Here in the UK, household heating is essential. We rely on it to keep our homes comfortable and to ensure we have a consistent flow of hot water. One thing we cannot avoid in this is the energy costs. Over the past decade, we have become more conscious of ways in which these bills can be reduced and, therefore, the demand for energy efficient heating systems couldn’t be more important. If you’re looking to replace your existing system, it may be time to look at other options out there to make sure you aren’t paying a premium. So, what are the different heating systems available and which one is the most efficient for an average household?
What is an energy efficient heating system?
Before we start, let’s establish what we mean when we say a boiler is efficient. In the heating industry, systems are given a percentage rating to determine how efficient they are. The ‘energy efficiency’ of a boiler relates to the total percentage of energy it needs to use to provide a usable amount of heating. For example, a boiler with an 80% efficiency rating will use 80% of its energy to produce the heating and 20% to run (waste-product).
Boilers are rated using an alphabetical system, allowing you to quickly identify how efficient it is. An A-rated boiler will operate at 90% while a G-rated boiler will offer scores of 70% or below. Over the past 10 years, technology has produced boilers that generally work at a C-rating or above. This means they run at 85% efficiency.
Electric Boiler Systems
One of the newest additions to the heating industry is electric boilers. They apply the same conversion principles as a classic gas boiler. The main difference is that electricity is used to heat the water in place of gas. It’s important to note that electric boilers are not electric storage heaters. A storage heater collects as much electricity as it can during the off-peak periods and then uses this to heat the water. An electric boiler will generate the hot water as and when needed, using the electricity it has to hand.
Electric boilers are known for being one of the most energy-efficient options on the market. They have an average efficiency score of 99% – meaning they far outweigh gas and oil. Unlike the others, electric boilers do not require fossil fuels, therefore they have minimal waste and a limited impact on the environment. They are also a popular option for households that aren’t on the gas grid (approximately 2 million homes). Electric boilers are compact, have reduced installation fees and are quiet when running.
On the flip side, electric boilers aren’t designed to heal with high levels of hot water usage. Electricity is generally more expensive than gas, meaning that if you run your boiler for an extended period of time, you’re likely to pay more. And, as they are dependent on electricity, these boilers are also susceptible to power outages and cuts.
Gas Boiler Systems
As the most popular choice here in the UK, it’s most likely that your home will be fitted with a gas boiler. The efficiency of these systems largely depends on the boiler you have – the older it is, the less efficient it’s likely to be. In some instances, even replacing an old boiler won’t have a significant impact on your heating bills, especially if your heating system is also outdated. Most modern condensing boilers will run anywhere between 89 and 94% (A-rated). Those over 20 years old are expected to offer 70% efficiency which drops down to 60% for boilers over 25 years old.
One of the main benefits of using a gas boiler is access to hot water instantly. They are commonly used in old homes that have low water pressure and can be installed easily alongside traditional heating systems. They can produce high volumes of water in multiple places – outweighing the negatives of an electric boiler and making them ideal for busy family homes.
In recent years, people have replaced traditional gas boilers with combi boilers. These combine a water heater and a central heating boiler together for improved pressure and lower costs. In comparison to these, classic gas boilers can be expensive to run and they require the space to store a hot water storage cylinder and a tank. They can be more expensive to install but can provide your home with efficient hot water throughout the year.
Oil Boiler Systems
Here in the UK, we have what is known as a ‘wet heating system’ – essentially an oil boiler. Again, these work in a similar way to gas but using case oil instead. This is ignited within a combustion chamber and the energy produced is used to heat the water. From here, the water filters through your home, into the radiators, taps and showers to provide you with all the hot water you need. In accordance with building regulations, if a home is fitted with an oil burner, it must offer at least an 89% energy efficiency rating (A+). There are also condensing oil-fired burners which provide a 90% rating. In general, oil burners are more efficient than gas because they reuse all of the heat and gas given off to warm your water. This minimises waste and means you’ll get a better return for every unit of energy it produces.
As we mentioned above, oil burners (especially condensing ones) are highly energy efficient. Due to the minimal waste produced, they can also be cheaper to run and suitable for homes that aren’t connected to the gas grid. Equally, if you simply want another alternative away from gas or electricity, oil is there.
Because of the process used to produce hot water, oil burners can be slower to provide hot water. This means they are ideal for small households but perhaps not the best choice for busy homes. Additionally, the cost of oil fluctuates throughout the year, seeing a peak during the colder months when heating is needed more. Therefore, your heating bills may change drastically month-on-month, making it difficult to budget. Oil burners need a constant oil supply which is delivered and stored in a tank – and, it needs to be connected to your water mains supply.
Choosing the most efficient heating system largely comes down to the type of home you have, it’s location and what available space exists. Alongside this, there are a number of ways you can manage heat within your home without turning on your heating.
Other ways to control the heat in your home
Use window blinds efficiently.
Natural sunlight streaming in through our windows can turn rooms into hot boxes. By keeping your window blinds and curtains closed during the warmest parts of the day will help to minimise this. Also, consider the fabric your blinds are made from – solar reflective and thermal blinds are highly efficient at controlling heat in the home.
Sometimes, the reason why a room feels chilly falls down to an unidentified draught. Minimise these with door blockers or new sealant on your windows. This will optimise the heat available in your home, allowing you to reduce excessive waste.
Be smart about your heating
Most radiators can be turned off when not needed. If you won’t be using a room during the day, consider turning off the radiator so the heat is used more effectively in other spaces.
Here at Thames Gas, boilers are our expertise. We have a team of highly skilled and qualified engineers who can assist in all aspects of household heating. Whether you’re looking to have a new boiler installed to improve efficiency, have your existing boiler repaired or require a boiler service, our team is here to help. Get a quote online today or contact us on 0203 794 0149.
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