A comparison of heating systems: gas, oil, pellets & co.

One of the most important points to consider when planning a house is the heating. It has a significant impact on the running costs, on the ecological assessment of the building and, to some extent, on the insulation required. That’s why it’s so important to find the right heating system to suit your needs. Find out below which systems are commonly available, what advantages and disadvantages they offer and how much you should expect to pay.

A mother sitting on the windowsill above a radiator looks outside as she holds onto her daughter.
© Getty Images / Halfpoint

A comparison of heating systems

Oil heating

According to the Federal Statistical Office, oil is the most widely used main energy source in Switzerland. Almost 40 percent of households heat with oil. However, the use of this fossil fuel is on the decline and other types of heating are gaining ground. Although heating oil is a well-known and proven product, it is also subject to substantial price fluctuations. In addition, tanks take up a lot of space – and regular deliveries of heating oil are necessary.

A supplier fills the tank of a house with heating oil.

Regular replenishment is needed to operate an oil heating system. The purchase price fluctuates considerably depending on the market situation.

Advantages of oil heating

  • Proven product that is used in many homes
  • Users can choose the supplier and therefore the best price
  • Heating systems can usually handle up to ten percent of bio-oil. This reduces the consumption of fossil fuels

Disadvantages of oil heating

  • Low stability in heating costs due to extensive market fluctuations
  • Oil tanks take up a lot of space
  • Less environmentally friendly than renewable energy sources
  • Additional costs are incurred for the necessary regular maintenance

Acquisition costs: from 10,000 francs.

Gas heating

Gas is also used in many households in Switzerland. About 20 percent of homes use it as a primary energy source for heating. The gas heating system itself takes up comparatively little space in the house and is inexpensive to purchase. A gas condensing boiler increases efficiency by up to 98 percent. With a combined heat and power system it is even possible to use the waste heat, which makes the heating system even more efficient.

Advantages of gas heating

  • Low acquisition costs for the heating system itself
  • Little space required for the technology when connected to the gas network
  • Environmentally-friendly operation possible with biogas
  • High efficiency factor makes the heating very effective

Disadvantages of gas heating

  • Low price stability, as the gas price is determined by the market
  • Without a connection to the gas network, a tank for liquid gas is necessary – and fuel must therefore be delivered

Acquisition costs: from 6,000 francs.

Heat pump heating

In around 18 percent of households, a heat pump controls the room temperature. This type of heating system is operated electrically, but the energy comes from the area surrounding the house: a heat pump heating system draws heat from the ground, water or air. This means there is always sufficient energy available. In addition, there are no fluctuating market prices for this energy source, as is the case with oil or gas. However, it is important for your house to have particularly good insulation.

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Advantages of heat pump heating

  • Users have the choice of different mediums
  • No direct consumption of fossil fuels
  • Little space required because no storage of the fuel is necessary
  • Heating system requires little maintenance
  • Environmentally friendly when operated with green electricity

Disadvantages of heat pump heating

  • Running costs depend on the price of electricity
  • High purchase costs for the heat pump

Acquisition costs: from 17,000 francs.

Wood/pellet heating

Around ten percent of Swiss households use wood as a source of energy for heating. This may be for classic wood heating systems with chopped wood or modern pellet heating systems. The former requires manual replenishment of the fuel; a pellet heater works automatically. On the other hand, unlike wooden logs, pellets cannot be supplied by the homeowners themselves. Both types of heating system are relatively inexpensive to operate.

Advantages of wood/pellet heating

  • With wood as a renewable resource, this type of heating is more sustainable than other systems
  • The price of wood usually remains quite constant
  • No contract with an energy supplier necessary

Disadvantages of wood/pellet heating

  • The storage of wood or pellets takes up a lot of space
  • Acquisition costs can be very high depending on the system
  • Users have to take care of the supply of wood/pellets. But some providers will deliver them directly to your front door

Acquisition costs: from 16,000 francs.

Electric heating

Electricity can also be used as an energy source for heating. This type of heating system takes up little space and is therefore flexible to use. The acquisition costs are very low – but the same does not apply to the operating costs. The effect of electric heating on the environment depends on whether or not the electricity comes from renewable sources. Nowadays, heating with electricity is only permitted in Switzerland if the appliances significantly increase comfort. More specifically, this means that fully electric heating systems are not permitted as primary heating, but an electric supplementary heating system is authorized under certain circumstances. Acquiring a new electric system is therefore not worthwhile in most cases.

A woman and a cat in front of an electric radiator.

Electric heaters are flexible and usually inexpensive to purchase. However, the same does not apply to the operating costs.

Advantages of electric heating

  • Many different types and forms of heating systems
  • Relatively low acquisition costs
  • Little space required for the system
  • Rapid generation of heat
  • Good ecological assessment when purchasing green electricity

Disadvantages of electric heating

  • Very high operating costs for heating
  • Dependence on the current electricity price
  • Poor ecological assessment if users do not purchase green electricity
  • Only permitted in Switzerland in special cases

Acquisition costs: from 100 francs (electric radiator) or 250 francs (infrared heating) per room.

District heating

Only around four percent of households use district heating to heat their homes. The heat is not generated on site, i.e. in the house, but directly on the supplier’s premises. The supplier then feeds the heat into a network and delivers it to the customer via insulated pipes in the ground – all they need is a heat exchanger and the appropriate equipment. However, they are also completely dependent on the supplier and their pricing.

Advantages of district heating

  • Straightforward supply of heating
  • No storage necessary, therefore very little space required
  • Users benefit directly from more modern heat generation technologies
  • Environmentally friendly and sustainable, depending on the type of energy production by the supplier

Disadvantages of district heating

  • Users are highly dependent on the supplier
  • Prices can vary a great deal between suppliers
  • The use of fossil fuels results in a less positive ecological assessment for some suppliers

Acquisition costs: from 5,000 francs.

Solar heating

A solar heating or solar thermal heating system obtains the required energy from sunlight. This makes it a particularly environmentally-friendly way of generating heat. However, it is incapable of providing the energy required for an average household on its own, but in most cases can only do so in combination with another heating system. A photovoltaic system can be combined with almost any technology. It is not always possible to install a solar heating system, because certain conditions must be met in terms of roof shape and orientation.

A solar thermal heating system in the garden.

Solar thermal heating is particularly environmentally friendly but is not really suitable as the sole energy generator in the house.

Advantages of solar heating

  • Particularly environmentally friendly and sustainable
  • Extremely future-proof thanks to the use of solar energy
  • No storage of energy sources necessary
  • Savings potential when operated alongside another type of heating

Disadvantages of solar heating

  • Solar energy is not suitable as the main energy source for heating
  • Structural conditions must be suitable for operation

Acquisition costs: from 5,000 francs.

Combined heat and power unit (CHP)

A combined heat and power plant uses gas, liquid gas or oil to generate electricity and heat simultaneously. This makes this heating system particularly efficient. It can even cover most of the electricity needs of a household. However, a small power station continues to run in your house all the time, which in the worst-case scenario is a permanent source of noise. The acquisition costs and space requirements are also high.

Advantages of a combined heat and power unit

  • Generates electricity in addition to heating
  • Can save costs in the long run
  • Very efficient, especially for coping with high heating requirements in winter

Disadvantages of a combined heat and power unit

  • Very high acquisition costs
  • A lot of space is needed and the system generates constant noise
  • Expensive maintenance of your own power plant
  • Not economically viable for low energy consumption

Acquisition costs: from 20,000 francs.

Fuel cell heating

Fuel cell heating is intended as a modern alternative to a combined heat and power unit. It generates heat and electricity from gas or liquid gas via a chemical process. Its efficiency is particularly high, which makes it more sustainable than a CHP. Since natural gas is used instead of renewable energies, the ecological assessment is not yet particularly good. In the future, however, progress in the production of hydrogen could improve the environmental aspect.

Advantages of fuel cell heating

  • Future-proof thanks to the use of modern technology
  • High efficiency of the system
  • Generates heat and electricity
  • Also suitable for households with low energy consumption

Disadvantages of fuel cell heating

  • Very high acquisition costs
  • Gas connection or liquid tank essential
  • Operates with fossil fuels (natural gas)

Acquisition costs: from 40,000 francs.

Conclusion: there is a suitable heating system for every homeowner

A wide range of different types of heating is available, and there is a suitable system for practically every property owner. If you want to take environmental considerations into account, technologies such as heat pumps or solar thermal energy are a good choice. It may also be worthwhile for you to use several technologies, i.e. to opt for a hybrid heating system such as gas and solar energy. Combinations of this kind are becoming increasingly popular for buildings in Switzerland.


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