Types of central heating explained

Central heating brings warmth to your home and keeps you supplied with hot water, making life more comfortable.

Several types of central heating systems exist. This is how they work.

Three types of central heating

  1. In the sixties and seventies, the installation of a warm air system was common in UK homes, and the method continues to be a popular feature of commercial buildings today as the same system can be used for air conditioning (cooling) too. With this system, air is heated by a boiler that is typically fuelled with natural gas before entering each room via ducts in the floor or walls.
  2. A storage heating system runs on a heater containing bricks that are capable of storing large amounts of heat. These are heated overnight using off-peak electricity, as well as during two shorter periods in the daytime, and the heat is gradually released throughout the day.
  3. A wet system circulates hot water throughout an organisation of pipes that connect to your radiators. A boiler or heat exchanger is at the centre of a wet system, which burns fuel to heat the water flowing through each pipe. In the UK, this is the commonest type of central heating found in residential settings.

The difference between a combination boiler and a conventional boiler

Combi boilers distribute instant hot water, plus they have the advantage of taking up less space in your home because there is no need for the hot water cylinder that a conventional boiler requires.

In most cases, heating water instantly is more energy efficient than using a stored hot water system but the water flow is slower – so you may have to wait longer for your bath to fill up.

Generally, modern boilers no longer connect to tanks in the loft that pressurise the heating system through gravity. Instead, they are sealed systems, which can be topped up manually via the mains water supply.

Electric central heating vs. gas central heating

The primary benefit of choosing an electric central heating system is that they are easy to install and available to homes that aren’t on the gas grid.

However, it’s worth noting that an electric powered heating system can work out to be more expensive than a gas operated system as unit prices are generally higher. You’ll also have to plan your heating requirements ahead of time, as an electric system will need to be turned on at night time to emit heat the following day.

On the flip side, gas central heating systems are usually cheaper to run because unit prices are lower and appliances are increasingly more efficient. Replacing an old boiler with a modern one is a straightforward installation process too.

Nevertheless, gas central heating does have its downsides too, particularly as energy companies hike up their charges. In addition, some homes may struggle to get connected quickly if they are not on the gas grid.

If you do opt for gas central heating, remember to have your boiler and appliances serviced at least once a year, as an accompanying Gas Safety Certificate (CP12) is a legal requirement for all homeowners using gas in their property.

There's more