Choosing the best value home heating option

Q My gas bottle central heating is very expensive. What should I go for: oil, mains gas or electric heating for my suburban house?

A One of the first things you need to consider when weighing up the three options – oil, mains gas or electric heating – is how much they cost to firstly install and then to maintain.

Electric heating can be the easiest to convert to in that regard because of its widespread availability.

Having said that, it can be the most expensive of the three options, particularly during the winter months.

If you are going down this route it would be best to invest in an efficient heat pump.

The most popular form of heating at present is natural gas, a convenient fuel source which offers security of price and supply.

Unlike electricity, however, it requires regular maintenance and is not readily available everywhere in Ireland. It, more often than not, though is the cheapest of the three options.

Heating oil is also popular, but prices for a litre of kerosene or diesel can vary greatly and it has been affected in recent months and years by a number of factors, including increases in VAT and the introduction of a carbon tax.

As with gas, it does require maintenance and can be more expensive to install. It is somewhat safer than gas, however, since it is much harder to ignite and therefore less flammable.

Anyone with oil-fired central heating would also be advised to fill their tank between now and next May when an increase in prices will come about due to a rise in the carbon tax.

According to price comparison site, Bonkers.ie, the average three-bed semi-detached house requires 13,800 kw/hrs of gas a year for heat.

This would cost €876 on a standard rate. The same amount of energy in electricity would cost you €2,200 on a night saver tariff.

Oil can vary greatly in price, but can work out even dearer. The average house uses between 700 and 1,300 gallons per year.

Taking that at its lowest amount (700 gallons/2649 litres) would still cost you €2,275.49 based on the going rate with a major national supplier.

No matter which of the three methods you choose, it is also important to ensure your home is properly insulated, so that you are getting the best value for your home heating solution.

James Rogers is the site and communications editor of property website MyHome.ie

Send your queries to propertyquestions@irishtimes.com or to Property Questions, The Irish Times, 24-28 Tara Street, Dublin 2.

This column is a readers’ service. Advice given is general and individual advice should always be sought

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