The Best Gas Heater Alternative

Starting in 2024 there will be no new gas connected houses in Victoria. This may have left you wondering what’s the best gas heater alternative. I won’t comment on if banning gas in new Victorian homes is good or bad but instead what heating alternatives new homes in Victoria will have. All new houses will be connected to only electricity and I think this means some people will assume they’ll only be able to use standard electric heaters, heat pumps or wood heaters. Pellet heaters offer a great alternative to heating in Victoria once the new gas ban comes into effect.

gas heater alternative

Below I’ll go through what’s similar, different and things to be aware of when considering a pellet heater as an alternative to a gas heater in your new home or if you are looking to switch away from the gas network in Victoria in 2024. However, here’s why you shouldn’t worry about the incoming gas ban in Victoria and why I think pellet heaters are the best gas heater alternative:

  • Similar natural heat output
  • Less mess and hassle than a wood heater
  • Easier and cheaper to install than a gas heater
  • Cheaper to run than gas heaters

Why Switch from a Gas Heater to Pellet Heater

Pellet heaters and gas heaters offer the same type of lovely natural warmth. Where gas heaters burn gas, pellet heaters burn compressed wood pellets. These pellets heat the air but can also be used to heat water in a hydronic system. Just like gas heaters, pellet heaters have a thermostat that allows you to heat an area to a desired temperature and then maintains the room at that temperature. This is why I think pellet heaters are great for anyone in Victoria looking to build a new house or wanting to switch away from gas once the new regulations come in. Put simply, pellet heaters give you the lovely natural heat you get from gas to help you stay warm.

Just want to heat a room or specific rooms in your house or shed like you may currently do with a gas heater? No problem, pellet heaters can do that. Want to heat the whole house with a hydronic heating system so every room has a heater and maintained at a set temperature? A hydronic pellet heater can do that as well. Like the real heat you get from a gas heater or wood heater and don’t like the stuffy heat from a heat pump? Pellet heaters put out the naturally, lovely warmth that you are used to. Pellet heaters are an excellent alternative to gas heaters for new and existing homes in Victoria.

Gas Heater Efficiency vs Pellet Heater Efficiency

Heater efficiency is more important than ever before. The more efficient a heater the less it will cost you to run and the more heat you get for your dollar. I’ve written about heater efficiency before, but there’s two things to keep in mind. First, how much of the fuel (wood, gas or pellets) is turned into heat and how much does the fuel cost. Electric heaters are almost 100% efficient. That sounds good on paper but that’s why you need to look at the cost of the fuel, electricity. Electricity is very expensive now, more than just about every other type of heating. This is why you need to consider the cost of the fuel used to create heat.

The good news is that pellet heaters have the same extremely high level of efficiency you get from most gas heaters. Generally speaking, pellet heaters are about 90% efficient. What this means is that you get more heat for your money than say a wood heater or unflued gas heater. Wood heaters are generally about 60% to 70% efficient at best. The reality is wood heaters are probably even lower than this because it is not uncommon for people to burn wet or green firewood and some people run their wood heaters are low, which reduces the heat output and thus decreases the efficiency. Pellet heaters are extremely efficient meaning you aren’t wasting money heating your house.

Gas Heater vs Pellet Heater Installation

Different types of heating require different installation. Electric heaters are probably the easiest and can be “installed” by the home owner. Buy the heater, bring it home, plug it in and off you go. No expertise or special tools and material are required. So there’s no installation cost to add to the cost of buying the heater. Obviously electricity isn’t cheap but you can see you need to consider all costs when looking at what’s a good gas heater alternative. While there are some similarities between gas heaters and pellet heaters regarding installation, pellet heaters are much cheaper and easier than gas heaters.

First, pellet heaters can be vented directly out a wall or up through the ceiling, like a gas heater. However, venting a pellet heater out the wall behind it is easier and cheaper than installing a flue up through the ceiling and roof of your house. Installing it this way through a wall not only saves you a few hundred dollars but also allows you to position a pellet heater in the corner of a room easily. Also, as pellets come in bags there’s no need to have any pipes bringing fuel into your house and connecting to the heater like you do a gas heater. Basically, it’s much easier and cheaper to install a pellet heater than gas heater.

Gas Heater vs Pellet Heater Maintenance

There’s no denying here that maintenance is probably the biggest disadvantage of a pellet heater over a gas heater. As gas heaters are connected to gas mains, any fuel (gas) you burn is piped directly into your house. Also, while you may need to do a yearly maintenance check on a gas heater to make sure everything is working as intended, there’s no need to clean ash or any other residue left over like you do with a pellet heater.

Pellet heaters are extremely efficient and are not as messy as wood heaters but they still burn wood and this means there is some ash. Cleaning a pellet heater takes only a few minutes but it is the biggest difference between a gas heater and what some people in Victoria thinking of switching to a pellet heater are unfamiliar with.

Gas Heater vs Pellet Heater Connection Costs

Gas heaters require a connection to the gas mains and in Victoria this is currently around $1.25 per day. That means you spend almost $40 a month just keeping your gas heater and other gas appliances connected. As pellet heaters aren’t connected to any network, you don’t need to pay any connection fee. That’s a saving of almost $100 a quarter, which can be spent on buying pellets to keep your house warm. Pellet heaters do need some electricity to run, but it’s no more than a few LED light bulbs, which would be about 10 cents to 20 cents a day depending on how long you ran your pellet heater for. Either way, it’s a saving over gas.

Gas Heater vs Pellet Heater Fuel Costs

Gas in Victoria currently costs around 6.262 cents per MJ. A 6kw gas heater would cost about $1.50 per hour if you run it on high. Wood pellets in Victoria, such as Melbourne, cost $14 for a 15kg bag and are sold by EcoPellets. I’ve got a long article on how much pellet heaters cost to run, but at $14 per 15kg bag running a pellet heater at 6kw would cost about $1.30 per hour.

That’s cheaper than a gas heater and don’t forget pellet heaters don’t need any monthly connection fee. However, keep in mind that what you pay for pellets will increase running costs, but even if you are paying $17 for a 15kg bag of pellets, it’s no more expensive than a gas heater but you are still saving money as there’s no monthly connection fee. When looking at pellet heaters it’s a good idea to find out what you will pay for wood pellets, as it will have a direct impact on how much it costs you to run a pellet heater.

Space Gas Heaters vs Space Pellet Heaters

Depending on where you live, you may heat the whole house or just individual rooms using gas. The majority of pellet heaters people buy are space heaters and heat just as efficiently and as well as space gas heaters. Just like gas heaters, you can buy different sized pellet heaters that output different levels of heat. If you have a large living room, then you could get a large pellet heater that outputs 3kw on low to 12kw on high. You can also get small pellet heaters that have a maximum heat output 3kw to 6kw. Put simply, you’ll have no problem finding a pellet heater to suit your heating needs regardless of how big or small your rooms are.

Hydronic Gas vs Hydronic Pellet Heaters

Whole house gas hydronic heating is common in Victoria with under floor heating and/or radiators in each room throughout the house. With the no gas connections for new houses in Victoria, it doesn’t mean you can no longer heat your whole house via underfloor or radiator heating. The obvious option would be an electric hydronic heat pump, but you can also get hydronic pellet heaters. This is great for those who want to heat their whole house but the other good news is that you can also get combination hydronic and air pellet heaters.

A dual hydronic and air pellet heater heats both water, for rooms with radiators, underfloor heating or even hot water but it also heats the air of the room the hydronic pellet heater is installed in. Like to sit in front a heater and see some flame but also want to heat the rest of your house? A split system hydronic pellet heater might be right for you. This way you get the ambiance of a flame in the room where the pellet heater is but it also heats the other rooms via radiators or underfloor heating.

Gas Heater vs Pellet Heater Design and Style

The majority of gas heaters are pretty boring and dull. Most are a white or some variation of white colour and very boxish looking in design. From how they look it is pretty clear that gas heaters prioritise function over fashion. Pellet heaters, however, come in a wide range of designs, styles and colours. If you are looking for a simple, down to earth design and don’t care too much how your pellet heater looks, then there are plenty of models available.

However, if you’d like something in orange or pink, then that can also be arranged. Some European pellet heaters also have a ceramic outer casing. This means they have intricate designs and look absolutely beautiful. While they do cost more, the point here is that you don’t have to have a heater that looks like every other heater on the market. There’s a wide range of shapes and models to suit just about everyone’s needs.

Where to Buy a Pellet Heater in Victoria

If you’d like to know more about pellet heaters and maybe even buy a pellet heater, then I’ve created a few good articles to check out. First, I’ve got a where to buy a pellet heater in Australia post that lists all retailers around Australia, including Victoria, the brand or model of pellet heaters they sell, contact details and price. You’ll obviously also need pellets, so I’ve also got a post on where to buy wood pellets in Australia, which again lists retailers by state, general price and contact details.

Outside of Tasmania, most retailers sell European pellet heaters, such as Piazzetta or Palazzetti. These are extremely high quality pellet heaters but they do cost more than the Chinese made heaters we have in Tasmania. There’s nothing wrong with Chinese or European pellet heaters. They function the same but do have a few different features. The best value European pellet heaters would be Palazzetti or Haas & Sohn. These are significantly cheaper than Piazzetta but are still extremely well built and high quality.

Best Pellet Heater to Replace Gas Heater

If you want to replace a gas heater you’ve got then which pellet heater is best for you really depends. The simplest thing to do would be to replace your gas heater with a similar sized pellet heater. Meaning, if your gas heater is 6kw, then just buy a 6kw pellet heater. However, there are many different models and brands. There are European models such as Piazzetta pellet heaters and Palazzetti pellet heaters, which are European made, but also cheaper Chinese pellet heater models. If you are unsure where to start, check out my best pellet heaters in Australia post as I take a look a few different models that might help get you started.

Summary of Pellet Heaters the Best Gas Heater Alternative

In short, pellet heaters are a great alternative if you are worried about the gas ban on new homes in Victoria in 2024. While heat pumps are very efficient, many people don’t like the heat they produce as it doesn’t feel natural. Pellet heaters burn wood pellets, so you get that lovely natural warmth like you do from a gas heater. Pellet heaters are as efficient as gas heaters and very economical to run as the fuel (pellets) costs less than gas and it also means you don’t have to pay a monthly service or gas connection fee.

Victoria Bans Gas in New Homes 2024