The Great Energy Efficiency Bake-Off – Part 1

When it comes to pitting gas central heating against electric central heating, you would be forgiven for thinking there is bound to be a clear winner: the heating system that is used by the majority of homeowners in the UK would surely take the trophy. Or would it? Here we put the two up against each other in our own version of Bake-Off. Let’s see what comes out on top…

Stage 1: Speed and efficiency

How quickly can each of our contestants heat a room? Gas central heating gets off to a fairly slow start as the boiler fires up. The gas starts to heat the water which finally reaches the required temperature before setting off through the pipes and in due course starts to heat the radiators. But wait, what’s this… heat is being lost within the walls whilst the water flows through the pipes. A point lost for efficiency for this contestant.

Over on the other side, the electric heating system was switched on and immediately the radiators were warm. They engaged straight away, because the power only had to travel from the local socket, rather than through a system of pipework. And no heat was lost along the way. Electric radiators actually radiate heat directly to people and objects, whereas gas radiators work via convection, first having to warm the air before it warms the people. Another lost point for efficiency, and a disappointing start for gas in this bake-off.

Which will score the most points and come out on top overall in the great energy efficiency bake-off: gas, or electric central heating?

Which will score the most points and come out on top overall in the great energy efficiency BAKE-OFF: gas, or electric central heating?

Stage 2: Control

How will each of our contestants fair when it comes to control? Gas central heating uses a single thermostat on a central system: set the required temperature at the thermostat and the house maintains the temperature throughout. However, the location of the thermostat will dictate what happens next. Say it is located in a large open space that is not energy efficient. The temperature in this room may well be lower on average than the rest of the house, so when it drops, the thermostat kicks in and commands the heating system to raise the temperature throughout the house, including in areas where it may already be sufficient or even too high, such as the kitchen at meal times. Another point lost for wasted energy.

Electric central heating systems place thermostats on each radiator, so the temperature adjusts to suit the immediate surroundings. Heat fluctuations are measured in half degrees, so there is greater precision, and what’s more, each radiator can be controlled and programmed individually. So instead of the entire heating system coming on at 6pm, you can programme different on and off times for different areas of the home. Another triumph for electric!

In our next post we’ll be taking a look at stage 3 of the great energy bake-off: installation and ongoing costs. Which will come out as the overall winner?

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