Should you heat your house with gas or electricity?
Heating the home may not be something Australians worry about for much of the year, but when winter rolls around it moves up on the priority list. In fact, heating and cooling makes up a whopping 40% of your household energy use. When facing decisions about heating your home, one of the biggest questions is deciding between gas or electricity.
Before we can weigh up gas vs electricity when heating your home, we have to take a few steps back. First, let’s look at the factors at play before you even turn on the heat.
Optimising your house for heating
Size matters: if you live in a big house, it’s going to cost more to heat it. Houses with good insulation in the roof, floors, and walls will stay snug longer. Securing any drafts where air can sneak in and investing in good windows can also make a difference. Take advantage of the sun in the winter but close the curtains at night to keep the heat in; if you’re using space heaters then shut the doors to the rooms that don’t need to be heated.
All of these elements can help keep your house warmer and reduce the size of your heating bill; they can also influence your decision on how to heat your home.
How will you heat your home?
The first question to ask is whether you rely on space heaters or central heat. Space heating only heats the rooms that need it, while central heat will warm up the whole house. In general, space heating uses less energy, though this will depend on how energy efficient your house is.
There are several different ways of heating your house, whether you use space heaters or central heat. When choosing appliances, use the energy star labels as a guide for energy efficiency.
Heat your house room by room
- Fixed or portable
- Good for small to medium spaces
- Low running cost
- Low greenhouse gas emissions
- Move from room to room
- Good for small spaces
- Cheaper to buy but more expensive to run
- High greenhouse gas emissions
- Fixed to the wall
- Dual purpose: heat in winter and cool in summer
- Expensive to buy but cheaper to run
- Medium greenhouse gas emissions
Heat your whole house at once
- Heat generated through gas or a reverse cycle air conditioner
- Control the heat through a thermostat and by closing air ducts
- Low running cost but uses gas as well as an electric fan to circulate air
- Low to medium greenhouse gas emissions
- Heat provided through electric coils or gas hot water
- System is installed in the slab during construction
- Medium to high running cost
- High greenhouse gas emissions for electric systems
Environmental factors of gas vs. electricity
When it comes to the environment, natural gas and electricity are competitive. Natural gas uses one-third of the greenhouse gas emissions that grid electricity does. However, renewable energy sources and energy-efficient appliances are giving electricity a leg up.
If you use solar power, you could be saving money by running an electric heat source during the day, when you can draw energy from your solar panels. The following table is based on non-solar energy options; with solar, you can reduce your emissions when using electricity.
|Low emission||Medium emission||High emission|
|Ducted natural gas heating||Ducted reverse cycle heating||Electric underfloor heating|
|Portable natural gas heater||Reverse cycle air conditioner||Electric portable heaters|
Health factors of gas vs. electricity
There are health and safety factors to consider when using gas or electric heating. A faulty gas heater could give off carbon monoxide, which is extremely toxic to your health. Get your gas heater serviced at least every two years.
Electric space heaters, on the other hand, could be dangerous if not used properly. Never leave an electric space heater running overnight, as it could get too hot and start a fire. They should also be kept away from materials like clothing or blankets when in use.
The cost of heating with gas vs. electricity
Cost is a major factor for many Australian households when deciding how to heat their home. However, with fluctuating gas and electricity prices, it’s impossible to say which will be the most inexpensive option in the long term. Although gas has historically been a cheaper energy source, electric heating options are becoming more energy-efficient.
An energy-efficient home generally provides better value for money than trying to find the cheapest source of heating.
Reference: DEWHA, 2008 http://yourhome.gov.au/energy
Each degree hotter in winter or cooler in summer increases energy consumption by 5–10%.
Experts suggest keeping the thermostat at
in kiloWatt hours (kWh)
Average annual gas consumption in megajoules (MJ)
Reference: ACIL Allen Energy Benchmarks Report 2017 www.aer.gov.au
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