It's a year to the day since my aged gas central heating boiler spluttered out and died. As it turns out, it was probably for the best. Rust in peace.


You know, I never put much thought into my gas central heating, I just took it for granted. It came on twice a day to heat the radiators & water tank, and at weekends we'd hit the override button if things got too chilly for comfort.

Our "old faithful" Potterton NetaHeat was probably about 20-30 years old going by the brown colour scheme, and I think it's only broken down once since we moved here in 2002. When it popped off last January though, Stephen from Paul Hands Plumbing & Heating had no choice but to read it the last rites because of the lack of spares available.

Although annoyed by the timing, it made me think about how we were consuming energy in our household. We had the gas for heating and hot water and for a feature fireplace in the living room while 'leccy was used for everything else including cooking. We also had electric underfloor heating in the living room and kitchen for additional comfort.

There were a whole list of things I didn't like about gas though, and the demise of our NetaHeat forced me to consider whether having a new boiler plumbed in was really the right way to go.

My gripes against gas go like this...

1. You pay a standing charge for having it whether you use it or not. For me, that was 28.3p/day and the recent hot summers meant many days when the gas wasn't required for heating purposes. As our cooking is all done electrically and we don't require a tank of hot water every day, this standing charge was often money down the drain.

2. Ripping out the old boiler and fitting a new one isn't a DIY job. You're looking at a bill of about £2.5k, need to find a reputable Gas Safe engineer who's available when needed, need a service plan if you want peace of mind that it's going to last the distance, but even then new boilers are only rated for about ten years of service life which places you back at square one and reaching for your wallet sooner or later.

3. The wife hates pipes and radiators and much prefers invisible underfloor heating. Ripping out the rads reclaims useful wall space.

4. Although our NetaHeat was years old and we were proud it had lasted that long, in truth it was probably horribly inefficient and we had likely been overspending on both the gas and electricity the thing needed in order to wheeze its way through each day.

5. When you think about it, the old central heating systems aren't an efficient way to heat a home. We had one thermostat located by the stairs and that determined how much heat should be pumped out in all the other rooms. All rooms got heated regardless of whether they were inhabited as there were no localised radiator controls, and the water was heated twice a day whether we needed it or not. Considering we use an electric shower rather than the bath and the washing up is performed by a dishwasher, generally a whole tank of hot water wasn't needed very often.

6. Gas is a dying fossil fuel and as time goes on it seems likely that prices will rise. Electricity is the golden boy of energy though and can be created in all sorts of ways with the push now firmly on to find clean and green methods of mass production. As time and technology move forward, it's likely new and better generation methods will be invented which will see the cost of electricity come down.


In all then, I figured it would be more cost effective to boot out the gas and go fully electric for my needs. Sure, electricity currently costs more per kiloWatt hour than gas, but there were advantages I could offset against that cost (besides the obvious one of my being a sparky and therefore installing any electrical solutions with no labour charge)....

1. With electric heating solutions in each room, each with their own timer, thermostat or controller, each room could be set to be heated only for specific times of day (bathroom), to suit the occupants (bedrooms, living room etc.), or not to come on at all if not needed (uninhabited rooms).

2. We had an immersion heater for the hot water tank and a boost controller would allow us to heat the water only when it was actually required rather than twice a day every day regardless. Got to do some washing up? Simply hit the boost 30 minutes before. Want a hot bath? Hit the boost an hour beforehand. Don't need any at all? Leave the boost alone and keep the pennies in your pocket.

3. Underfloor heating, in the rooms where we've installed it, works at a lower temperature but over a greater area, so a large room can be warmed by an 850W solution rather than by a 2kW panel radiator.

4. An Economy 7 plan allows storage heating solutions, heating of water or the operation of thirsty white goods to occur in the small hours to take advantage of lower electricity rates at night.

5. Ditching the gas means the standing charge and boiler running/maintenance costs we would have paid out are offset against the electrical running costs.

6. Electrical heating is 100% efficient. Unlike gas which vents hot waste air from a flue, an electrical heater converts all the energy it consumes into the heat we want with no losses.

7. Should a localised room heating solution fail or wear out, it will only affect that single room. Replacement or repair is cheaper and easier, maintenance plans aren't required and hunting around for decent gas engineers is a thing of the past.

8. The boiler coming off the wall gives us extra space in the utility room for a new cupboard and the removal of the gas meter means we gain cupboard space in my office. Considering our clutter, it all helps!

heatelectricRemember this ad campaign from the '80's?


I also decided to spend some money on Solar PV which will give me returns from the government over 20 years. After the payback on the installation investment (about 6 years), the money generated will offset against my electric bill. On bright days I can use features such as the water boost to get a tank of hot water at a reduced cost or for free when the sun has his hat on in the summer.

Shopping around for the best energy tariff is also a prudent measure to ensure my costs per kiloWatt hour are reasonable, and I've just signed on with Ovo Energy for another 12 months which sees me paying a competitive 25.89p standing charge with 'leccy rates at 12.69p/kWh in the day and 6.94p/kWh in the small hours when the dishwasher and dryer are set to come on.

Now, I admit switching fully to electric may not be everyone's cup of tea, but for me it made perfect sense as a long term solution. The gas can always be reactivated by calling the utility company to get the meter reinstated should we, or any future owners of this house, decide it makes sense to do so, but personally I believe simply replacing the boiler just wouldn't have made financial sense in the long term.


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