Home heating systems Electric central heating

If your home isn't on the gas grid, you could use electricity to heat it, as nearly every household in the UK has access to the electricity grid. But electrical heating can be expensive.

Night storage heaters

Electricity pylon

Unlike gas, mains electricity is available almost everywhere in the UK

The most cost-effective form of electric central heating uses night storage heaters. These heaters use electricity supplied at a cheaper ‘night-time’ rate to heat up special heat-retaining bricks. These bricks then heat your home around the clock using the heat stored in the bricks.

Night storage heaters give out heat slowly and are designed to keep warm for the whole of the following day. Cheap-rate electricity can also be used to provide hot water via an immersion heater in your hot water tank.

Economy 7 and Economy 10

If your home has night storage heaters, you'll usually power these using a special electricity tariff that offers cheaper rates of electricity at night. Electricity tariffs that provide cheap-rate electricity are usually known as Economy 7, as they give you seven hours of cheaper electricity overnight. Economy 10 works in a similar way and gives you an extra three hours of cheap electricity – usually in the middle of the afternoon. Find out more about Economy 7 and Economy 10 on our energy tariffs explained page.

You can also get electric radiators that run off a normal single-rate electricity tariff. However, due to the relatively high price of electricity during the day, these can be expensive to run and should only be considered if you have a very well-insulated property and won’t have to use them regularly.

Annual fuel cost for electric heating and hot water (not including installation costs)

  • Fuel cost for heating and hot water: £1,700 (less if on an Economy 7/10 tariff)

Carbon emissions per year

  • Carbon emissions: 6 tonnes

These annual costs are estimated costs based on heating and hot water demands of a three-bedroomed, semi-detached, well-insulated house (insulated cavity walls, 270mm loft insulation and insulated primary pipe work), the efficiencies of typical heating systems and the current average price of electricity per kWh (as at July 2012). They are not derived from actual fuel bills.

Take a look at our guide to cutting your energy costs to see where and how you can make savings on your heating bills.

Pros of electric central heating

Electric night storage heaters are much cheaper to install than gas central heating systems as they don't require pipe-work or a flue.

With very few moving parts, storage heaters need very little maintenance and don’t need to be serviced annually.

Unlike gas, mains electricity is available almost everywhere in the UK.

electric storage heater detail

Heating your house with electricity can be expensive

Cons of electric central heating

Electricity prices are about three to four times higher than gas prices per unit of energy. And like gas, electricity prices are also rising and are likely to stay high. As most electricity in the UK is generated in gas-fired power stations, any increase in the price of gas will also be reflected in the cost of electricity.

The daytime rate on Economy 7 or Economy 10 tariffs is higher than on standard single-rate electricity tariffs, so while you’ll get a cheaper rate for your heating, running appliances during the day – particularly if you need to use an electric heater to provide extra heat – could be expensive. 

You don’t have instant control over storage heaters: older models give out heat as long as the bricks remain warm - day and night. If you haven't had the heating on lately and switch on your night storage heater, you won't get heat until the following night. Some heaters do have a convection heating option for instant heat.

If your storage heaters don’t have an automatic charge control (which measures the temperature in the room and adjusts the amount of heat stored overnight), you’ll have to set this yourself – so keep an eye on the weather forecast for the following day.

More on this...