Which type of heater is the cheapest to run?

When homeowners begin to explore the different heating systems and fuel sources that are available, the two most common choices are electricity and gas. When comparing them using the cost of an equivalent energy unit, we find that electric heating is about four times the price of gas heating per unit. While this is significant, there are several other factors that should be considered when determining the cheapest system to run.

Firstly, you must consider that electric heating is 100% efficient while gas heating is only 90% efficient when converting energy to heat. This means that electric heating is more efficient but heating via mains gas is the more cost-effective option. The next question then should be what happens if you cannot access the mains gas network?

If you are amongst the 15% of the United Kingdom for whom mains gas is inaccessible, you have an alternative of using LPG as a fuel source while using a conventional gas heating system. LPG is a mixture of propane and butane which is compressed until it transforms into a liquid and is then stored.

Depending on the size of your storage bottle or tank, you can save a large amount of fuel before having to refill. As long as you don’t have any problem with your deliveries, LPG is reliable, since it is similar to heating with mains gas and is safe to use.

Another alternative to mains gas and LPG is heating oil, which is slightly cheaper. However, the installation process for heating oil system is more expensive and specialised. It also needs way more maintenance to continue working efficiently. Of all the options mentioned so far, the running cost of mains gas is the cheapest, followed by heating oil and then LPG, while electricity is the most expensive. However, other factors should be considered, such as the cost of installation and maintenance of these systems.

If you opt for electricity, you might want to consider Economy 7 for the cheapest heating system. The advantage of this electricity tariff is that you’ll have a low night rate. You can use this advantage to save on electricity costs if you use an electric storage heater system. However, note that you can only make decent savings by moving at least 40% of your electricity usage toduring the night. Also, if you ever run any electrical appliances during the day, you’ll have to pay heavily.

You may already have well-regulated central heating in your home but feel like you need a standalone heater. These systems can be useful if you’re looking to create localised, focused heat in a small room that normally doesn’t have any heating, such as a mobile home, an outside office or a conservatory.

In terms of running costs, using several standalone heaters as your main source of heat is likely to cost you more than having a central heating system. On the other hand, a single energy-efficient heater may turn out to be cheaper than central heating if you only need heating in one room at a time.