What Are the Most Energy Efficient Heating Types in 2024? [Guide]

Choosing an efficient heating type is one of the best changes you can make to reduce the carbon emissions from your home, shrink your carbon footprint and reduce your energy bills.

Also, making sure your heating system is energy-efficient doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.

Find out which are the most energy-efficient heating types and how you can save energy with your current heating system.   

Why Is Efficient Heating Important?

An efficient heating system is vital to homeowners who want to reduce electricity bills and their carbon footprint. Unfortunately, our heating accounts for 40% of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions globally, which we can’t justify. Additionally, we spend over half of our energy bills on heating our homes.

If we want to reach the UK government’s net zero targets by 2050, we must all play our part. To achieve this goal, we must cut the carbon emissions caused by heating our homes by 95%.

To meet these targets, we can expect significant changes to create more efficient heating. However, in the meantime, there are several ways to ensure you have a more energy-efficient heating system in place.

What Are The Most Energy Efficient Heating Types?

Several heating types are available, but which is the most efficient heating system?

Here are the three main heating systems we use in the UK and their efficiency rates.

1. Heat Pumps

Heat pumps are widely considered the most efficient heating type, as they capture and move heat. So, a heat pump can bring the heat in from outdoors and remove heat from your home as necessary.

This heating method makes for a cooler home in the summer and a warmer one in the winter. Plus, since heat pumps can provide more energy than they consume, they can achieve efficiencies of 400%.

Currently, there are two main types of heat pumps available, and these are air-source pumps and ground-source pumps.

Air Source Pumps

As we touched upon, heat pumps capture and release heat as required. Air source pumps can complete this process by capturing and radiating heat back into the air.

As they cool, air source heat pumps use the refrigerant heat exchange properties to take heat from the air by the indoor evaporator coil. Then, they can transfer it outside. On the other hand, to heat a home, the same refrigerant can take heat from the outdoor air and move it inside.

Ground Source Pumps

Ground source pumps work in a very similar way to air source pumps. However, a ground source pump takes its heat from the ground outside the property.

A mixture of water and antifreeze flows through a series of pipes buried several feet underground, known as the loop. The fluid absorbs the heat from the ground, which passes through a heat exchanger and into the heat pump.

Learn more about how heat pumps work in this instructional video by The Engineering Mindset:

2. Furnaces

Furnaces are one of our homes’ most common heating types, but it is only the second most efficient. Modern furnaces can reach efficiencies of up to 98.5%.

However, older furnaces that burn fossil fuels are nowhere near as efficient. Therefore, when choosing a furnace, look out for its efficiency rating, which should be visible on a sticker somewhere on the furnace.

The most common types of furnaces are:

  • Electricity – Electric furnaces use electricity to power heat-generating coils that warm a property. Although they are notoriously expensive to run, electric furnaces produce no carbon monoxide or other gases as they don’t burn fuel. That said, if you’re not using green energy and the electricity you’re using is generated from fossil fuels, there will be carbon emissions.
  • Gas – Gas furnaces warm homes using natural gas. Most gas furnaces today produce heat using this natural resource and are relatively cheap to run. However, a gas furnace’s efficiency is much less than a heat pump.  
  • Oil – Oil furnaces produce heat by burning fuel oil stored in a tank close to the property. Sometimes, oil furnaces may also be powered by burning propane. Heating fuel oil or propane is an expensive feat, and the burning of these fuels is not too beneficial to the environment.
Energy Efficient Heating - Image of a wall mounted gas furnace
Gas Furnace Installation

3. Boilers

The final most efficient heating type is boilers. Nowadays, boilers are less common in our homes. However, this doesn’t mean that they are a terrible heating option. On the contrary, you can determine high-efficiency boilers by their efficiency rating, which should be 92% or higher.

A boiler produces hot water and circulates it through a home’s pipes and radiators. For an even higher efficiency model, you could choose a condensing boiler. These boiler types use a second heat exchanger to retrieve heat from exhaust gases before they can be vented outdoors. This process allows the boiler to recover some of the heat before it’s lost to the natural ventilation process.

Read more about the different types of boilers.

Energy Efficient Heating - Image of a boiler and heat pump in a boiler room
Boiler and Heat Pump

How to Make Your Heating Type More Efficient

Unfortunately, swapping your system for more energy-efficient heating isn’t always an option. However, there are still things you can do to make your heating system more efficient.

Here are five steps you can take to create more energy-efficient heating regardless of your system type:

1. Ensure You Have Good Insulation

Unfortunately, no matter how high-quality your insulation and heating system are, your home will still lose heat. However, you will manage to keep more heat in your home with the most effective insulation. In addition, keeping the heat in your home means you will not have to turn your heating on as often, leading to a more energy-efficient system. So, it’s best to insulate as many sections of your home as possible.

Here are some of the most effective parts of your home to insulate for efficient heating:

  • Wall insulation
  • Roof insulation
  • Cavity wall insulation
  • Loft insulation
  • Pipe insulation

2. Update Your Boiler

As we discussed previously, boilers can be a relatively efficient heating type. However, boilers over 25 years old are less efficient than more modern models. This is because modern boilers have been designed with efficiency in mind, whereas older boilers do not have this justification. So, for a more efficient heating system, you should consider updating your boiler if you have one. Also, make sure to look for a boiler with a high-efficiency rating!

3. Install Underfloor Heating

Underfloor heating is a subject that is consistently popping up in the discussion of efficient heating. This heating system is installed under the flooring and, due to the large surface area it sits beneath, requires a temperature of only a few degrees higher than usual to sufficiently heat your home. Plus, underfloor heating provides an even distribution of heat, working to warm the entire room and its occupants without its heat output rising to the top of the room. Also, you don’t have to leave underfloor heating on for as long as other heating systems. Underfloor heating can use up to 40% less energy than radiators because of these benefits.

Energy Efficient Heating - Image of an exposed underfloor heating system during installation

4. Flush Your Central Heating System

It’s natural for central heating systems to become filled with debris and dirt. Flushing your central heating, or cleaning all of this debris out, will help your heating system work more efficiently. A flush will make it easier for warm water to travel easily through the pipes, thus heating radiators and boilers quickly. Also, a flushed central heating system should get warmer without cold spots.  

5. Bleed Your Radiators

Bleeding your radiators shouldn’t be a chore that you keep putting off. On the contrary, it’s an important job that helps to make your current heating system more efficient in the long run. Bleeding radiators involves releasing air that has become trapped at the top of your radiator. By doing this, it will allow hot water to fill the entire radiator, letting the whole radiator get hot. This will lead to quicker heat dispersion and reduce the need to keep your radiators on for long periods.

Find out if your radiators need bleeding by checking for a discrepancy between the temperature at the bottom and top. If there is, you should bleed your radiators as soon as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will My Home Still Lose Heat With Insulation?

Unfortunately, your home will still lose some heat, no matter its insulation. For example, you may keep all your windows closed but still open the front door. However, insulation will inevitably make an enormous difference by significantly reducing heat loss. Read the full guide to learn more about heating options for your home.

Should I Keep Doors Open or Closed When My Heating is On?

We'd recommend closing your doors. Heating systems work by creating a convection current. This means the hot air rises, travels through the room, falls, and then returns to the heater to be warmed again. Close the door to ensure you don't disturb this cycle.  Read the full guide to learn more.

Will a Smart Meter Help Me Save Energy?

Yes. Smart meters show your energy use in real-time, making it easier to spot how you use your energy. So, installing a smart meter can help you save energy since you can see how you use your energy and how you can change your usage to cut down. Read the full guide to learn more about conserving energy and the best heating options to use.

References & Useful Resources

BBC: Climate Change – How to Cut Carbon Emissions from Heating

Kensa Heat Pumps: What is the Efficiency of a Heat Pump?

Energy.gov: Energy Saver Furnaces and Boilers

Ideal Home: How Efficient is Underfloor Heating?

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