Heating Radiator, White radiator in an apartment.

Electric heating has in past been seen as an expensive and ineffective heating method that was only a last resort to heat homes that were either off the gas network or multi-storey flats that could not have gas. Electric storage heaters are the type of electric heating that tend to spring to mind as a form of inflexible electric heating. But as technology has advanced is electric heating a viable option for more UK homes?

Electric boilers

Electric boilers are often cheaper and easier to install than gas, LPG, oil boilers and they are more flexible as they tend to be smaller and have fewer restrictions of where they can be fitted as they do not need a flue, so they do not have to go on an external wall and they are quieter.

There is also a wider range of electric boilers available on the market that can heat both your home and your hot water. They can be combined with storage heaters or radiators. An electric central heating system can offer you most of the advantages, control, and flexibility that a gas central heating system offers, and remove the need for storage and delivers for other fuels like LPG, oil, and biomass.

Pros and cons of electric boilers

Electric boilers have a few distinct advantages:
· Cheaper to install
· Quieter to run
· Can be installed anywhere as there is no flue and tend to be smaller
· No need to store fuel like LPG, oil, and biomass systems
· More environmentally friendly than gas, LPG, or oil alternatives
· More energy efficient than other boilers

However, there are several big disadvantages:

· More expensive to run
· May not be compatible with Economy 7/10 tariffs depending on when you heat your home
· Tend to be smaller systems that may not be sufficient for larger homes

Who might benefit from electric boilers?

Electric boilers at present are a more viable option for those who can’t have gas in their home as financial it compares well. It also offers more convenience than some of the alternatives as electric boilers have better controls and flexibility than storage heaters, and it does not have the storage needs or resupply issues that LPG, oil, and biomass systems have.

Homes that generate their own electricity may also benefit from switching to electric boilers if their renewable system, such as solar PV or wind turbines, produces electricity at times when the boiler is in use, and if the system produces a high amount of electricity then costs may balance out.

What does the future hold for electric heating?

Advancements in electric boilers will continue to increase the effectiveness of them and bring the cost of them down so that they become a more viable mainstream option. The energy market continues to evolve and the advancements in renewable energy are starting to bring down the cost of generating energy sustainably, and with the developments in energy storage, it is making the increase in larger scale renewables viable in the electricity mix as storage allows the inconsistent supply to be evened out.

As the pressure to reduce dependency on natural gas continues and reserves are depleted the price of gas may rise and incentives to switch to other forms of heating might make electric heating more viable.

Whether electric heating is a feasible and cost-effective option to you and your home will depend on your circumstances and what you need from your heating system. If it is not an option now it may well become an option for you in the future.

Circular futuristic interface of smart home automation assistant, virtual screen

The government has been working hard over the last few years to rollout smart meters to all homes in a bid to allow us all to monitor our energy usage and hopefully save money in the process. However, the rollout has taken many years and in the meantime, the technology has moved on. There is now a new generation of smart meters available that are considered better than the first generation options – unfortunately leaving the first adopters slightly behind in the technology stakes.

According to government data, there are currently around 7.7 million smart gas and electricity meters installed in UK homes, with a further 53 million still to be installed before 2020. Many of these are the first generation meters which could well be superseded by the next generation that appear to offer a better option for the energy companies and consumers alike.

British Gas has trialled a new generation smart meter for their customers that allows customers to track their energy use (just like the older ones) but also to take advantage of a raft of other energy saving options. These include time-of-use tariffs, energy trading, solar energy and they are completely transportable between energy companies – allowing easy switching.

One of the main issues with the first generation meters is that customers discover that their meter stops working when they switch energy companies, forcing them to start taking meter readings again, while they wait for their new supplier to issue them with a new meter. The issue is related to the meters being unable to communicate externally via the wide area network.

The largest manufacturer of these new generation smart meters, known as SMETS2 (Smart meter Equipment Technical Specification) meters is Landis+Gyr who say that their product is able to read fluctuations in the energy supply of an entire home – especially where there are solar panels installed and storage batteries are used. This means that the National Grid can balance energy use more effectively.

The government has recognised that these new meters are an important step in their program of meter rollout and have placed an end date on the installation of these first-generation meters of July 2018. After that, all new meters will be SMET2 and therefore capable of dealing with the way that we use energy in our homes both now and into the future.