Electric Central Heating

Home heating systems

Electric Central Heating

By Ellie Simmonds

Article 3 of 8

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Electric Central Heating

Find out more about electric heating, including what Economy 7 and Economy 10 are, and the average cost of electricity 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.

Keep reading to find out about the different ways you can heat your home using electricity. We also reveal the pros and cons of electric heating, plus the average electricity cost so you can check if you're paying too much.

Want to cut your energy bills? Use our energy switching service, Which? Switch, to find the cheapest energy deal.

Night storage heaters

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. 

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 cost of electricity

The average annual cost for heating and hot water using electricity in the UK is £2,053 when consuming around 13,500 kWh a year.

This annual fuel cost is not based on actual fuel bills. It's derived from using the average cost of different types of fuel across the UK, sourced by Sutherland Tables, which collects domestic fuel pricing data. These costs (per kWh in pence) are then multiplied by the amount of kWh a medium energy user consumes on average in a year (13,500 kWh), as calculated by Ofgem.

Remember, this cost is just a guide to help you compare costs of different types of fuel. There are a number of factors that affect energy bills, including the age of a house and insulation, the efficiency of a hot water and heating system, and where you are in the UK.

£2,053The annual cost of heating and hot water using electricity

To see where and how you can make savings on your heating bills, go to cutting your energy costs.

Pros of electric central heating

Electric night storage heaters are much cheaper to install than gas central heating systems as they don't require pipework 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.

Cons of electric central heating

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Electricity prices are about three to four times higher than gas prices per unit of energy. And, like gas, electricity prices are 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.

Even if you don't have access to the gas grid, there are ways you can cut your heating costs. Find out if you can save by installing a wood burning stove or solar panels.