Having central heating in a property is considered a 'must have' these days. Any developer or renovator coming into a property that has either no central heating at all or a very old, out of date system, will certainly put it at the top of the priority list for work to be done. But whilst some people might be put off taking on a renovation where central heating has to be installed, the reality is that the work involved and cost needn't be prohibitive.
Installing new central heating is one of those jobs where less experienced developers might be put off - thoughts of expensive boilers and plumbing works to blame - but in actual fact with the wide range of choices available today to heat a property and provide hot water, developers can pretty much spend what they want to and can budget accordingly. What's more, if they choose an energy efficient system, it can be a real sales feature for prospective buyers and tenants.
Traditional Types of Central Heating Systems
There are three main types of boiler currently available in the UK:
The most important advance has been the introduction of the condensing boiler, which in simple terms recover a substantial percentage of the waste heat that is normally expelled into the atmosphere from the flue of a standard (non-condensing) boiler. By using an extra-large heat exchanger (or two heat exchangers in other cases) within the boiler, the system maximises heat transfer from the burner while recovering useful heat that would normally be lost with the flue gases.
Another important system that is proving to be extremely popular is the Combination (Combi) boiler. Combi boilers supply hot water to a sealed heating system as well as a instant hot water for domestic use (shower, kitchen etc.). Combi boilers are very easy to install, small and save valuable space and are very economic.What Type of Boiler to buy?
Combi Boiler might be best if....
System / Conventional Boiler
Sweeteners from the Energy Companies
If you are considering replacing an existing, or buying a new boiler for the first time, then there are plenty of incentives on offer from companies who supply and install them. Typically, you might find that you can negotiate:
Other options for heating and hot water production
However, installing a conventional central heating system is no longer your only option, there are now a number of differant options to generate hot water and heating in our homes, particularly with energy efficiency in mind:
Solar Water Heating
There is obviously a strong social case for installing solar panels for hot water heating and as energy prices rise, the financial case is becoming more viable as well.
Solar hot water systems can produce 70% of required hot water per year and reduce fuel bills by up to 40% per annum. Solar heating panels have been installed in regions as extreme as the Arctic and Antarctic and have still proved to provide hot water. Heating is dependent on sunlight rather than the ambient temperature, so even on the coldest days experienced in the UK, as long as there is sufficient sunlight falling on the tubes, heating will be effective.
Be prepared to spend in the region of £4,000 - £6,000 for solar water heating panels for the average house and to receive £400 back in the form of a government grant.
It can take several years at today's prices to pay off your investment. Having said that, if energy prices increase further, this will mean your investment is now likely to be paid off earlier. And of course, reducing your carbon footprint, helping to mitigate the effects of climate change, will start immediately.
Ground source heat pumps use pipes buried in the garden to extract heat from the ground. This is usually used to warm water for radiators or underfloor heating systems. It can also be used to pre-heat water before it goes into a more conventional boiler. Beneath the surface, the ground stays at a constant temperature, so a ground source heat pump can be used throughout the year - even in the middle of winter.
How does a ground source heat pump work?
A ground source heat pump circulates a mixture of water and antifreeze around a loop of pipe - called a ground loop - which is buried in the garden. When the liquid travels around the loop it absorbs heat from the ground - used to heat radiators, underfloor heating systems and even hot water.
The length of the ground loop depends on the size of your home and the amount of heat you need - longer loops can draw more heat from the ground.
Normally the loop is laid flat, or coiled in trenches about two metres deep, but if there is not enough space in your garden you can install a vertical loop to a depth of up to 100 metres.
The benefits of ground source heat pumps
Costs and savings
Costs of installing a typical system range from about £7,000 to £13,000 but running costs for a year are much lower than traditional central heating systems although will depend on a number of factors - including the size of your home and how well insulated it is.
Air and water source heat pumps
These systems use similar principles to ground source heat pumps to extract heat from air or water instead of the ground.
Air source heat pumps can be fitted outside a house or in the roof space and generally perform better at slightly warmer air temperatures. Water source heat pumps can be used to provide heating in homes near to rivers, streams and lakes.
Biomass boilers generate energy in a broadly similar way to traditional boilers. However, the key difference is that they use organic fuels which are renewable.
Such fuels can come either from plants or from domestic, industrial, agricultural or commercial waste. As such it is considered to be carbon-neutral process, as well as helping to solve issues of pollution and waste disposal.
Underfloor heating is not a new concept. In the past electric heating elements were buried within floor screeds. These were heated over night using 'cheap rate' electricity. However, this method was expensive to run and uncontrollable and the building would over heat during the day but in the evening, when heat is generally required, no further heat was available.
Utilising modern multilayer pipes, control systems and high efficiency boilers, the underfloor heating systems of today are extremely comfortable and controllable. Radiators are no longer needed so giving more room space. The heat is more evenly distributed and dust is not circulated.
Underfloor Heating installation usually costs a similar amount to a radiator based system, requires only low temperature hot water and is ideal for use with modern condensing boilers. Running costs are low and there are other benefits: