What are electric central heating boilers and how do they differ from gas boilers? Are there any drawbacks compared to a gas boiler?
In an ever-changing world, we are becoming more aware of different solutions for our home, testing and discovering for ourselves which suits us best and why.
In this article we will look at the difference between an electric central heating boiler and a traditional gas boiler, discussing the pros and cons of each and helping you make an informed decision.
What are electric central heating boilers and how do they differ from gas boilers?
Simply put, an electric boiler will use electricity to heat water up, rather than gas. A heating element will be used so that as the water runs through the boiler, it can pass over an element and be warmed up.
Whilst this might sound simple and potentially that it goes without saying, some could argue that the systems’ principles are very similar.
Meanwhile, upon closer inspection, it is clear that there are some key differences that are worth discussing before investing in one option or the other.
Traditionally, boilers of this type were created for more rural properties that might not have access to the mains gas, or potentially restricted or listed properties that are not capable of having access for gas installed into their foundations.
However, in recent years, the concerns surrounding the way gas is harvested and the cost of it has left people wondering whether an electrically powered asset would be a better option.
What types of electric boilers are out there?
In the UK, we have a selection of manufacturers producing electric boilers. They can range in sizes from 4kW to 14.4kW which is determined by looking at the size of your home, the number of radiators, bathrooms etc.
It is, however, commonly acknowledged that a lower kW boiler may be a lot cheaper to buy, install and maintain.
Electric boilers come in a few common varieties that you may have heard of:
- Direct Acting Electric Boiler – this simple electric boiler is easy and quick to install and is the lowest for the expense.
- Electric Storage Boiler – we touch more on this below, but these larger boilers can be more expensive but they have the capabilities to store heat for later.
- Electric CPSU – with the ability to store water and produce hot water quickly, these are one of the largest electric units and are most common in industrial/commercial properties rather than homes.
- Dry-Core Storage Boiler – much like the storage boiler, the dry core boiler can store and use energy.
However, when it comes to an electric central heating boiler are there any drawbacks compared to a gas boiler?
Electric boilers pros
With gas removed from the equation, there can be several benefits. For example, the cost of installation can be cheaper.
This is partially due to the installation of an electric system being easier and quicker to install, but also because a gas system will require certain gas safety precautions and call for a qualified Gas Safe Engineer, hiking up the prices of installation overall.
Similarly, with a gas boiler, the need for access to the gas can dictate the boiler’s location. There are none of these restrictions with an electric boiler.
For example, with a gas boiler, there will be a flue or gas pipe which means the boiler itself will need to be placed close to an outside wall.
Sometimes when this isn’t possible, people use extra pipes to gain access to the outside for the flue but this will incur extra costs and look unsightly.
An electric boiler can go anywhere, and an extra plus side is that they’re usually a lot smaller and more compact than their gas counterparts.
Being smaller systems not only means you can fit them in more discreet places but these boilers also are usually a lot quieter, which means they can hide away and go completely unnoticed by the inhabitant.
Finally, not needing to worry about having access to gas means one more thing – you can be as rural as you like – up to a mountain, in the middle of nowhere in a Grade I listed house and it really won’t matter, you can still have heating and hot water.
Due to the dangers of gas boilers and the fact they can produce a lot of debris, they do require annual maintenance checks and services which electric boilers do not.
Removing the annual expenditure of hiring a professionally qualified engineer for the Gas Safety Certificate could save you a lot of money.
Arguably, the electrical boiler is more efficient and a lot greener due to the fact there is less heat lost in the process and the fact renewable electrical energy sources can be drawn upon.
However, read on to form a complete opinion of these boilers by looking at the cons below.
Electric boilers cons
A positive that we mentioned earlier is that the systems are small and compact, however, this does pose a problem in larger properties, as electric boilers simply cannot keep up and provide heat for the entire property.
Split tariffs and the generally increased electricity rates could actually mean you end up with an increased day-to-day running cost for your heating system in comparison to the gas boiler equivalent.
Changing from one system to another or back again can be extremely costly, requiring specialist help and extra pipework in some cases.
Meanwhile, upgrades, services and repair costs may be higher when you’re requiring Gas Safe certified engineers for the traditional gas boiler, however, there are more of them about than the electrical equivalent. You may find yourself on quite an extensive waiting list if you are wanting electric boiler installs or repairs.
Not only could getting a repair take a while if you don’t know a reputable engineer, but you could have your entire system out of use if you have a power cut – something, not even a PHS boiler engineer can help you with.
Finally, we will explain in the next section what an ‘electric storage heater’ is more fully, but simply put, in order to save the most money, an electric boiler with a storage solution will make the difference economically. However, gas boilers do not require a similar storage solution.
Electric storage heaters often come up when you’re researching for an electric boiler and a lot of people end up questioning whether they are required when there are cheaper and simpler options on the market.
Having storage heaters can be vital in providing an electric central heating boiler solution that is actually going to save you money.
However, it’s important to consider this in your initial research as it will incur extra costs, particularly when it comes to the install of a storage heater but also when it comes to the amount of space required.
The point of an electric storage heater is to store up electricity during the quieter / off-peak electricity periods. This allows the system to harvest power that can be used to heat up the water later whilst it is cheaper.
The system will then use the power later on that day or potentially the following day and run the heated water through your home, saving you money and providing you with peace of mind.
If you opt for a simpler electric boiler solution you could find yourself far more out of pocket than you anticipated.
Users of gas central heating will also be familiar with the concept of saving money at night by having the heating switched off. This makes for some chilly mornings.
However, the installation of a night storage heater can make this a thing of the past. By running at night in order to get the off-peak energy tariffs, there is the added bonus that you can keep the house warm at night, without really coming into any additional charges.
Storage heaters also have a significantly low maintenance cost (if any!) which proves that when all of these solutions are working together, electric boilers could really save you a lot of money.
However, not done properly or thought through sensibly, you could end up with a solution that simply does not work for you or your property.
Electric boiler cost?
Because costs can vary from property to property and because everybody’s individual needs are different, we will always provide you with an individualised quote.
To give you an idea though, on average, gas boiler installs can be between £1700-2,000. Meanwhile, electric boilers average at about £1,500 initial cost.
How can PHS help?
So if you are located in London, Essex, Kent, Suffolk or Hertfordshire and you’re thinking of getting an electric boiler installed or if you want an opinion on your existing system, we’re happy to have a friendly chat in which we can discuss your options.
You can listen to any advice we offer and feel rest assured that you are in safe hands with our five-star Property Heating Solution engineers.
With a trusted tradesmen membership from TrustaTrader.com you know you will receive honest, sound advice and if you’re ready to take the next step then just ask for a quote. We’ll be happy to help.