Perhaps you’ve recently bought a house with electric storage heating or solid fuel fire. If so, you’re probably not very happy with their performance. More than likely, you’ll want to convert your present form of heating to a modern central heating system.
First, look at what you’ve got in the way of domestic heating and then consider what’s available and feasible. Next, weigh up the pros and cons of each type. Don’t only consider the central heating installation costs, but look at the price of fuel too.
Usually, all modern gas and oil heating systems, are clean, fully automatic and programmable for the time of day and temperature. Compare this with old electric and solid fuel boilers.
- Storage heaters are notorious for costing heaps more to run than other types of heating. And, you have to “plan ahead” with your heating, because you’re charging up the storage heaters during the previous night.
- However, solid fuel is just messy and a lot of work to get right. And, even then you can’t set an exact temperature.
There are other reasons for changing, which we’ll mention during the rest of this article. So, keep reading and you might decide to upgrade your heating and install a new system.
Installing central heating has a lot going for it. Although the running costs of oil heating are a lot less than electricity, it’s still much more than mains gas. So, if you have a choice of fuel types, and you have mains piped gas to your area, you know what you’ve got to do.
Updating a system
The cost of updating your central heating system will vary depending on the size of your home and how many radiators you want. If you’re connecting to the gas grid, you need to know how far you are from the nearest gas main and how much it costs to have a gas meter installed. Some providers won’t charge for these but others will. It depends on the company’s policy at the time of installation.
Some houses will already have radiators fitted and have the correct pipework installed. While others will require a complete upgrade if you have an old system, at best you might just need to flush the pipes to remove sludge.
On average, for a typical 3 bedroom house in the UK, you’ll find that the cost will be about £3,500. For this, you’ll get 9 radiators and a 28kW boiler. If you need new pipework, then assume the cost of about £1,000. Some boilers need a water tank, and installation for this will cost about £200.
New Central Heating System Prices
Look at the table below to see the costs of central heating installations in the UK for mains gas in different sized properties.
|House Type||Number of Radiators||Boiler Output||Cost|
|1 bedroom bungalow||5||24kW||£2,500|
|2 bedroom house||6||24kW||£3,000|
|3 bedroom house||9||28kW||£3,500|
|4 bedroom house||10||33kW||£4,000|
|5 bedroom house||12||33kW||£4,500|
Remember, these costs are only for illustration and might vary depending on your requirements and which boiler brand you buy. Also, oil and LPG fuelled boiler prices might be slightly different too. You’ll also find that installation costs in London and Southeast England tend to be more than elsewhere in the country.
Central Heating Installation Cost Factors
Let’s consider our 3 bedroom house again. If we split the total down into its components we can see where the cost of replacing a central heating system comes from. All prices include the supply of materials and labour. Probably, you can see that you might be able to use this cost breakdown and the table above as a central heating installation cost calculator. It’s not that difficult to see how the prices vary across the different sized properties.
Or of course, you can ask a professional for advice.
For a house this size, you’ll probably need a system boiler costing between £1,000 and £1,800. Also, you’ll need 9 radiators, which will cost between £1,000 and £1,200. Also, for this sized house, you’ll probably need a water tank costing £200 or so. Let’s assume you need new pipework too, so that’ll cost about £900. Finally, you’ll have miscellaneous parts and labour costing between £250 and £300. The total so far works out between £3,350 and £4,400.
Let’s look at these cost factors in more detail.
There are three main types of boiler available for your home. Take professional advice on which one to choose because not all are suitable for every house.
- Combi boilers are commonly used in many houses. They heat water directly from the cold mains rather than store hot water in a tank. This means you have unlimited hot water, and they are relatively compact with no hot water cylinder. They also run the heating circuit as well.
- System boilers have a hot water cylinder for storage, but this is contained within the boiler unit itself. So, no need for a separate hot tank. They aren’t as compact as a combi, but without a separate hot cylinder, they have reasonable installation charges. Choose one of these if your family uses a lot of water.
- Traditional boilers have a separate hot water cylinder, which usually sits inside an airing cupboard. This type also has a cold water tank in the loft to provide a constant head of water to the boiler. These are ideal if you have more than one bathroom or if you have a low mains water pressure. If you previously had an old-style central heating system, then this is the one to choose as usually all you need is a replacement boiler.
All boilers that burn fossil fuel (gas, oil or solid fuel) need to have an exhaust pipe and an air intake pipe. Modern boilers are completely cut off from the interior of your home with air intake and exhaust outlet through two concentric tubes through an external wall. This is called a balanced flue. Furthermore, you’ll need a hole knocked through the wall to accommodate the flue pipe. The heating engineer who installs the boiler will do this, so you don’t have to worry about it.
The labour cost to replace radiators will depend on the style and how many you choose. Usually, the labour cost to replace an individual radiator will be proportionally higher than the cost to replace a set. This is because a lot of the labour consists of draining the system before installation and bleeding the system afterwards. The engineer will do both of these operations no matter how many radiators you replace. Although, replacing one or two radiators will often be charged by the hour, pricing a full system installation will usually be a single cost and often work out cheaper in the long run.
Once again, this will depend on the size of the property and whether you’re just replacing
- A boiler.
- Or the entire system.
An average cost to replace all the pipework in our three–bedroom house will be between £800 and £1,000. Unfortunately, replacing and installing pipework is very disruptive to the remainder of the house. Usually, the plumber will lift carpets and floorboards, knock holes in walls and generally make a mess. Also, making good afterwards might be just as disruptive with plaster re–skim and decorating. You must also realise that living in your home can’t go on as normal while you have a full central heating installation underway. So, either move out for a few days or make the best of it. Remember, however, that if you slow down the plumber and make the installation difficult, you will be charged more.
Depending on the type of boiler you choose, you might need a water tank in the loft to supply the system. A typical tank costs about £200. Remember, a 1m x 1m x 1m tank full of water weighs 1 tonne plus the weight of the tank material. So, it’ll be too heavy for the usual joists in the loft. After all, they’re only ceiling joists, and you’ll need a strengthed platform built onto the loadbearing timbers. Don’t worry, the plumber will know the best place to install the tank, and probably build the platform too. Your task is to ensure the loft isn’t filled with clutter which might make installation difficult.
Every job requires extras which the average person doesn’t usually think about. For example, radiators will need valves. These days, the valves are thermostatically controlled and commonly know as TRVs (thermostatic radiator valves). These allow each radiator to turn ON or OFF automatically to maintain constant room temperature. In practice, you’ll have a room thermostat to set a comfy temperature for the entire house. Also, you’ll have each radiator controlled by a TRV so you can fine–tune each radiator. For example, an unused bedroom might just require a bit of background heat to prevent damp forming or maybe no heat at all. With a TRV, you can do this.
Zoning Heating Controls: Energy Savings
Part L of the UK Building Regulations requires all new build houses and all houses that undergo substantial improvements with their central heating system to install “temperature zoning”.
Depending on the size of your home, each property must have at least two temperature zones. This means that at the very least, living and sleeping areas must be maintained at different temperatures using a thermostat for each zone. You will also be able to programme the ON/OFF times for each zone for more heat efficiency. Specifically, if your house is less than 150m2, the zones can be controlled by the same timer. But, if the house is more than 150m2, then each zone must have a separate timer. For example. You might want the living space heating to turn on half an hour before you arrive home from work. But, the sleeping area to remain turned off until later on in the evening.
Gas vs Electric Central Heating Systems
Before we go any further, let’s consider the different types of central heating available.
- Wet central heating systems involve the heating of water by various means and the subsequent pumping of the warmed water around the system. This is typically used with a gas fired central heating method although you can choose electric wet central heating systems too.
- Dry central heating methods normally use electrical wires to heat the surroundings. A typical example of this would be dry underfloor heating.
- Warm air central heating uses heat from the boiler to warm ambient air, which is then pumped around a series of ducts throughout the house.
Let’s compare gas and electric central heating systems. Although electricity as a heating fuel will be more expensive than gas for anywhere larger than a one–bedroom flat, there are a few advantages with electricity that might make you decide against gas.
Advantages of electrical boilers
- Doesn’t produce carbon monoxide during use, so won’t need ventilation.
- Fewer moving parts so less maintenance calls required.
- Generally, an electric boiler is a smaller and more compact than a gas boiler.
- Very quiet when being used.
Advantages of gas boilers
- Natural gas is cheaper than electricity.
- Electricity is only really suitable for small properties. Otherwise gas is more efficient.
- More gas boilers available to buy so more to choose from to suit your circumstances.
- Simple for a registered gas engineer to replace in a like-for-like situation.
Is electric heating expensive?
Now, I reckon most people want to know how the running costs compare. Tariffs vary, but on average, mains gas costs 4p/kWh compared to electricity rate of 15p/kWh. But, what does this mean in real terms?
On average, for our 3 bedroom typical house, our annual electricity bill will be around £2,000 if we use about 13,500kWh per year. However, if we use gas for heating and cooking, we’ll end up paying about £500 per year. So, on average, electric central heating costs about 4 times as much as a gas heating system. But of course, you have to add in the maintenance costs. Servicing of a gas boiler costs an average of £100 per year, whereas an electric boiler doesn’t usually need a regular service. So, it looks like gas continues to be cheaper than electricity.
What To Ask Your Heating Engineer
- Installing gas into your home must be done safely. So, it makes sense to employ a qualified and registered heating engineer with gas training. All plumbers can install pipework and radiators but only heating engineers on the GasSafe register can install gas appliances. Ask to see their GasSafe ID, which will have a photo of the engineer as well as their name and licence number. Check the expiry date is correct and you should be okay. If you’re in doubt, you can insert the engineer’s licence number or the business name into the GasSafe online tool to check if it’s genuine.
- If you don’t use gas, ask whether they belong to OFTEC. This is the Oil Firing Technical Association, which covers all other types of central heating systems, including oil, solid fuel, electrical, heat pump solar, and biomass.
- Both GasSafe and OFTEC engineers will know what you can and can’t do with your installation and will be happy to advise on your situation. They will answer all your questions confidently.
- Ask what the payment terms are. A registered engineer will give you a quote in writing before the job starts. So, do you pay in one lump at the end of the job, or do you have to pay a deposit before work starts? Requesting part–payment for materials up-front is reasonable but if the engineer wants all the money up-front or if he offers a cut–price job for “cash”. Find someone else. Not only is it illegal but it voids the manufacturer‘s guarantee on equipment. Afterwards, a registered engineer will also give you a proper invoice and a guarantee for the work and materials.
- How long has the engineer been trading? As part of this, there should be some local references you can ask about the work standard and professionalism.
Heating Intelligence Controls
This means you have your heating controls monitored and controlled by a small microprocessor. This allows you to have more control over your central heating system and hot water production than you would with traditional thermostatic controls.
- The on-board computer measures the ambient temperature so that it can calculate when to turn on the boiler to produce the required heat at the correct time.
- The device learns your living patterns over time so that it can adjust its settings accordingly.
- Using more thermostats in different areas, you can set up multiple zones and have each one controlled independently. Furthermore, you can also monitor and control each radiator independently.
- You can monitor and control the system from your smartphone or tablet while you’re away from home.
- You won’t need a completely new heating system if you choose this. Intelligence controls can be retrofitted onto existing central heating systems.
- Finally, the system will monitor the location of your phone so it knows when you’re on your way home and when to turn on the heating.
Central Heating Installation FAQ
How long does it take to install central heating?
The answer to this one depends on the size of your house and whether the pipes are exposed or hidden behind walls and under floors. But usually, if everything goes well, a new central heating boiler and between 6 to 9 radiators will take around 3 days or so. If you want a more accurate estimate, have a chat with a registered heating engineer.
What is the cheapest way to heat your home?
According to Which? The best and cheapest way to heat your home is with gas central heating. Mains natural gas is 4 times cheaper than electricity, and there is more choice of boilers so you can find the best for your circumstances.
What is the most efficient form of electric heating?
Electric heating comes in two types.
- Convection heating uses a heated surface such as a radiator to warm the surrounding air which in turn warms its surroundings and you.
- Infrared radiators, however, emits electromagnetic radiation which transfers heat in straight lines to warm people and objects directly.
The most efficient form is infrared because the warmth goes to where you want it. Convected warmth heats everything, part of which is wasted, especially if you have high ceilings.
How much does it cost to run central heating for 1 hour?
We’ve already assumed that gas costs 4p/kWh and that a 3 bedroom house would probably need a 28kW boiler. So let‘s carry on using this information and do a calculation.
4 x 28 = 112
Therefore, the cost to heat a 3 bedroom house with a 28kW boiler, using gas costing 4p/kWh would be about £1.12 for an hour.
Get Quotes from Heating Engineers Near You
If after reading this, you decide to have new central heating installed, or your existing one upgraded. Then, you must contact a GasSafe or OFTEC registered heating engineer to get an idea of the cost of a central heating installation.
We’ve already done the hard work for you by sorting out the qualified and registered professionals from the cowboys. Just complete the form on this page and before you know it, you’ll have 3 to 4 quotes from local qualified heating engineers.