Central Heating

Are Electric Heaters Better Than Central Heating?

Central heating

Central heating comes about when heat to every room in the house (resulting from heating water or air) is distributed from a central heat source.

Note: For a video on how central heating works, check this one out and then come back to continue reading:


Different heat sources that can be used for central heating include; gas boiler, wood pellet boiler, air to water heat pump and diesel boiler among others. Central heating from solar panels is very much possible however more set up costs will be required.
Central heating sources have different features as below;

  • Heated water is passed through underflow pipes into the radiator which thereby reduce heat into the home
  • The heat warms objects within the room passively. You do not need to worry about noisy fans and draughts.
  • When the water is heated up to the required temperature level, the boiler modulates/switches off as heat is evenly emitted from the radiator.
  • Modern central heating systems can produce hot water for domestic consumption. Also, they can heat swimming pools and spas.
  • Should be fitted with a time controller to ensure heat is emitted only when needed and also a thermostat which controls the amount of heat supplied to various rooms.
  • For central heating systems with under-floor pipes, they need to be installed before laying the floor slab.

Before choosing on the type of system to install, bear in mind the system efficiency, cost and the type of material used in constructing your home. Also assess the amount of heat required for desired level heating by calculating the approximate heat energy lost via windows, walls, floors and the ceiling.
After drawing conclusions on the amount of heat required and heat loss assessments, choose the most suitable radiator with pipe lengths and spacing for underground heating with respective boiler for installation (for steam boilers). The installation process should only be undertaken by experienced and qualified professional. For efficiency ensure your system is serviced at least annually.
People prefer central home heating because of the following reasons;

  • Efficiency; Compared to other forms of heating, water systems provide four times the amount of heat produced. Also warm air that runs throughout the building provides even warmth distribution.
  • Convenience; Central heating comes with flexibility of being used anywhere. In rural areas where electricity is a problem, propane can be used as an option. Depending on the type of house, the cost and contractor recommendations, different types of central heating systems can be used.
  • Economical; the initial purchase and installation of the central heating system is quite expensive however the savings made in the long run by using the system are worthwhile and they actually recover the initial costs. Modern heaters are fitted with timers to run only when required and thermostats to regulate heat to required levels. Also system pipes are narrow and can back up heat enabling heated water to remain hot for long periods with minimal energy.
  • Central location; heat from one location is distributed equally enabling even distribution to the entire house. The central location can be a utility room or any safe room. This makes this a very secure and safe way of heating the house
  • Controls; central heating systems have thermostats that are programmed. A thermostat allows even temperature regulation and distribution throughout rooms. The system can be turned off in rooms that heating is not required. Also when the heat reaches desirable levels, the system is programmed to shut down automatically.
  • Sources of heat; Central heating system runs on gas, electricity or solar energy among other sources. All these sources give alternatives to choose from for efficiency, convenience and effectiveness.
  • Environmental friendly; Compared to other forms of heating, gas central heating produces less emissions (water and carbon dioxide) becoming cleaner and more Eco-friendly. The convenience of the gas through a pipe means that large tanks of oil that could leak and poison the ground water are not required.

Despite the above merits, drawbacks of central heating include:

  • Higher installation costs
  • Suitable route has to be established through which pipes will pass
  • The central heating unit needs sufficient space for installation
  • It does not offer flexibility to meet changing heat requirements in terms of resizing or moving components.

Electric heaters

Electric Heating is a process by which electrical energy is converted to heat energy. Usually an electric heater (that uses resistors emitting radiant energy) is used in this conversion process. Common uses of heat energy include; cooking, space heating and water heating among others.
Electric resistors in electric heaters work by joule heating. Modern electric heaters use nichrome wire as heating elements.
Sometimes electric heating can be via heat pumps that use electric motor to draw heat energy from the source and produce up to four units of heating energy from each unit of electricity.
When warming house interiors, various space heating methods can be used as below;

  • Radiative heating; by use of a radiative heater with a heating element resembling a light bulb that emits infra-red radiations which are converted to heat energy and by the help of a reflector, reflected directly to heat people and objects. Radiative heaters, though silent, lack overheat protection thus pose a high risk of causing accidental fires.
  • Convection heating; convection heaters heat air by thermal conduction. Warm air being lighter is displaced by cool air which is heat to also rise due to buoyancy. This process continues thereby creating a convection cycle.To create a heat reservoir, convection heaters are sometimes filled with oil.
  • Fan heating; electric fan heaters used are also called forced convection heaters as they speed up airflow reducing thermal resistance between the heating element and the surrounding. Although they speed up heating, the electric fan produces noise while working.
  • Storage heating system; storage heaters store heat at night then release it during the day when required. It is relatively cheap to acquire a reason why it is branded the name Economy 7 in some parts e.g. the UK

Other methods used for electric heating include; electric arc heating, induction heating, and dielectric heating. Produced heat(by induction or dielectric losses) is transferred by conduction, convection or radiation to the work-piece for heating.
Some people prefer electric heating due to the following reasons;

  • Temperature control; easy room by room temperature control is exhibited by various electric heating methods
  • Cost; compared to other heating systems, electric systems and heaters are cheaper and easy to install.
  • Space; electric heaters occupy relatively little space in the house
  • Clean and quiet; no emissions and sounds produced unless when using electric fan heaters.
  • Environmental friendly; despite noise from electric fan heaters, there are zero emissions (carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide) when this method is used. Also natural resources are preserved as wood and fossil fuel consumption is reduced.

Despite the above merits, electric heating possess some setbacks as below;

  • Operational expenses; electric resistance heaters that are used to heat up the room when used for long time periods make the electricity bill unbearable.Sometimes the bill can be two times that of gas.
  • Inefficiency; although very efficient when different methods are used to generate interior heat for buildings, the efficiency levels drop when supplying power plants are included. I.e. more than ten units of fossil fuel is used to produce less than four units of electricity in a fossil fuelled electricity plant. This could have been more effective and efficient if fossil fuel was burned directly by the consumer to produce heat.
  • When space heaters are used in electric heating, humidification, filtration or cooling cannot easily be provided.
  • Also electric hazards are diverse from shocks to faults that can cause accidental fires making it not a very safe process.

Before settling on the type of home heating method to adopt, it is important to do an in depth analysis of benefits and setbacks that come with each system. Central heating however has proved to be the most preferred method because of variety of systems that come with it, lower operational costs and installations even in rural areas where electricity is a problem.