emissions.
  • Few moving parts making maintenance infrequent.
  • No flue requirements & easy to fit.
  • Light and compact.

Cons

  • This is the most expensive way to heat a property.
  • Power cuts cause issues with heating.
  • High demand properties will experience issues meeting requirements.

Costs

Installation of an electric boiler is fairly simple in most cases, meaning the overall cost is kept competitive.

  • Average UK Electric Boiler Cost: £750 – £2500
  • Average UK Electric Boiler Installation Cost: £500 – £1000

The area where electric boilers can become less competitive is in the price of the electricity itself. On average in the UK the price of electricity costs 16.36p/kWh, which is significantly more expensive than many of the alternatives.

Environmental Impact

Direct electric (and night storage heaters) produce around the same emissions per kWh as an oil boiler. Electricity generation by power plant does incur environmental impact, as much of the UK’s electricity is generated through fossil fuel generation. Combining your electric boiler with renewable sources of electricity can therefore help to offset any load on the National Grid – this could apply to any heating system, not just electric boilers.

Off-grid home

Which is the best off-grid heating option for your home?

Answering this question depends on many different variables which are specific to your home and your requirements. You should go with a fabric first approach – it is a waste of money installing new boilers for the heat they produce to be lost from a poorly insulated building. It is much better to insulate first, and then consider the heat source.

For example, if making sure your environmental impact is reduced as much as possible, then a biomass boiler, heat pump, or solar panel heating system would be the most attractive options.

We cannot overstate the importance of finances when looking at heating options for homes without gas. Many options are cheaper than gas to set up, whilst others are cheaper than gas to run. Efficiency, maintenance, and installation costs all need to be considered when looking at replacing your heating solutions.

In addition, space requirements are always something that need to be considered. Smaller homes will find some options more attractive than others, with other options only available for larger properties, and vice versa.

That’s why we recommend taking your time when making a decision regarding your home’s heating, checking the available options, and making the choice that’s right for you and your home. Any change in your home’s heating will involve disruption and associated costs, and must only be undertaken with all due research.

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