Homeowners Professionals

What is a hybrid heating system?

Boilers are no longer the only choice for the UK when it comes to heating your home. While they’re still the most popular and familiar option, other systems for central- and hot water-heating are available too, including heat pumps and solar thermal panels, and becoming more popular. Each system comes with its own set of considerations (practicality, cost, functionality, etc.), and choosing something unfamiliar isn’t always easy.

Something you might not have considered is pairing up two heating systems to create one that works more efficiently and more practically for you and your family. This is also known as a hybrid heating system.  

Read on to find out more about hybrid heating and which systems you can combine.

How does a hybrid heating system work?

A hybrid heating system, also known as a bivalent hybrid system, integrates two different heating appliances which work together to provide all of your hot water and heating needs. It can do this in one of two ways.  

The first involves setting a minimum outdoor temperature that must be reached before the system switches to the second   appliance.

For instance, when the temperature outside drops below zero , the system may switch from the heat pump to the gas boiler. Heat pumps are more efficient at lower flow temperatures, so for the majority of the year they will provide the base load heat for your home. However, when the temperature drops to below freezing and the heat pump efficiency drops, your boiler will be able to deliver the higher heat needed to keep your home warm and would do this more economically than the heat pump, giving you the best of both worlds depending on the seasonal requirements  

The second is known as a tariff-controlled system and will automatically switch appliances depending on which is cheaper to run at a specific time. During peak electricity times, when electricity costs more, it may transition to the gas boiler. The benefit of this is you’ll always be using the most cost effective source of heating without having to do a thing.    

You can pair up a variety of appliances to create a hybrid heating system: generally they consist of a heat pump and an alternative heat generator, such as   a gas boiler, electric boiler or oil boiler, etc. Below, we’ve identified the two most popular systems that are used in conjunction with a boiler: solar panels and heat pumps.  

Hybrids using solar thermal panels

Solar thermal panels absorb sunlight and convert it into heat, which is used to warm up the water in your hot water cylinder. They do use some electricity to pump the heat from the panels to your hot water cylinder, but as the solar energy is free heat, solar thermal is more efficient than a traditional gas or oil boiler and  they work very well alongside a boiler to reduce the amount of energy you use for hot water heating. On the continent, solar thermal is also used to heat water in a buffer cylinder that will contribute to your heating, which would reduce your energy usage even further, but due to the size of a buffer and the fact that their use for home heating was not subsidised under previous grant schemes, this is not a widespread option in the UK. 


Hybrids using heat pumps

Heat pumps and gas boilers are a bit of a match made in heaven when used alongside each other in a hybrid system. A heat pump uses electricity to transfer heat from either the ground or the air into your home, making it more efficient and a greener option than a fossil fuel boiler. However, in some cases, they may not be able to keep up with your heating and hot water demands, or they may not be the most efficient or economical option at that time, especially during winter’s coldest days, so the boiler can be used as an alternative back up. 

When used together, you could make your home more efficient, reducing energy costs and saving energy too. Introducing solar panels that can power your heat pump makes the system even greener. 

Is hybrid heating an efficient way to heat your home?

A properly designed and installed hybrid heating system is more efficient than a standalone system, such as a gas boiler or a heat pump. An intelligent control system will switch from one appliance to another to maximise energy efficiency, without you realising it’s done so. Heat pumps are generally more efficient than boilers, so having one of these installed will overall improve the efficiency of your home. It will reduce the amount of gas your boiler burns and the amount of time it’s running each day.  

How efficient the system is, however, will depend on your individual usage, the type of property you live in and how well insulated it is.  

How much does a hybrid heating system cost?

Should your home already have a boiler installed, it may cost anywhere between £7,000 and £15,000 to install a hybrid heat pump system. If you need a new boiler too, this could cost an additional £3,000. The cost may vary depending on how many aspects of your home need changing to adjust to the system (i.e. increased insulation, underfloor heating, pipe installation for a ground source heat pump, etc.)

Time to upgrade your heating?