What is an electric boiler and how does it work? – Electric boilers are rising in popularity and offer an alternative renewable energy solution to gas and oil boilers. Instead of igniting a fuel like gas or oil, an electric boiler passes the water of your heating system over an electric element to get it hot.
In simple terms, an electric combi boiler works a bit like a kettle. An electric boiler is supplied with cold water from the mains and is connected to the main electricity supply. When you turn the heating on or the hot tap, it causes the heating element inside the boiler to heat up and then transfer that heat to the cold water in your system. The hot water then gets pumped to your radiators, taps and showers.
It’s possible to install electric boilers in most small to medium-sized homes, with the capability to supply enough hot water for central, heating, baths, and showers.
Electric boilers are not recommended for larger homes or those with multiple bathrooms as if more than one tap or shower is needed at the same time, the water pressure and temperature may drop. This is because the water is supplied from a single source, on demand. So, if an electric boiler needs to supply hot water to two locations at the same time, the pressure/temperature could drop.
If your home isn’t connected to the gas network, or you’re perhaps looking for ways to reduce your carbon footprint, then an electric boiler could be something to investigate.
Different Types Of Boilers
Just like gas boilers, there are different types of boiler systems to choose from depending on your home and needs. We’ll start with the one that seems to be the most popular!
An electric combi boiler (direct) – Like gas boilers, the electric combi boiler seems to be emerging as a popular choice. In terms of looks and design, an electric combi boiler looks a lot like a gas combi boiler. It is a single unit and provides both central heating and hot water. Hot water is provided on demand using the heating element.
When it comes to installation, the electric combi boiler is likely to be the cheapest and easiest to install. It also doesn’t need a tank, so won’t take up too much space.
Storage Electric Boiler – This type of electric boiler comes with a hot water tank – Sometimes within the unit or as a separate unit. It’s worth noting that storage electric boilers are often more expensive that the electric combi boiler.
Electric Combined Primary Storage Unit – A CPSU is more suited to commercial properties as this electrical combi boiler option can store lots of hot water. This means it can meet demand quickly and without losing pressure (unlike the electric combi boiler). Unless you and your family enjoy taking baths multiple times a day, this is probably a lot more than your household will need.
Dry Core Storage Electric Boilers – They are like storage heaters and work by heating bricks overnight. The heat can then be released into the water to be used for central heating and hot water.
Solar Compatible Electric Boiler – If you are considering an electric boiler, there’s also a chance you’re also looking at more renewable sources of energy. If you have solar panels in your home, then you can use this free energy to heat your water during the day via a storage tank and immersion heater.
Electric Boiler Pros
Let’s talk about the reason you’re reading this blog – The advantages and disadvantages of electric boilers. There are millions of homes across the UK without access to the gas network, which makes an electric boiler a viable heating alternative that does offer some benefits.
- You could lower your energy bills and carbon footprint by powering your electric boiler with renewable energy.
- Electric boilers are cheaper to install as they don’t let off waste gases and thus don’t require that pipework for that.
- They don’t require annual services (unless you have a hot water cylinder).
- Electric boilers don’t require gas or oil to fuel them so are more efficient and produce lower emissions. Electric boilers are highly efficient as they don’t lose energy through burning fuel to produce heat. They typically have an energy rating of 99% compared to gas boilers which are 89-95%.
- If you are not connected to the gas network and don’t have space for an oil tank, then an electric boiler is the perfect solution.
- There is more flexibility with the placement of an electric boiler as they don’t have to be located on an external wall. They are also more compact than gas boilers with no requirements for a flue.
- Electrical boilers don’t produce any waste gases, and therefore pose no risk of carbon monoxide leaks or poisoning.
- There are no moving parts in an electric boiler, which means they are almost silent when in operation.
- Most electric boilers are compatible with solar panels, which means you can generate some of the energy you are using and thus reduce your electricity bills (as well as your carbon footprint). It’s also possible to get a storage battery, enabling you to store and release generated energy when you need it.
Reasons To Choose An Electric Boiler
If your home has solar panels, then an electric boiler could be a great option for you. Using the electricity your solar panels are generating mean that your energy bills will be reduced.
- Electric boilers are also more efficient – Around 99%. So, if you’re passionate about not wasting energy then an electric boiler could be just what you’ve been looking for.
- Gas, oil, and LPG boilers all burn fossil fuels to produce heat, whereas an electric boiler does not create any carbon emissions while in use.
Why Choose A Gas Boiler?
The running costs of an electric boiler are a lot higher than a gas boiler because electricity is 3-4 times more expensive than gas per kilowatt hour (kWh). Electric boilers may not directly use fossil fuels to generate heat and thus not produce carbon emissions when operating, but usually, the electricity that the boiler uses is itself generated using fossil fuels. If you’ve got a larger home or multiple bathrooms, then electric boilers are not a great choice. They can’t produce enough hot water on demand for a large property or multiple taps/showers simultaneously without usually resulting in a loss of water pressure or temperature. If you’re considering changing to an electrical boiler, we hope that’s answered some of your questions and helped ascertain whether an electric boiler is right for you and your home. It’s also worth looking at Biomass Boiler Systems, which are fully sustainable and environmentally friendly.