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Are Electric Boilers Suitable for All Types of Properties?

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Are electric boilers a one-size-fits-all solution for heating, or are their advantages limited to certain property types? Determining if an electric boiler is right for your property hinges on several vital factors, including property size, insulation effectiveness, and unique heating needs. This article digs into the crux of these variables to clearly understand when and where “electric boilers are suitable for all types of properties,” guiding you towards making an informed decision without drowning in unnecessary details.

Key Takeaways

Electric boilers are an alternative to gas and oil boilers, offering high efficiency and simplicity by converting almost all consumed electricity into heat. They are suitable for various property types and come in different models like combi, system, and dry core storage boilers.

It’s essential to consider property size, insulation quality, demands, and energy source availability before choosing an electric boiler, with factors like boiler power output and insulation playing vital roles in a boiler’s suitability and efficiency.

While electric boilers have advantages like ease of installation, zero on-site emissions, and potential integration with renewable energy sources, they also have higher running costs compared to gas boilers and may not be suitable for all property types, especially larger homes with higher energy demands.

Can an electric boiler can be used for heating and hot water? Find out more!

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Understanding Electric Boilers

Electric heating appliances provide a contemporary alternative to traditional gas boilers, presenting a unique solution for heating your property and meeting your hot water needs. Gas or oil boilers and electric boilers function by connecting to a central heating system, heating water in radiators, and providing heated water to taps and showers. The real charm of electric boilers is their simplicity and efficiency, as they convert nearly all consumed energy into heat.

There are various types of electric boilers available, each designed to meet the needs of different properties. Electric boilers can be categorised into conventional and system boilers. Conventional boilers use a hot water cylinder for storage, while electric system boilers operate with a separate hot water cylinder and are connected to the central heating system. Each type has its advantages, and the choice depends on your property’s specific needs and demands.

When considering a switch to an electric boiler, it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons. While they can be more expensive to run due to the higher cost of electricity, they offer benefits such as ease of installation and a reduced carbon footprint, especially when powered by renewable energy sources.

we installing electric combi boilers in a property

How Electric Boilers Work

So, what is the working principle of electric boilers? The process is surprisingly simple.

They operate by:

  • Sourcing cold water from the main water supply
  • Heating it using electricity from the main supply
  • Powering the heating element within the boiler
  • Heating the water ‘on demand’ without requiring external hot water storage cylinders.

The heating element in an electric boiler is at the core of its functionality. By sending an electric current through the element, cold water passing over it is heated, transforming it into hot water ready to be supplied to your radiators.

Electric boilers facilitate easy regulation of water temperatures. Cold water is passed over a metal heating element, which transfers heat, resulting in hot water that can be supplied to the radiators. It’s a simple and effective system, but let’s not forget to consider the type of electric boiler work that would best suit your property.

Types of Electric Boilers

  1. Combi Electric Boilers: These boilers heat water on demand, serving both taps and radiators without the need for external hot water storage cylinders. They are a suitable choice for smaller properties with limited space.
  2. System Boilers: System boilers include integrated components like pumps and valves within the boiler unit. They require a storage water tank and provide a consistent supply of hot water throughout the entire home. Some system boiler models even feature an integrated storage cylinder designed to fit into a standard airing cupboard.
  3. Heat-Only Boilers: Heat-only boilers provide heat directly to radiators and are connected to a separate water tank to supply water. They are typically chosen for larger homes with higher hot water demands.
  4. Dry-Core Storage Boilers: These boilers store heat in a dry material, such as bricks, and release it into the water when needed, offering an efficient heating solution.

With these various options available, it’s essential to select the right type of electric boiler that best suits your property’s size and hot water requirements.

With so many options, how do you know which one is right for your property?

upgrade from gas boiler installations to an electric boiler

Factors to Consider for Property Suitability

Before making the switch to an electric boiler, careful consideration of several factors is essential to determine if it’s the right fit for your property. Factors to consider include:

  1. Property size
  2. Insulation
  3. Demands for heating
  4. Energy source availability
  5. Fuse box capability

All of these factors play a vital role in determining whether an electric boiler is the right choice for your property.

The size of an electric boiler is defined by its power output, denoted in kilowatts (kW). This measurement indicates the boiler’s capacity to supply energy. If you live in a larger home with more radiators, you’ll need a higher kW output. On the other hand, smaller properties with fewer radiators will require a boiler with a lower kW output.

Considering the insulation is another critical aspect. 

Quality insulation aids in:

  • Retaining the heat generated by the boiler within the living space
  • Promoting efficient heating
  • Preventing heat loss through inadequately insulated areas
  • But that’s not all; let’s delve deeper into these factors.
new electric boiler installed by MML Plumbing

Property Size

When it comes to property size, small flats and apartments can significantly benefit from electric boilers. Here are some reasons why:

  • High efficiency and reliability
  • Suitable for properties with lower heating and hot water needs
  • Compact size
  • Easy installation and maintenance
  • Compatibility with solar panels

These factors make electric boilers a practical choice for smaller spaces.

Typically, small properties require around 0.32 kWh/day/m^2 for heat and hot water. Thanks to their efficiency and ability to cater to lower energy needs, electric boilers can competently meet this demand.

Specific models of electric boilers are designed for smaller properties. These include the Ideal Vogue Max C26, Vaillant ecoTEC Plus 825, and Baxi. Electric combi boilers, in particular, are suitable for small spaces with lower hot water demand.

Insulation

Insulation is a pivotal factor in enhancing the efficiency of electric boilers. By preventing heat loss, insulation enhances the overall efficiency of the heat pump and the heating system, allowing the heat produced by electric boilers to be retained and used more efficiently by maintaining a consistent temperature.

Signs of poor insulation can include:

  • Fluctuating temperatures
  • High energy bills
  • Cold floors and walls
  • Visible condensation
  • Instances of frozen pipes in cold weather

Good insulation should prevent these issues by retaining the heat produced by the boiler within the property.

There are a variety of insulation types that can enhance the efficiency of electric, electric and gas boilers. For example, mineral wool is a widely used insulation for piping as it efficiently traps air within its structure, thereby enhancing the efficiency of electric boilers through optimised heat retention.

air source heat pump with electric boiler

Demands for Heating

The suitability of an electric or gas boiler installation can be significantly affected by your property’s heating needs. For instance, properties with lower heating needs, such as homes not connected to the gas network or flats with low heat requirements, may find electric boilers to be a more suitable option.

When comparing electric boilers vs. gas boilers, it’s important to note that electric boilers can achieve up to 100% efficiency under high heating demand, surpassing the efficiency of gas boilers. However, they may struggle to meet high demands due to their lower hot water production and if the boiler’s output is too low.

To enhance the capacity of electric boilers to meet needs, it is advisable to:

  • Keep up-to-date with boiler servicing
  • Bleed radiators
  • Check boiler pressure
  • Invest in pipe insulation

Consider running the electric boiler with thermal storage, prioritising off-peak heating to reduce costs.

Energy Source Availability

The availability of an energy source for electric heating has a substantial impact on the appropriateness of an electric boiler. The availability of renewable and low-carbon energy sources to power the electric boiler contributes to reduced carbon emissions and energy efficiency.

Access to a gas network is prevalent for approximately 91.1% of urban households, but notably lower for rural areas, with only 40% having access. Therefore, electric boilers can provide an effective heating solution for properties without access to a gas network.

An electric boiler achieves this by utilising an electric flow boiler to heat water, often incorporating a gas boiler that fires a built-in hot water storage cylinder to store hot water. This makes them a feasible option for properties in remote rural areas that are typically off the gas grid.

Electric Boiler Advantages and Disadvantages

Electric boilers have their own set of pros and cons. On the plus side, they have:

  • a high-efficiency rating
  • are especially beneficial for properties with limited access to the main gas supply
  • do not require annual servicing
  • are not affected by fluctuating gas prices, making their running costs more manageable.
our gas safe registered engineer installing a boiler

However, electric boilers do have higher running costs due to the higher cost of electricity compared to natural gas. Despite this, these costs can be managed by heating water overnight using an off-peak tariff, utilizing an Economy 7 tariff, or integrating electric boiler-cost solar panels to generate your electricity.

Moreover, electric boilers have the advantage of producing zero on-site emissions and are typically rated as ‘D’ in terms of ErP. However, the overall environmental impact depends on the source of electricity, with renewable sources such as solar panels offering significant improvements.

Environmental Impact

One noteworthy advantage of electric boilers is their minimal impact on the environment. Here are some reasons why electric boilers are environmentally friendly:

They do not produce direct emissions during operation, making them cleaner and contributing to a more environmentally friendly profile.

They do not emit harmful emissions like carbon and nitrogen oxides (NOx), commonly associated with gas boilers.

They contribute to cleaner air and a healthier environment.

Furthermore, electric boilers demonstrate high energy efficiency when utilised in off-grid properties, achieving efficiency rates of 99–100%. This surpasses the performance of gas and oil-powered appliances, rendering them a feasible choice for consumers who prioritise energy conservation.

Installation and Maintenance

In terms of their installation costs and maintenance, electric boilers present notable benefits. One of the main benefits is the simplified installation process. Unlike gas boilers, which require a flue or gas supply connection, electric boilers can be installed by a qualified electrician and do not require a gas supply connection.

On top of that, the typical electric boiler cost to install ranges from £950 to £4,500, depending on the type and size of the boiler. This cost range provides flexibility for homeowners with different budget constraints.

our qualified heating engineer completing an installation

As for maintenance, homeowners can carry out certain fundamental maintenance tasks, but it is recommended to arrange professional help for any problems. Regularly cleaning the electric boiler installations and components is crucial for optimal performance and durability. Furthermore, an electric boiler should undergo annual servicing.

Running Costs

A significant aspect to consider when selecting a heating system is the operational cost. Electricity can be three times more expensive than gas, but an electric boiler will consume half as much energy as a gas boiler.

Electric boiler running costs can be influenced by factors such as:

  • Efficiency
  • Size of the boiler
  • Insulation of the property
  • The cost of electricity compared to gas or oil

Thus, while electric boilers may have higher running costs, certain factors can mitigate these costs.

For instance, energy-efficient practices can impact the running costs of an electric boiler by:

  • Improving its efficiency through proper insulation
  • Using programmable thermostats
  • Regular maintenance and servicing
  • Taking advantage of off-peak tariffs
  • Insulating hot water pipes
  • Using energy-efficient appliances and lighting.
  • Electric Boilers for Different Property Types

The appropriateness of new electric boilers or boilers can greatly differ based on the property type. Such factors as heating needs and energy source availability can significantly influence whether an electric boiler is an appropriate choice for a given property.

electric combi boiler install in North London

For instance, smaller properties, such as small flats and apartments, may benefit from electric boilers due to their compact size and lower heating needs. On the other hand, larger homes may require more powerful heating solutions, making gas boilers a more suitable option in some cases.

Properties without access to a full gas or oil boiler or network, often found in remote rural areas, can also benefit from electric boilers as an alternative to gas or oil heating systems. Let’s dive deeper into how electric boilers can serve different property types.

Small Flats and Apartments

These boilers can be highly beneficial for small flats and apartments. Their compact size and high efficiency make them a suitable option for properties with lower heating and hot water needs.

Typically, small properties require around 0.32 kWh/day/m^2 for heat and hot water. Thanks to their efficiency and ability to cater to lower energy needs, electric boilers can competently meet this demand.

Specific models of electric boilers are designed for smaller properties. These include the Ideal Vogue Max C26, Vaillant ecoTEC Plus 825, and Baxi.

Electric combi boilers, in particular, are suitable for small spaces with lower hot water demand, making an electric combi boiler an ideal choice.

Larger Homes

For larger homes, the heating and hot water requirements are typically higher, which can pose a challenge for electric boilers. Larger homes typically need boilers with a higher heating capacity to meet increased heating needs and hot water demands. They may also benefit from a combi boiler supplying adequate hot water flow, particularly if the home has multiple bathrooms.

However, using electric boilers in larger homes may result in higher running costs due to the increased energy consumption and the higher price of electricity compared to gas. Therefore, while gas and electric boilers can both be used in larger homes, it’s important to weigh up the benefits and drawbacks.

Off-Grid Properties

Properties off the grid, like those in distant rural areas, usually have unique heating needs due to the absence of access to natural gas. Electric ones can meet these heating needs by extracting heat from natural sources like air, ground, or water and effectively transferring it indoors. However, the installation of electric boilers in off-grid properties can present challenges, such as:

  • high initial expenses
  • decreased efficiency when used with standard-sized radiators
  • higher energy consumption and operational expenses in comparison to oil boilers.

Despite these challenges, electric boilers demonstrate high energy efficiency when utilised in off-grid properties, achieving efficiency rates of 99–100%. This surpasses the performance of gas and oil-powered appliances, rendering them a feasible choice for consumers who prioritise energy conservation.

Renewable Energy Integration

The possibility of integrating renewable energy is a benefit offered by an electric boiler. Some ways to integrate renewable energy include:

  • Utilising solar panels to power boilers during daylight hours reduces reliance on the national grid and contributes to a more sustainable and eco-friendly heating solution.
  • Using solar water heating with conventional boilers and hot water cylinder systems allows for the seamless integration of renewable energy sources.
  • Exploring other renewable energy sources, such as wind or hydropower, that can also be used in conjunction with electric boilers offers a plethora of possibilities for eco-friendly heating solutions.
renewable energy generation with electric boilers

Furthermore, the integration of a solar battery alongside an electric boiler can further enhance energy savings by storing surplus energy produced by solar panels for later use, particularly during the evening or night when sunshine is not available.

Alternatives to Electric Boilers

Although electric boilers provide several benefits, they might not be the ideal fit for all properties. If you find that an electric boiler may not meet your heating needs, there are several alternatives to consider, including heat pumps, biomass boilers, and solar thermal systems.

Heat pumps, for example, operate by extracting heat from the air or ground to efficiently heat a property, offering an energy-efficient alternative to electric boilers. Ground source heat pumps, in particular, have a unique advantage due to the constant underground temperature of 10-15°C, which provides consistent heating performance.

Each of these alternatives has its pros and cons, and the right choice will depend on your specific circumstances and needs. If you’re unsure, it’s always best to seek professional advice.

Making the Right Choice: Expert Advice and Assessments

Given the variety of options and factors to consider, selecting the right heating system can seem daunting. That’s where expert advice comes in. Consulting with a local gas engineer who is an expert in the field can provide invaluable guidance and help you assess your home before making any decisions.

central heating installation with an electric combi boiler

An expert assessment of electric boiler suitability involves the following steps:

  1. Comprehensive evaluation of the property’s heating needs by a qualified professional.
  2. Site assessment to determine the best location for the boiler installation.
  3. Selection of a boiler that meets the heating requirements of the property.
  4. Checking for compliance with building regulations to ensure the installation is safe and legal.

During an electric boiler assessment, it’s advisable to:

  1. Ask the heating engineer about their experience and references from previous customers
  2. Seek recommendations for electric boiler types suitable for your property
  3. Determine the appropriate boiler size
  4. Understand the expected lifespan and maintenance requirements
  5. Inquire about any available government incentives or grants for electric boiler installation.

In conclusion, electric boilers provide an efficient and eco-friendly alternative for heating your property. With different types available and the potential for integration with renewable energy sources, they offer a versatile solution that can be tailored to a variety of property types. However, their suitability is dependent on several factors, including property size, insulation, heating demands, and energy source availability. While they may not be the best fit for every property, for many homeowners, electric boilers can provide a viable and sustainable heating solution.

Frequently Asked Questions

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