Types of Fuel For Home Heating

Consider the following points when making your choice of a central heating system:

(i) What can be afforded for the initial installation and, even more important, for subsequent running costs?

(ii) What are your heating requirements, full, background, partial or selective? This will be controlled by the size of

the house, your living habits, size of family, and item (i) above.

(iii) Kind of heating control necessitated by your living habits. Are you in more often than you are out?

(iv) Have you storage space for coal or oil? If not, the choice will be narrowed down to gas or electricity.

Now for the pros and cons of each source of heat.

Solid fuelFuel For Home Heating

Advantages. Simple and economical to install and operate. Requires little maintenance and, in most cases but not in all, it is the cheapest to run, particularly if fuel can be bought in the summer at low prices to last through the winter. (An advantage not always available because few merchants can afford to give such discounts these days. Then again, fuel prices change so much from year to year.) Being indigenous to Great Britain, coal and coal products are always obtainable — industrial conditions permitting.

Disadvantages. Storage space is required for coke and anthracite or patent fuel. Humping in fuel from outside once or twice a day is a heavy job. Stoking up and raking has to be carried out periodically. Emptying the ashpan is dirty work. The radiators themselves do not create dust but the heating unit will — although there is not so much dust as with an open fire. Solid fuel systems are not so flexible as are the others; even if there is a time clock they will control the radiators but not the fire. Other devices — damper and thermostat — involve a time lag for the fire to respond; they are not instantaneous in operation. To extract the full benefit from solid fuel the house should be occupied all day and every day.


Advantages. Clean. No labour involved and little maintenance necessary. Admirably suited to large houses. Time clock con- trol ensures a heat pattern to suit any requirement quickly and economically. Industrial conditions permitting, arrangements can be made with suppliers to deliver oil regularly, without a special order, and to average out the costs throughout the year so that the same amount of money is paid each quarter.

Disadvantages. Most expensive of all systems to install and when maintenance is necessary it is costly. Most oil systems depend on electrical control and could be affected by a power cut. A storage tank is required for the oil. Some installations can be noisy. A major international crisis could lead to a curtailment in the supplies of fuel. Outside feed pipe from the tank will have to be protected against frost.


Advantages. Clean and reliable. Easily controlled, burning to a rapid heat. Quiet in operation. Low installation and maintenance costs. No storage space required. Supply of gas assured — possible breakdowns and industrial conditions permitting.

Disadvantages. Running costs are generally higher than those of solid fuel and oil, though there are special tariffs and the costs can be evened out over the year.


Advantages. Clean. Usually the easiest and cheapest to install. No storage space required. Can be in the form of ceiling and floor heating.

Disadvantages. As a rule it is the most expensive system to run; although, with block storage heaters, off-peak electricity is used (again so long as off-peak electricity continues). Existing mains supply may not be equal to the proposed consumption. Could be affected by lengthy power cuts.

These advantages and disadvantages should be checked before installation because conditions vary — and very rapidly these days. Another point to bear in mind is that, whatever your choice of fuel, your local rating assessment will go up unless you use portable storage heaters and, even then, you may be assessed on additional electrical points and other ancillary fixtures.

Getting Advice

Whether you are doing the installation yourself or propose getting it done for you, your first step should be to get in touch, by a personal call or letter, with some of the following organizations, who will show you how to proceed:

The Heating Centre

This is run by solid fuel, oil, gas and electricity authorities and hundreds of prominent heating equipment manufacturers. If you do not want to do the work yourself they will give you a list of recommended installers who will provide a two-year guarantee for the work they do. Alternatively they can let you have an isometric layout of a recommended system with a schedule of materials varying in price with the work involved. The small service charge they make is money well spent. A number of mushroom companies, sometimes with doubtful experience, have started up to cash in on the central heating craze, and their recommendations could easily lead to a waste of money by the use of wrong equipment. Indeed, the writer has heard these get-rich-quick companies referred to as ‘plumbers who have never made the grade’.

The Building Centre

These people provide information and leaflets and some branches have lists of approved installers.

Once you have decided upon the method of heating, contact one of the following organizations appropriate to the system chosen: Women’s Advisory Council on Solid Fuel, Coal Utilisation Council,the Gas Council, the Copper Development Association,Shell-Mex B.P. (regional addresses may be obtained from your local telephone directory), your local gas showroom or electricity board, Heating and Ventilating Contractors’ Association, or the Institute of Heating and Ventilating Engineers.

Many of these organizations produce helpful books free or costing a few pence.

Plans for proposed do it yourself installations should always be vetted by a qualified heating engineer or the appropriate fuel authority to make sure there are no snags. These people well earn their fees.