During the cold winters in the UK, a good heating system is important. If you’re confused about the many options available to heat your home, you’re not alone. There are plenty of choices and it can be difficult to find enough information on them to make a solid decision. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to help you identify the various types of heating systems available to you and which is best for your situation.
Signs Your Boiler Needs Replacing
You likely already have a heating system in your home, but if it’s failing, you will need to replace it. Here are some signs that your boiler needs to be replaced as soon as possible:
It’s leaking. Often, leaks occur because parts are getting old and are beginning to fall apart.
It smells terrible. A bad smell emanating from the boiler is a sign that it could be leaking carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide doesn’t smell at all, but it could be emitted if the boiler isn’t properly burning.
Radiators no longer heat up. If it takes hours for your radiators to get hot or they simply don’t warm up enough, that’s a very good indication something is wrong with the system
It’s over 10 years old. If your boiler is more than a decade old, it’s probably time to replace it.
It sounds funny. Is your boiler making odd banging or clanking noises? These can indicate a broken valve or heat pump.
It costs more than usual. Boilers tend to become more inefficient and will cost more and more money over time. If this is the case it might be a good idea to replace it so that it can save you money in the long run.
Now that you know if your boiler should be replaced or not, it’s time to look at how you might replace it.
Types of Heating Systems
There are three main types of heating systems, but a myriad of choices within those. The three main types are conventional, system, and combi boilers. Let’s take a closer look at each one.
Conventional boilers contain two tanks. One uses mains water and the other is the feed and expansion section, where water will be stored until the system requires it. Once the boiler heats the water, the hot water is kept in the hot water cylinder until needed. It can be used for domestic use such as bathing or washing dishes, or it can be pumped through the radiators to heat the home.
Advantages of the conventional boiler include the ability to use hot water in multiple places in the home without losing pressure. These boilers work very well when combined with an electrical immersion heater to improve the rate hot water is provided. It also gives you an alternative method of heating if the boiler stops working.
This type of boiler may also use solar-heated water, for a greener method of heating your home.
Unfortunately, there are some disadvantages to the conventional boiler, mainly that once the hot water is used, you must wait for another tank to heat up. The cylinder is not terribly efficient and heat is lost over time unless properly insulated. You’ll also need plenty of space for this type of boiler, as it takes up a large amount of room. The conventional boiler must be installed by a professional, as it is rather complex.
The system boiler is another choice that you have. It is similar to the conventional boiler but more efficient. With this system, you don’t need the cold water feed tank, so it does take up less space and is easier to install than the conventional system.
For those who love their water pressure, the system boiler provides that, as well as the ability to use hot water in multiple places around the home without losing heat or pressure.
Again, the hot water tank does tend to lose heat over time and if you use up all the hot water in the storage tank, you’ll need to wait for the water to heat up again. In most systems, this is on a timer, so you may not have hot water for some time.
Finally, we come to the combi boiler. This is essentially a combination boiler and it is designed to be more efficient and easy to use in a small home. More than half of the boilers installed in the UK are combi systems.
These boilers heat the water directly from the mains, bypassing the need for a water storage tank. Since there is no tank that can lose heat, these systems are quite efficient. They cost less in energy and still give you plenty of water pressure. You’ll find that it is very easy to install and tends to be cheaper for repairs, as well, since it has no tank.
For those who enjoy hot water in large amounts, the combi boiler provides hot water on demand, so it can be very useful in homes where multiple people take long showers. That being said, it does not work with a power shower and the pressure is determined by the mains pressure.
You’ll also be limited to using hot water in just one tap at a time, with no backup heater. Should the boiler stop working, you will only have cold water and no heating available.
Within these three types of boilers, you can choose fuel.
To begin with, you need to select a fuel type.
Natural Gas: The vast majority of homes in the UK are connected to natural gas and can use this for their boiler. This is automatically supplied through the gas grid and you don’t have to worry about storing fuel.
Natural gas is a very economical choice for your boiler and is considerably lower cost than electricity. It is also considered the cleanest of the fossil fuels. While not exactly green, natural gas doesn’t produce nearly as much carbon emissions as oil and coal.
The downside to gas is that you need to be connected to the gas grid. If you are not, it will cost a surprising amount to connect the home to the grid and most people are not willing to pay this much. As a fossil fuel, it is also still not a clean fuel, which can dissuade people from using it.
Electric: An electric boiler doesn’t require being connected to the gas grid, but you do need to have access to steady electricity. The boiler heats water using electricity and then pumps the water through the radiators around the house to heat it.
Electric boilers are quite efficient and do not lose heat like gas boilers. They’re also among the smallest boilers and can be quite simple to install. Since there is no carbon monoxide risk, you can often install the boiler yourself.
The main disadvantage with an electric boiler is that electricity is quite pricey. This is a major consideration and when you add in that the water can only heat a smaller part of the house, it’s not ideal for bigger homes or businesses. In addition, if there is a power outage, you will lose your heat.
Oil: For those not connected to the gas grid, oil is the preferred option. It can be stored in a tank outside your home, so you don’t need to be connected to anything. It’s also available just about everywhere in the UK. You just need a place to put a tank, which will need some space, as it must be on a level, solid surface with nothing immediately around it.
Not everyone likes to use oil, as it can run out if you use it and haven’t ordered more. It’s important to monitor your fuel levels to ensure you can order oil when needed. It’s also more expensive than gas, though it gives you far more freedom.
Biomass: Biomass boilers use wood pellets or chips to burn. They heat water, which is pumped throughout the house to warm it up. The hot water may also be used for washing and bathing.
Surprisingly, biomass boilers tend to be quite eco-friendly, as they release around the same amount of carbon as used when the tree was growing.
Unfortunately, biomass boilers tend to be rather expensive.
Should You Choose an Oil Heating System?
Oil is still a leading type of boiler fuel in the UK. It can be quite efficient and is available anywhere, whether you are on the gas grid or not. It could be a good option for your home but be sure to look at the pros and cons of all the options before you make a decision.
Whether you’re installing a whole new system or just replacing an existing boiler, you know enough now to make an informed decision. Choose wisely!