With the rising threat of climate change, industries worldwide are looking for ways to become more environmentally friendly. And as electricity is a secondary energy source, it leaves many options.
Though we are still using fossil fuels to produce a significant amount of electricity, renewable sources create just as much. In the third quarter of 2019, 39% of electricity in the UK came from coal, oil and gas, but another 40% came from renewable sources. 20% came from wind, 12% from biomass and 6% from solar. (Source: Carbon Brief)
With improved technology, renewable sources could soon produce more electricity. In which case, could that mean electric boilers will quickly replace the traditional gas boiler?
How Do Electric Boilers Work?
Electric boilers work similarly to gas boilers by warming up water to heat your home.
Connected to your main electricity supply, water from the mains passes through the element, which heats up inside the boiler. Warming the water, it then travels to your taps and radiators.
Electric boilers are an excellent alternative for homes where gas is not an option. Usually, a gas boiler is unsuitable for listed buildings and can’t be installed in homes where it’s unsafe enough to have gas. However, electric heating is preferred in flats and apartment buildings due to the ease of installation and low maintenance required.
As opposed to gas boilers, electric-powered boilers are generally small and compact, and with no need for a flue to be connected, they can be installed anywhere in the home. These attributes provide a lot more flexibility in the house’s layout.
With water supplied on demand from a single source, hot water temperature and pressure may drop when using more than one outlet simultaneously. Because of this, electric boilers are generally not recommended for large or busy homes and those with more than one bathroom. (Source: Boiler Guide)
An electric boiler’s cost can range from £500 to £2,500, with installation costs varying between installers. A survey will be able to determine your heating and hot water requirements.
Brands across the UK produce electric boilers ranging from 4kW to 15kW, and your home size and heating requirements will determine what output you require.
Types of Electric Boilers
With a range of electric boilers on the market, different boilers will suit different homes and their heating requirements.
Direct-acting electric boilers are the more affordable option, with the lowest installation costs. However, an element heats the water on demand; therefore, you cannot store heated water for later use.
Storage Electric Boilers
With a hot water cylinder or storage unit, you can heat and store water for use later—the advantage of using “time-of-use” tariffs such as economy 7. Storage electric boilers are more expensive and larger, however.
Dry Core Storage Boilers
Similarly to storage boilers, dry core boilers utilise lower price tariffs, heating water and storing for later use. In addition, dry core boilers heat bricks, releasing the heat into the water when needed.
- Cheaper Installation – With no need to connect gas mains, it means quicker and more affordable installation.
- More energy efficient –The boiler does not directly use fossil fuels.
- Compact – With no flue, they are much more compact and take up less space in the home.
- Quiet – Electric boilers are generally very quiet to run because there are no elements within the boiler to create heat.
- Less Maintenance – Fewer mechanical parts mean less maintenance. Hot water cylinders should undergo an annual service.
- Flexible In Placement – As there is no flue, there is no need to put your electric boiler against an outside wall.
- No Gas Supply Needed – Electric boilers are excellent for homes off the gas grid or those that, for safety reasons, cannot use gas.
- Expense – Electricity can be up to 30% more expensive than gas for heating.
- High Water Demand – Standard electric boilers can only heat water on demand.
- Carbon Production – Creating electricity can produce carbon which arguably negates the eco-friendliness of an electric boiler.
- Power Cuts – Lights, heating and hot water would be unavailable during a power cut.
Other Heating Options
Depending on location, other options may be available to heat your property. For example, ground and air source heat pumps are becoming increasingly popular, with homeowners looking for eco-friendly ways to heat their homes. Alternatively, solar panels can be an excellent option for south-facing homes.