A Guide To Electric Boilers

Are Electric Boilers Better Than Gas Boilers?
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Millions of people across the UK have been heating their homes and hot water systems with traditional gas boilers for years. However, with gas boilers being phased out to meet new climate change targets and energy prices constantly on our minds, many people are beginning to wonder if those traditional gas boilers are still the best option for their home. 

In addition, over 2 million homes in the UK don’t have a mains gas network supply, as well as an increasing number of older houses having flue restrictions or are listed buildings that prevent the use of gas or oil boilers on site. In these situations, an electric boiler can be the perfect solution to your home heating needs. If you are thinking of switching to an electric boiler we have put together a guide to help you to determine whether an electric boiler is right for you.

Table of Contents

What Are Electric Boilers?

Electric boilers work under the same principle as traditional gas boilers, however, while a traditional gas boiler uses gas to heat the water, an electric boiler heats hot water for your heating system by using electricity. Electric system boilers still give all the benefits of wet central heating without the need for a gas supply. This makes electric boilers an ideal option for homes that have no access to mains gas supply or have gas boiler restrictions, such as listed buildings or bed-sits. 

Electric boilers are often fitted in new build homes and flats as they are cheaper to install and maintain. Also, unlike gas, oil, or LPG, an electric boiler does not produce carbon emissions when working so are seen by many as a more environmentally friendly choice. Electric boilers can be installed to produce hot water for both your heating system and domestic hot water. However, electric boilers can have a limit to the amount of domestic hot water they can produce instantly, which is why an indirect cylinder is often used, especially if the home has a bath.

How Do Electric Boilers Work?

The boiler itself is very simple and can come in a variety of shapes and styles. You will sometimes see long slim units that are designed to create a maximum surface area to heat the water. Electric boilers are connected to the mains electricity supply which is used to heat an electric heating element, just like you would a kettle. 

Similar to a gas boiler, an electric boiler is supplied with cold water from the mains water supply. When hot water is needed for your central heating or hot taps, the cold water is passed through the electric heating element to warm it. The hot water is then pumped to your taps or radiators as needed.

Types Of Electric Boiler

Electric boilers are a popular choice for flats and homes where gas is not an option and oil is either impractical or too expensive. However, there are a few different types of electric boilers to choose from, with some being more practical for you and your home than others. 

Electric Combi Boiler (Direct)

An electric combi boiler is similar to a gas combination boiler and provides both central heating and hot water to a building from a single unit that is usually hung on the wall. The electric combi boiler uses its heating element to provide you with hot water when you need it and is often the cheapest and easiest type of electric boiler to install. 

There is not a storage system with this type of boiler, so the water is heated on demand, saving you space. However, this means you won’t be able to take advantage of Economy 7 tariffs by heating your water overnight at a cheaper rate.

Storage

Storage electric boilers still use electricity to heat the water in a wet central heating system. However, they combine an electric flow boiler with a built-in hot water cylinder or a separate hot water tank to store heated water. These hot water cylinders are often stainless steel and compact in size to save space. The water is warmed during off-peak electricity periods to take advantage of ‘time of use tariffs’ like economy 7 before radiating that heat during the day. 

A storage electric boiler is suitable for Economy 7 tariffs which may help you reduce your energy bills. However, they are often more expensive to buy and install and take up more room than an electric combi boiler.

Dry Core Storage

While there is a big difference between electric boilers and electric storage heaters, dry core storage boilers do work in a similar way to electric storage heaters. Both dry core storage boilers and electric storage heaters store up electricity during the off-peak electricity periods by heating bricks overnight. The heat is then released as needed into the water, which can then be used for central heating or hot water, rather than being circulated directly into your home.

This makes dry core storage boilers much more versatile than a storage heater, with some of the advantages that a boiler has. Dry core storage boilers are designed to work alongside Economy 7 tariffs for cheaper energy prices at night.

Electric CSU

A Combined Primary Storage Unit, or CPSU, stores a large volume of hot water within the boiler to allow it to release hot water to the taps and radiators quicker and at a higher pressure than a standard boiler. Electric CPSU are often used in commercial properties as they take up a lot of space and are far more expensive than standard boilers.

Solar Compatible

If you have a hot water storage tank with an immersion heater you can make use of the free energy generated from your solar panels to heat your water during the day. Of course, you are limited to only using this during the day when the sun is out, but thanks to the storage system, you can enjoy the energy-efficient hot water all day. 

Advantages Of Electric Boilers

Electric boilers are perfectly suited for homes that don’t have access to the mains gas supply, however, they also have a number of advantages over gas boilers that can make them the right choice for homeowners. Electric boilers are smaller and easier to install, often cheaper and far more efficient and quieter to run than gas boilers.

 Here are a few more benefits of installing an electric boiler:

Energy Efficiency

One of the biggest selling points of electric boilers is their energy efficiency. With electricity, you get out what you put in. In other words, as electric boilers do not need to burn fossil fuels, such as gas or oil to produce heat, they don’t lose energy through waste gases through flues or chimneys. In many cases, this results in efficiency rates of 99% compared to 89 – 95% for most gas or oil boilers. 

No Gas Supply Required

Over 2 million homes in the UK are without access to a mains gas supply and while many of these homes tend to have an oil boiler, it can be difficult to find space for the oil tank. With an electric boiler, you don’t have that problem. Whether the home is a listed building or under gas boiler restrictions, such as sleeping areas within a bed-sit, there are many reasons why it is impractical, unsafe or too expensive to install a gas supply, which means that electric boilers are an important method of providing central heating and hot water. 

Compact Size

Electric boilers are usually much more compact than their gas counterparts. Thanks to the lack of waste gases, electric boilers do not require a flue, which makes the unit smaller and more compact. In addition, this allows for a greater flexibility when it comes to positioning the boiler. 

Quiet Operation

Unlike a gas boiler, there are no moving parts in an electric boiler which means they are almost completely silent when in use.

Lower Emissions

Electric boilers are a more sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative to gas boilers. Electric boilers don’t burn fossil fuels to generate heat and therefore don’t release waste gases. If you’re looking to reduce your carbon footprint, an electric boiler could be the perfect option for you.

Safer

Gas boilers produce harmful gases during operation, which are usually safely expelled out of the flue. However, they can leak carbon monoxide which is harmful to people within the property. With an electric boiler, you don’t have to worry about any harmful gases leaking, which means the need for Gas Safe certificates are eliminated and you do not need to install any CO detectors.

Economical

While the price per unit for electricity is higher than gas, having an electric boiler can still often be more economical for you. The initial costs for an electric boiler is often lower, thanks to the simplicity of electric boilers compared to gas boilers. In addition, thanks to the lack of a separate flue or chimney for waste emissions, the installation costs for an electric boiler is often cheaper. If your property is without a mains gas supply, the cost of having an electric boiler fitted is considerably less than getting gas pipes installed. Electric boilers don’t require yearly servicing, which reduces maintenance costs. 

Easier To Install

Over 2 million homes in the UK are without access to a mains gas supply and while many of these homes tend to have an oil boiler, it can be difficult to find space for the oil tank. With an electric boiler, you don’t have that problem. Whether the home is a listed building or under gas boiler restrictions, such as sleeping areas within a bed-sit, there are many reasons why it is impractical, unsafe or too expensive to install a gas supply, which means that electric boilers are an important method of providing central heating and hot water. 

Easier To Maintain

As they contain very few mechanical parts, electric boilers require very little maintenance. This means that they are very durable pieces of equipment and only require repairs in the unlikely event of a breakdown, rather than consistent upkeep. In addition, unlike gas boilers, which can become blocked when not used, an electric circulation pump will continue to work even when it is inactive.

No Annual Service

Both gas and oil boilers require annual servicing by a professional heating engineer to ensure they are continuing to work efficiently and to avoid breakdowns. These annual services can cost between £50 and £160. Thankfully, electric boilers do not require this level of maintenance, which can save you money every year. However, if you have a hot water cylinder with your electric boiler you should still have it serviced once a year. 

Disadvantages Of Electric Boilers

Of course, if electric boilers were the best solution, you would see them everywhere. There are downsides to electric boilers and you need to weigh the advantages and disadvantages before installing an electric boiler and make sure they are right for your circumstances.

Not Suitable For High Levels Of Hot Water Usage

Electric boilers have a more limited amount of water that they can heat compared to a gas boiler. This means that larger properties, or those with higher levels of hot water usage, may be better suited to a conventional gas boiler system as an electric boiler may not be able to meet your demands for central heating and hot water.

Cost Of Electricity

Electricity is more expensive than gas, meaning that the running costs of an electric boiler could be higher which means your energy bills are likely to go up. Even if you’re with a really cheap energy supplier, you will likely pay around 14p a unit for electricity compared to 4p for gas. This must be weighed up against the energy efficiency and other benefits of the electric boiler. An economy 7 tariff may help reduce costs as you get cheaper electricity rates during the night. 

Doubts About Environmental Benefits

While electric boilers themselves are considered to be environmentally friendly, as they do not produce waste gases, there are concerns that the initial process of manufacturing the electricity itself in the first place generates as much pollution as a gas boiler system, therefore negating the environmentally friendly aspects.

Susceptibility To Power Cuts

While power cuts are rare, electric boilers are susceptible to them due to running solely on electricity. If the power to your home goes out, this could leave you without hot water for several hours or, in more remote areas, even days. Having said that, this also applies to most gas and oil boilers as they are made up of electrical components.

Could Blow The Property’s Fuse

Over 2 million homes in the UK are without access to a mains gas supply and while many of these homes tend to have an oil boiler, it can be difficult to find space for the oil tank. With an electric boiler, you don’t have that problem. Whether the home is a listed building or under gas boiler restrictions, such as sleeping areas within a bed-sit, there are many reasons why it is impractical, unsafe or too expensive to install a gas supply, which means that electric boilers are an important method of providing central heating and hot water. 

What Size Electric Boiler Do You Need?

While most electric boilers are smaller than a gas or oil boiler, it is important to remember that size in this instance refers to how powerful a boiler is, rather than how big it physically is. Boilers are measured in kilowatts (kW), the higher the kW, the more heat and hot water it can provide. 

Electric boilers tend to be less powerful than gas and oil boilers, making them suitable for smaller homes and flats. An average gas boiler has a kW size of anywhere between 24-35 kW compared to 15 kW or less for an electric boiler.

There are several electric boiler manufacturers in the UK, with domestic single phase boiler models ranging from 4kW to 14.4kW. The size of your home and your heating requirements will determine what kW output you will need. The lower kW boilers are cheaper to buy and their running costs are generally lower, though they may not be as efficient as larger models. Commercial 3 phase boilers are available in 12kW, 14.4kW, 23kW and 39kW outputs.

If you install an electric boiler that is too small for your home, you will find yourself running out of hot water. However, if your electric boiler is too big your energy consumption will be too high, leaving your energy bill bigger than expected. 

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How VHL Can Help

As with all types of heating, there are various pros and cons to the electric boiler which should be weighed up before you decide which option is best for you. The experts here at VHL are more than happy to discuss electric or gas boilers, or any other type of heating to ensure that you have all the information that you need. 

Here at VHL, we perform over 4000 boiler installations across London and the South East every year. We can fit a new boiler within 24 hours of request every time and, in addition, all of our boilers come with up to a 10 years warranty. Our team of heating engineers and boiler installers are all Gas Safe accredited and fully vetted, ensuring you are getting the best service possible. 

For more information on our boiler installation service or for advice on what type of boiler is best for you, Get in touch with our expert team by phone on 020 3918 6405 or by Booking Online

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Electric Boiler Frequently Asked Questions

While it is true that the cost of electricity is higher than gas, this doesn’t necessarily mean that electric boilers will be more expensive to run than a gas boiler. Many homeowners don’t take into account the annual service and other maintenance costs that come with a gas boiler. In addition, gas boilers have a lower fuel efficiency rating than electric boilers, leaving you paying for gas that you won’t even benefit from.

Yes electric boilers work with both traditional radiators and electric radiators. In fact, you should think of an electric boiler as a standard gas or oil boiler. The only difference is that your boiler and radiators will be powered and heated by electricity rather than gas or oil. 

The installation costs for electric boilers are often cheaper than installing a gas boiler, as there is no flue pipe or chimney to install. Electric boilers are far cheaper to install compared to an oil boiler, as you won’t require an oil tank. Keep in mind that installation costs will be higher if you are changing from one type of boiler to an electric one, and/or are upgrading your radiators or underfloor heating system. 

Yes, electric central heating works the same as a conventional wet central heating system but with an electric boiler as the power source, rather than a gas or oil boiler.