Is electric underfloor heating set to become the sustainable alternative to gas central heating?

Is electric underfloor heating set to become the sustainable alternative to gas central heating?

With rising fuel prices, national net zero targets and changes in building legislation, traditional gas central heating systems are falling out of favour.

For many years, gas-based systems have been the top choice for heating houses, with 85% of British homes using mains gas to keep warm.

However, the shortcomings of gas heating are becoming increasingly evident, with cost and environmental concerns threatening any heating which burns fossil fuels.

So, is this the time when electric underfloor heating takes another step forward as the sustainable heating solution for builders, property developers and homeowners alike?

We’ve identified three pressures on gas central heating which are tipping the scales in favour of electric underfloor heating.

  1. The UK government is determined to move away from gas heating toward sustainable electric alternatives

As part of their efforts to reach ambitious Net Zero targets, the UK government have made a number of legislative changes which are quickly putting gas-based systems out of favour – and ushering electric heating in.

Currently, around 1.7 million new boilers are installed every year in the UK and fossil fuel heating accounts for the majority of CO2 emissions produced by households. However, many experts claim that carbon neutrality (Net Zero) cannot be reached while gas boilers are still being fitted and used.

In their white paper Powering Our Net Zero Future, published in December 2020, the government identified electricity as key to the move away from fossil fuels.

To begin the transition, they have introduced a number of significant and transformative measures which are helping put electric heating systems, including electric underfloor heating, near the top of the list.

As part of their changes to Part L Building Regulations set out in their Future Homes Standard plan, all new-build dwellings must produce 31% fewer CO2 emissions than was previously acceptable. Commercial buildings must produce 27% fewer.

Furthermore, CO2 emissions from new-builds must be reduced further by 2025 – this time to ensure all carbon emissions are 75–80% lower than previous standards. The aim is to build new homes which are zero carbon ready, with low-carbon heating and high levels of energy efficiency.

As gas boilers are not particularly energy efficient and produce significant CO2 emissions, these changes make them unsuitable in their current form.

The construction and heating industries are already seeking out future-proof alternative heating solutions which will satisfy the new rules – and electric underfloor heating is an increasingly common feature in new homes.

Until recent decades, the majority of mains electricity was produced by burning fossil fuels in coal and gas power stations. However, since 2020, more than half of the UK’s electricity has been produced by renewable sources.

Electricity is increasingly seen as a sustainable option for home heating, with electric underfloor heating regarded as one of the most efficient forms.

2. Gas prices are rising fast, making electricity more cost effective

For many years, electric heating was considered on par with – or more costly than – gas when it came to heating. However, astronomic gas prices are forcing people to reconsider this assessment.

2022 has seen a steep increase in energy prices for both wholesale gas and electricity, which has been passed on to consumers. However, the rates of increase have not always been the same.

In the UK, the price of electricity has a strong link to the cost of gas, due to both the way in which the cost calculations are linked and the fact that gas currently still accounts for 40% of electricity production.

However, with the exponential growth of renewable electricity and the high wholesale cost of gas, this link could soon be broken.

In the wake of the ban on Russian gas, the UK has limited gas reserves and has been slow to embrace fracking (which has been subject to significant public resistance). Electricity is thus seen as a longer-term solution, with unit costs likely to fall as investment in renewables and nuclear power increases.

Due in part to the rise in electric vehicles, electricity could provide more than half of all energy consumed in the UK by 2050, up from 17% in 2019. A white paper has set out the actions the government intend to take to put the country on a path to a low-cost, clean electricity system by 2050.

With long-term gas supply issues, fresh investment in renewable energy and a potential rebalancing of the wholesale price of electricity, electric home heating looks set to continue its role in driving down household costs.

3. Electric underfloor heating is more efficient and controllable

Compared to traditional gas central heating, electric underfloor heating has a number of qualities which make it easier to reduce energy and costs.

Traditional radiators get much hotter than the room temperature they aim to achieve, which makes them relatively inefficient. In contrast, electric underfloor heating more effectively covers the entire area to be heated, so it operates at a much lower and more efficient temperature.

Conventional radiators take time to reach their operating temperature – time in which more energy escapes. Electric underfloor heating is more instantaneous, reducing energy use and avoiding scenarios where the heating is ‘whacked up’ to heat the home quicker.

Also, traditional gas central heating systems typically rely on a building-wide thermostatic control which results in some rooms being warmer than others. Due to the time taken to warm up, timers are often set in advance of the period when heating is needed, potentially wasting energy. 

Electric underfloor heating is much more controllable, with individual thermostats for each room which ensure heat isn’t wasted. Faster warm up times ensure heating is run for shorter periods.

Traditional gas central heating systems require regular maintenance and are often subject to breakdowns. The average lifespan of a gas boiler is often quoted as just 10 to 15 years. Due to the complete lack of moving parts and consumables, electric underfloor heating is largely maintenance free.

Electric underfloor heating is increasingly powered by sustainable electricity created by solar panels on the rooves of homes. Smart meters and smart electricity tariffs can also help households reduce energy use and costs.

Plus, electric underfloor heating systems are almost always accompanied with a base layer of floor insulation which again increases overall energy efficiency.

Is electric underfloor heating the future?

In the wake of gas boilers, most experts agree that renewable and electric heating will soon reign supreme.

Gas prices are soaring, electricity prices appear set to fall, electricity production is becoming ever more sustainable and the government has already introduced legislation which promotes electric heating.

The demand for electric underfloor heating is already experiencing significant growth. Once considered a luxury, it’s now an energy efficient and cost-effective alternative – a cosy addition which keeps your toes warm!

Here at Amber, we have over three decades of experience supplying the construction and heating industries with efficient and effective electric underfloor heating systems.

Alongside our unique and comprehensive range of Amber branded products, we are also the leading supplier of DEVI products in the UK and Ireland – all available through our network of wholesalers, distributers and kitchen, bathroom and tile showrooms.

To find out more about our range of electric underfloor heating solutions, visit: https://www.amberufh.co.uk/product_category/amber-range/