Cheapest heaters to run in a 3 bedroom house

Too much choice and too little information

There is a huge choice of heating systems on the market.  It’s difficult to comprehend the different pros and cons of each one and how they compare with traditional systems.  Ultimately the primary consideration for property owners has to be affordability, and yet it is very difficult for the consumer to research and compare the total costs of all the various solutions available to them. If the purchase price of one solution looks attractive, perhaps its running costs are high. Or if running costs are low, perhaps purchase and installation costs are high – like heat pumps – or perhaps the whole system only has a life expectancy of ten years or so – like boilers. When all these factors are considered together, what are the cheapest heaters to run over their lifetime?

Rather than looking at individual costs in isolation, Herschel Infrared has reviewed all elements of the consumer’s purchase decision and created an annual Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) figure.

TCO is the figure consumers should be looking for, because it not only combines purchase cost, installation, running and maintenance costs, but it also factors in the eventual cost of replacement based on the life expectancy of each type of system.  We then annualise these figures (just like a business would do with any investment decision) to give you a truer picture of the total cost of owning that sort of heating system for each year of its life.

“Research shows that apart from A or B rated Gas Central Heating, Herschel Infrared has the lowest Total Cost of Ownership of any other major heating system – even beating new, low energy ‘eco’ solutions such as air source heat pumps by up to 20%, efficient digital electrical radiators by up to 40% and a staggering 50-60% on underfloor and electric night storage heaters”.

Heat Comparison 3 bedroom houseAll figures taken from manufacturer websites & UK Energy Savings Trust calculations for a 3 bedroom house. RHI and other grants not included.
Total cost of ownership includes purchase, installation, annual running, maintenance and replacement costs. Purchase and replacement costs based on leading manufacturer specified equipment.
vs Heatpumps vs Night Storage heaters vs Biomass
■ much cheaper purchase price
■ lower installation costs
■ no ongoing maintenance
■ no noisy fan
■ no plumbing / leaks
■ far more economical
■ much better control
■ does not require Economy 7
■ much nicer looking
■ no central boiler – noise, space
■ significantly cheaper purchase price
■ no maintenance
■ no ordering, delivery and storage of pellets / fuel
■ no plumbing / leaks

The total cost of Herschel infrared heating when employed in a three-bedroom semi-detached 89m2 house in central England is £804 per year. This compares with gas at £608 but is less than half the £1,734 total cost of owning modern electric storage heaters with automatic controls. For the same size house, electric underfloor heating with zone controls is expensive at £1,508 while using high efficiency electric convector heaters with unit thermostatic controls is £1,322.

When compared with the ‘eco’ options of biomass central heating and air-water heat pump central heating at £1,209 and £977 respectively, Herschel Infrared heating is still a far more economical choice. This makes it ideal when an energy-efficient solution is required in areas that are off the mains gas grid.

How did we work it out?

The Energy Savings Trust publishes figures for a standard 3 bedroom house (floor area of 89m2 assuming 1996 to 2002 construction with filled cavity walls, loft insulation and double glazing). The EST provides running cost calculators for many types of heating system assuming a 34 week heating season, 9 hours use per week day and 16 hours per weekend day. This provides an unbiased and generic set of operating costs which serves as a useful illustration of each technology (noting systems from different manufacturers may differ within any given group).

We researched purchase prices based on sample brands using reputable manufacturers’ list prices and we used installation costs where we could find these from reputable installers or from real-life examples where we have them.  We cross-checked our figures against guideline purchase / install costs on the Energy Savings Trust website (sometimes purchase & install costs are quoted as a single figure) and found these broadly agreed.

We used maintenance cost guidelines from market research websites and manufacturers’ recommendations where these were available. Running cost and annual maintenance costs combine to give a total annual running cost figure.

We took estimated lifespan guidelines from the Energy Savings Trust and manufacturer’s websites where these were available. For replacement costs, we accommodated the fact that for many systems, you are not replacing the entire infrastructure of the system, but only certain components (like a boiler, for example).  When set against the original purchase cost, the replacement cost and lifetime expectancy, this gives us the lifetime annualised cost.

We then added the running cost figure to give a total annual cost of ownership.


Choosing your heating system is an important investment decision. Property owners are always going to be driven fundamentally by costs, which is why the TCO figure should be very important to them. The low running costs of many “eco” options belie their large purchase and installation costs which take many years to recoup (assuming faultless lifetime running in the mean time).

Second only to A or B grade gas installations, Herschel Infrared Heating is the cheapest lifetime heating solution: being one of the cheapest solutions to purchase for a 3 bedroom house; easy and cheap to install; economical to run and requiring no maintenance. Lifetime expectations for Herschel Infrared systems are high, which is why we guarantee them from between 5 to 10 years.

We have no doubt that Herschel Infrared will emerge as the ideal heating solution for most households given its winning combination of efficiency and overall lifetime cost.