Nothing beats a warm, cosy house when the weather outside gets moody. However, a warm home comes at a price, considering that heating and hot water account for most people's energy costs.

When choosing the right heating system, you have two options: electricity or gas.

Gas Heating vs Electric Heating: What’s the Difference?

If you're trying to decide between electric and gas heaters, knowing the differences could be helpful.

Gas heating: Gas heating systems use a boiler to burn the fuel (natural gas, LPG, or oil) and heat the water. The heated water circulates throughout the space, warming the air as the flooring or radiators warm.

Electric heating: Electric heating systems rely on separate heating systems in each room, such as a plug-in fan, or a more sophisticated system of storage heaters that operate on off-peak electricity. Modern electric heating technology has made electric heating systems a viable alternative to gas heating in most homes.

Pros and Cons of Gas Heating

Benefits of Gas Heating

  • Modern gas boilers are getting more efficient: Modern gas boilers can be up to 90% efficient, making them a good choice if you want to save money on your energy bills.
  • Lower operating cost: Because gas is usually less expensive than electricity, a gas heater has a lower operational cost than an electric heater.
  • Can heat your home quickly: Gas boilers generate maximum heat immediately upon ignition, which means you won't have to leave the heating on for an extended time, saving you money.
  • Freedom from reliance on electricity: Gas heating ensures that your home will remain warm in the case of a power outage. If you reside in a place where winters are harsh, this gives you some peace of mind that you can keep your house warm.

Cons of Gas Heating

  • High initial cost: Gas heating systems are quite large and complex, requiring skilled installation. They also necessitate the installation of a chimney or flue to exhaust the combustion emissions. The price of a gas heater is also substantially more than the cost of a comparable electric system.
  • Low lifespan: A gas heater can last 10-20 years if regularly serviced.
  • Regular maintenance: Boilers require routine maintenance. Usually, a gas safety engineer does an inspection once a year.
  • Safety: The primary concern with gas heaters is the risk of a carbon monoxide leak. A carbon monoxide detector serves as an early warning system.
  • Gas boilers use fossil fuel: Using fossil fuels to generate heat contributes to climate change and global warming.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Electric Heating

Benefits of Electric Heating

  • Initial cost: Electric heating systems are often less expensive than gas heaters. However, the higher cost of electricity makes this type of heater more costly to operate.
  • Installation: Because there is no need for a venting system, installation is frequently faster, easier and less expensive.
  • High efficiency: Electric heating systems are almost 100% efficient, converting nearly all energy to heat. Electric radiators are a good alternative for areas that require additional warmth without requiring the rest of the central heating to be switched on.
  • Long lifespan: Electric heaters are quiet and durable, lasting between 20 and 30 years.
  • Easy maintenance: Often, you can perform maintenance on your own, requiring just the assistance of a professional on the rare occasion that the equipment fails.
  • Eco-friendly: Electric heating is environmentally friendly when powered by renewable energy. This is a critical reason why electric heating is the most environmentally friendly alternative for sustainable heating.
  • Direct heat: Modern electric heating solutions such as Infrared heating transmit heat direct to the surface the infrared lands on. This means that the elements in the room, including its inhabitants are heated directly. Gas heating can only indirectly heat which is less efficient.

Cons of Electric Heating

  • High operating cost: As electricity unit prices are higher than gas, your electricity bill could end up being high.
  • Slower heat: Electric heating takes significantly longer to warm up your home than gas since it takes longer for the system to kick in.
  • Susceptible to power outages: Full reliance on electricity makes this type of heating system vulnerable to power outages.

Which is Cheaper Gas or Electricity?

Is gas cheaper than electricity? The answer will vary depending on your circumstances.

Gas Heating: Cold Climate, Large House

Natural gas is more cost-effective and energy-efficient in colder climates and large homes. In warm climates or small flats, you must factor in the installation cost, the boiler and maintenance when deciding on a heating system.

However, this is not an option if you lack access to piped gas.

Electric Heating: Warm Climates, Small Space

While natural gas is fantastic for colder climates, electric heating is excellent for warmer areas and small apartments. And as far as second homes go, this is hands down the best option.

Quick Installation Cost Comparison Gas or Electric Heating

An electric heater will cost between £1,500 and £3,000, whereas a gas heater would cost between £3,000 and £5,000.

Which is Better for the Environment - Electric or Gas Heating?

The Case for Electric Heating

When it comes to turning a fuel source into thermal energy, nothing is more environmentally friendly than electricity. Typically, the conversion process produces no harmful greenhouse gases or environmentally dangerous by-products.

The Case Against Electric Heating

Given that most electricity is generated by plants that convert fossil fuels to electricity, there is still a long way to go until 100% renewable electricity production.

Looking into the Future for Electric Heating

All-electric homes can only be low-carbon if all electricity is generated from renewable sources.

The Case for Gas Heating

Natural gas is regarded as a "green" fuel that helps mitigate the environmental damage caused by other fuels. It burns cleaner, emits less carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury.

The Case Against Gas Heating

While natural gas is often promoted as a cleaner energy source than coal and oil, it still accounts for about a fifth of global carbon emissions. Furthermore, methane leaks from natural gas extraction and transportation exacerbate global climate change.

Looking into the Future for Gas Heating

Various climate conventions have concluded that electricity is one way to cut CO2 emissions. The plan is to add millions of new solar panels, transition homes from natural gas and convert to electric transport. Current government plans propose a ban on gas and oil boilers in new-build homes starting in 2025.

Choosing Your Ideal Heating System

Electric heaters are more affordable, simpler to set up, and don't require a chimney, making them ideal for smaller homes. Gas heating, on the other hand, is cheaper to operate, more reliable in the event of a power outage and better at warming larger spaces.

In many circumstances, the availability of fuel will substantially affect your decision. For example, if your location lacks access to the essential piping infrastructure, going electric may be the best option. See Gas Central Heating vs Electric Heating for further details.