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Storage heater alternative.... Infrared vs lpg vs Air source heat pump

We've just moved into a 5 bed detached house with 30 year old storage heaters and an electric immersion heater. Obviously very expensive to run. It's got a couple of big living areas, and it's definitely not a passive /air tight house.   We're trying to find an alternative way to heat the house and hit water, whatever is cost effective long term and we're not scared to switch the heating on. So far we've explored biomass (£27k, non starter), ASHP (concerned about the ongoing electric costs given that we don't have underfloor heating and it's not an air tight house), infrared heating with solar panels and battery (concerned the house won't be warm enough, and electric costs would still be high especially in winter), lpg/oil (seems like a backwards step for the environment and also a huge ugly tank in the garden, and not the cheapest fuel as far as future running costs are concerned).  Our final option is to replace with modern storage heaters, but feel this will be expensive to run on an ongoing basis). 

Wind turbines don't seem to be a done thing so I'm assuming they're crazy expensive?

Any advice from anyone who has experience with any "off grid" energy would be really appreciated. 


  • Robin9
    Robin9 Posts: 12,183 Forumite
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    Have you got any consumption figurers for the time you've been there ?  What tariff are you on ?
    Never pay on an estimated bill
  • Reed_Richards
    Reed_Richards Posts: 4,241 Forumite
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    What rating does your Energy Performance Certificate report for the house?  That is important if you want a heat pump and to subsidise the cost by claiming the Renewable Heat Incentive.

  • Reed_Richards
    Reed_Richards Posts: 4,241 Forumite
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    I have this idea for turning rooms into large microwave ovens and just gently cooking the occupants to keep them warm.  Since infrared heaters don't work this way I believe that any claims that they will use less electricity than storage heaters are false.  In fact they will be using expensive day-rate electricity and will cost more to run.
  • Mickey666
    Mickey666 Posts: 2,834 Forumite
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    What rating does your Energy Performance Certificate report for the house?  That is important if you want a heat pump and to subsidise the cost by claiming the Renewable Heat Incentive.

    I know that's the case but I wonder if it's really a good strategy as far as saving the planet is concerned?

    Seems to me that a badly insulated, draughty house is EXACTLY the sort of property that should be using low carbon or renewable energy, because 'wasting' renewable energy is not going to contribute to global warming and climate change is it?

    But, our renewable energy incentives all seem to revolve around energy-efficient houses that don't need as much energy in the first place, leaving the inefficient houses to rely on fossil fuels, which we know damage our environment.

  • Gerry1
    Gerry1 Posts: 9,946 Forumite
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    Have you established that it's beyond impossible to get mains gas?
  • Reed_Richards
    Reed_Richards Posts: 4,241 Forumite
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    Mickey666 said:

    ....Seems to me that a badly insulated, draughty house is EXACTLY the sort of property that should be using low carbon or renewable energy...

    I think the idea is that draughts and poor insulation can be fixed relatively easily and that does more towards saving the planet than your choice of fuel.  
  • lohr500
    lohr500 Posts: 988 Forumite
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    We also live in an old 5 bedroomed property that suffers with heat loss. (Converted farmhouse).

    When we looked at air source heat pumps to modernise our oil fired heating system, the surveyors concluded that nearly all the radiators would need upgrading to work effectively with the lower circulation temperatures generated by ASHPs. And the heat requirement/loss calculations led them to conclude that we would need for two x 13kW ASHPs working together with an upgraded mains supply to the house. Estimated cost of installation £23k with a maximum RHI grant from the Govt of close to £12k.

    The running cost projection over the 7 year grant period showed a marginal saving over oil, so going down the ASHP route would have cost £11k extra over seven years. Plus the grant is payable in instalments, so it would have meant putting the full £23k funding up front.

    In the end I replaced our ancient oil boiler with a new condensing boiler. Total cost £5k, including switching the whole system over to a valve control S plan system which irrespective of the improved boiler efficiency, will give better efficiencies when heating the hot water only in the summer. Based on the 30 day oil consumption prior to switching the boiler and then 30 days after switching, we are using a staggering 32% less oil. (Measured with an in-line oil tally counter on the fuel line). The timer settings are unaltered and the external temperatures have been similar in our part of the country over the past 60 days.

    To cut a long story short, my partly empirical conclusion for older properties is that moving away from gas or oil will involve high capital outlay and/or higher running costs.

    If you can't get mains gas to the property then external oil tanks don't have to be unsightly and can be screened, or even placed underground. The boiler can also be located outside as well to free up space in the house and reduce noise. Our new one is an external unit.

    I would stay clear of LPG as my understanding is the cost is much higher and you will be locked into whichever supplier installs the bulk tank for a number of years. But it is a while since I looked at the LPG option. 
  • shinytop
    shinytop Posts: 2,104 Forumite
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    edited 12 April 2021 at 5:09PM
    OP, all you need to know about running an ASHP in a converted farmhouse is in the below link.


    We moved to a house with storage heaters 9 months ago and it was indeed expensive to run over the winter.  We are 10 days into ASHP ownership and so far I'm happy.  It's cheaper and a lot more flexible and works very well, even in the recent cold(ish) snap.  RHI and the savings over the NSH running costs will pay for the whole installation over 7 years.  Our house is quite well insulated but not particularly air tight.  We have all radiators and no ufh. 

    We (in my opinion) shouldn't really be installing complete new oil CH systems these days.  A bit like diesel cars, there is no need and there are alternatives. 
  • lohr500
    lohr500 Posts: 988 Forumite
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    @ shinytop. I have no doubt that your ASHP system will be cheaper to run than a house full of storage heaters.
    But one has to wonder how the running costs would compare if you had opted for an oil system.
    It would be interesting to know how many kWh you have used over the 10 days and what the cost of that electricity was including a proportion of any standing charge based on ASHP usage vs total usage.

    With a modern condensing oil boiler running at 93% efficiency and heating oil at £0.40 per litre inc VAT, the cost of 1kWh of heat works out at £0.042. For an ASHP with a generous COP of 3:1, to get 3kWh of heat out, you would need to be buying electricity at less than £0.126 per kWh to match the oil cost per kWh of available heat.
    And I do worry about the claimed COP values for ASHP, particularly when its cold outside, the very time you need more heat in the house.  

    I agree 100% that oil is not environmentally friendly and if we could have switched to an ASHP or some other form of renewable supply for at or around the same cost, I would have done it.
    I was also a little worried about the fact that the RHI grant is linked to the property, not the individual, so if we were to downsize within the 7 year grant window we would stop receiving the payments despite making the full up front commitment to the installation.  
  • matelodave
    matelodave Posts: 8,638 Forumite
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    edited 12 April 2021 at 7:04PM
    It's like anything, you have to do your research to try and decide what it likely to be best for you,your lifestyle and your wallet.

    Whatever you choose will be some sort of compromise as all forms of heating have their pro's and con's as well as their proponents and detractors. We all have opinions,some based on fact, others on experience and quite a few on hearsay so it's not easy to get an unbiased opinion (especially from those who dont really know what they are talking about)

    Personally I'd do a lot of homework, sort out stuff like insulationand draughtproofing etc as they tend to be reasonably easy and relatievly cheap. By reducing the heating requirements you should be able to reduce the cost of the system you eventually choose.

    Any form of whole house heating system is going to be a long therm commitment so you need to decide whether you are going to be living there a long time or whether it's going to be a "quick fix" if you are going to move in the short to medium term as that will have bearing on how much you want to invest.

    You need to get a several quotations for each of the possible configurations and heating sources that interest you but it's worthwhile trying to fully understand what you want to achieve, how much you can afford and get a thorough understanding of your heating requirements so you can ask questions and be able to evaluate the different options. In the end, the house will need the same amount of heat to keep it warm and produce hot water whatever form the heating system takes.

    As most people agree, mains gas is probably the cheapest to run, but if that's not possible then at present oil is next,  then a heat pump, then LPG and lastly any form of electrical heating, with storage heating being the least most costly and electric flow boilers being stupidly expensive. The costs of all types of fuel are likely to fluctuate over the next few years, possibly more so if the government starts to distort the market by adjusting taxes and levies to try and make fossil fuels less favourable, who knows?

    There are some decent threads on the forum which are worth reading, for heatpumps there are a couple a long running thread fixed at the top of this forum, one for air source and the other for water. There's also stuff on oil, solid fuel and from those who are unfotuane  enough to have flow boilers and Fischer type panel radiators. (I have no experience of Infra Red as such but I guess they'd be pretty close to a Fiscsher in therms of performance and exhorbitant running costs)

    I pulled out storage heaters and installed a heatpump ten years ago, Reed_Richards changed his system from oil to a heatpump last year and shiny top has just changed installed one - thats not to say that they are the answer, but theres's more experience coming on line than from those "who know a mate's, mate who's dad thinks they are rubbish"

    IMO the choice is really oil or a heatpump and although my prefernce when I had to make the decision was a heatpump, oil is the cheapest to install and presently to run and so has a lot to commend it.

    Never under estimate the power of stupid people in large numbers
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