Upgrade your heating while protecting the environment and your wallet

Upgrade your heating system. Protect the environment and your wallet.

Renovating your heating system pays off in many ways, from lower heating bills to a lower environmental impact of your property. But replacing your heating system costs a great deal of time and money. Read here about the right way to update your heating system, step by step.

Renovating your heating system offers many advantages

Every homeowner will deal with it sometime. As a rule, heating systems have to be replaced within 15-20 years at best. This means a large investment but a wealth of advantages.

  1. Lower costs for the medium to long term: By replacing an old heating system, homeowners will save a good deal on heating costs for the entire life cycle of the new installation. This means the investment usually pays for itself in a relatively short time.
  2. Maintain property value: A modern heating system enhances the entire building's energy efficiency, which helps maintain the property's value.
  3. Environmental protection: Better combustion processes in modern, oil-fired and gas heating systems, the integration of a heat pump, and/or the use of renewable energy sources for heating reduce carbon emissions and mean a better ecobalance.
  4. Greater reliability: Over time, equipment is more likely to break down. A new heating system reduces the fault risk to a minimum.
  5. Laws and regulations: By replacing your old heating system, you can ensure long-term compliance with new legislative requirements.

Updating your heating system: The step-by-step process

Replacing a heating system has a long-term impact not only in financial terms but also with regard to the environment. Homeowners should plan ahead in order to find the ideal solution. Ideally, they should start thinking about renewing their heating system around ten years after it is installed. That lowers the risk of the boiler suddenly failing, and leaves enough time to review all the options in detail.

This is particularly true for homeowners looking to switch to renewable energies. Replacing an oil-fired system with a heat pump or installing a solar panel for backup will also require some construction work and possibly a building permit. Taking things one step at a time will facilitate the upgrade process.

1. Determine the current status

Before renovations begin, get the best possible picture of the current status. The age and size of the property, as well as the regular operating and maintenance costs for the old heating system, are important factors in this regard. Also note whether the home has underfloor heating or radiators, how many people live there, and about how many days per year the heating system is needed.

In this phase, it is also advisable to look at the property's overall energy situation. Depending on the outcome, a comprehensive building renovation could be your best bet. Improvements to heat insulation or the installation of new windows can effectively reduce the energy required for heating.

2. Select the type of heating system

Next, choose the type of heating system. Oil, gas, or renewable energies such as heat pumps or wood pellets – your choice of heating system will play a large role in future maintenance and operating costs as well as the environmental impact of the heating system. As a rule, the easiest and most affordable option is to replace the existing system with one that uses the same heating source. However, it may not be the best option in the long term. Often, the use of renewable energies pays off in the form of lower heating costs and lower emissions despite the higher initial investment.

What is the best energy source for heating? It always depends on the individual circumstances. For instance, particularly in older buildings with poor insulation and free-standing radiators, the water must be heated up to 90 degrees Celsius in order to bring the air to a pleasant temperature. In these cases, oil-fired or gas heating systems may still be worthwhile, because unlike heat pumps, they are efficient even at high startup temperatures.

You can see the costs for each heating system including installation, equipment, and maintenance using the EnergieSchweiz heating cost calculator.

Upgrade your heating system: The pros and cons of various heating sources

  Pros Cons

Oil-fired heating

  • High efficiency
  • Proven technology
  • Comparatively low investments
  • Not CO2 neutral
  • Heat costs fluctuate according to the price of oil
  • Space needed for the oil tank
  • Odor 
Gas heating
  • High efficiency
  • Proven technology
  • Compact
  • Not CO2 neutral
  • Heating costs fluctuate according to the price of gas
  • Must be connected to gas grid 
Heat pump (heat from ambient air, groundwater, or soil)
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Low heating costs
  • Space-saving
  • Energy sources available to an unlimited extent
  • Relatively high investment costs
  • May require permits 
Pellet heating
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Low heating costs
  • High level of usage
  • Comparatively high investment costs
  • Space needed for wood storage 
District heating
  • High efficiency
  • Space-saving, because no separate heating system is required 
  • Requires connection to district heating grid
  • Dependency on the provider
  • Long-term obligation 
Combination with photovoltaic/solar heat
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Independent power supply
  • Sunlight has unlimited availability
  • Relatively high investment costs
  • Efficiency depends largely on location and climate

Source: EnergieSchweiz, Federal Office of Energy

3. Plan your financing

Once the basic decisions have been made, it's time to look at financing. Will you need to increase your mortgage to replace the heating and perform other work, or do you have another funding source for this investment? Example: You can withdraw pension capital or use an inheritance. Don't forget to look at the tax aspects of your financing plans.

4. Apply for subsidies

The Swiss government offers financial incentives for environmentally friendly solutions and the use of renewable energies when you are renovating a heating system. Thanks to these subsidies, the high starting investments, such as for the installation of a heat pump or solar panels, pay for themselves more quickly. So it's worth taking a look at all the options where your property is located, and applying for the subsidies as soon as possible.

For a full list of the cantonal subsidies, see the building program of the federal and cantonal governments.

Don't wait to update

The last step is to notify the authorities of the renovations and to obtain any building permits needed. Then you're all set to begin your project!

Homeowners are advised to start planning in good time and obtain professional and comprehensive advice on the entire project in terms of investment required and financing. Then you'll be able to enjoy a new heating system at home along with the knowledge that you're helping to protect the environment and your own wallet.

Do you plan to replace the heating in your home?

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