Warm Air Ducted Heating vs. Wet Central Heating

Most heating systems for homes in the UK, especially in towns, are gas fired boilers. If you have a gas supply, the obvious, and usually cheapest way to heat your home is with a gas boiler. Warm air, ducted heating is another, cost effective way to heat your home. This was a relatively popular method of heating back in the 70s and 80s, but has declined in use for domestic properties in recent years, with just a handful of manufacturers in the market.

How does warm air heating work and why choose it?

The air is pulled into the home from a vent to the outside. This air is heated over a gas fuelled flame, which is then circulated around the property via a system of ducts. This type of heating is particularly effective in well insulated properties, and in single storey properties like flats and bungalows, but can also be found in larger homes and in commercial properties.

Heating air directly with a flame is very efficient and will rival a gas boiler in terms of efficiency, whilst ducting the air around the home is also very effective, and can heat a room very quickly, as well as help prevent damp and condensation build up around the home.

Why has warm air heating decreased in popularity?

There are a couple of key reasons why warm air heating has diminished. Firstly, warm air cornered the market for smaller properties where boiler technology had not quite worked out an efficient way to fire a small 9kW boiler for example. Nowadays, boiler technology has solved many of these problems, and efficiency has improved markedly, making them more suitable for these types of home.

Secondly, warm air technology has not really kept up with these changes, with few of the big manufacturers showing interest in the technology, largely because the market is small, and there is little demand to retrofit ducts into an existing building.

So what are the disadvantages of ducted warm air heating?

There are some pretty significant pitfalls unfortunately, that have prevented large scale take up of the system. These include:

  • Lack of water heating – Some of these air heating systems cannot heat their hot water with the same system, which means they have to choose between a separate gas boiler for hot water, or using an immersion heater. Both of these options are fairly inefficient, so any gains from the warm air system are going to be somewhat offset by the water heating issue.
  • Retrofit tricky – If you have a warm air system installed as part of the initial design of the building, then great, but trying to retrofit ducts into the property is going to be really tricky, and you will probably end up with visible ducts all over the house.
  • Cost and lack of installers – There are only a handful of models and installation companies on the market, so prices are not as competitive as boilers and choice is more limited.
  • Moving air can aggravate allergies – As you may have seen in some of our other blogs, heating systems that move the air round the room can really aggravate allergies, because they move dust into the air very easily. Radiators do this to an extent because of the convective action of the heat they generate, but warm air systems actively move the air around the room as part of their operation, so they can be really bad news for allergy sufferers.

When is warm air heating worth it?

Warm air heating is not a bad option for some properties. Usually in a small property which is still under construction, allowing the ducting to be in-built. In a modern well insulated property which is able to in build a warm air system, there is definitely a place for this kind of heating. The problem is that there are not enough advantages over a traditional boiler to make the effort worthwhile.