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Boiler Advice

Types of Central Heating Systems in the UK

Types of Central Heating Systems in the UK

There are many types of central heating systems

Although central heating is almost always required, it doesn’t mean that it won’t be possible to select a single type of central heating system for your home.

Each part of your central heating system, right down to the radiator types, can often affect how it performs and how it warms your home, therefore, if you’re looking to upgrade, modify, or alter your heating options, knowing the differences between central heating systems could make a huge difference.

When comparing large systems that can heat a whole house, it all boils down to what you need and where you’re willing to put your focus.

Types Of Heating Systems

  • Boilers including Combi Boilers.
  • Furnaces are a more American phenomenon.
  • Heat pumps
  • Gas-Fired Space Heaters
  • Electric Heaters
  • Pellet Stoves and Wood-Burning
  • Fireplaces.

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Which is the best type of central heating system?

This will depend on your home’s size, structure, and heating needs and there are many types of boilers or heat pumps that can be installed in your central heating system to provide heating for your home.

Choosing the right one can be a difficult task as there are a few options but essentially it will probably come down to the cost of boiler installation and the running cost of each central heating system.

Basic Heating Types

The three main types of central heating systems are the most common, however, they all work differently, and some are more efficient depending on where they are located or how they are connected to the rest.

Heating systems must be tailored to each building in which they are installed. Therefore there are no one-size-fits-all systems, and while some heating systems will work better in smaller buildings, others may require more work.

Got an old central heating system?

Think about adding some central heating inhibitor to keep debris and sludge build-up at bay and save you from hefty repair bills!

Conventional Heating Systems

The oldest type of heating system you’ll find in a home is the conventional one, and they are built to use gravity as the primary tool.

The water tank that keeps hot water is higher than the rest of the house, usually in an attic or cupboard on the second floor.

Find out if you can relocate your boiler if it is located downstairs, as, with this type of wet central heating system, the hot water is pushed down by gravity, not artificial pressure.

They are challenging to raise pressure and because heating the tank can waste energy, these heating systems are less common in new homes.

They are a popular choice for many homeowners, especially those who have grown up with such a system.

It is common for older homes to have a traditional heating system, however, you can always change it to a combi boiler.

If your new tank or boiler is not installed in the same location, this may require you to take out the extra copper pipework though which will be an added cost.

Pressurised Systems

A hot water cylinder heats mains water through a pressurised system, and this acts as a tank that you can place anywhere in your house.

Although they can be expensive and require frequent maintenance, they are very efficient, and a lot of businesses choose to use them, especially if they depend on hot water.

To function correctly, they also require high mains pressure, and this has the additional benefit that the water can move at its original pressure.

You can run multiple appliances simultaneously and not temporarily worry about the pressure dropping.

Combi Boiler Systems

Combi boilers are often considered to be the next evolution of traditional boiler-based central heating systems.

They use a combi boiler as they are arguably the best option for most homes in the UK.

Many people transform their old wet central heating system to a combi as it gives them more space and can be much more energy-efficient. Combi boilers are more efficient as they do not waste hot water and can retain mains pressure well.

Combi boilers do not need a hot water tank. It can also save space in smaller properties or buildings that don’t have enough room for two large appliances.

They are the most popular choice when installing a central heating system.

Always add a magnetic filter to protect any boiler from sludge and debris entering your boiler when you least need it!

Boiler types

The central heating system’s heart is the boiler, so paying attention to this component is essential.

If you don’t address its shortcomings, a suitable boiler can make an inferior system more efficient.

All boilers have the same purpose. This means you’ll be comparing their raw stats, such as how efficient they are and how much water they can heat at once.

There are some differences between boilers that can affect these results. Not all designs are equal enough to be able to compare properly.

Regular Boiler

A regular or heat-only boiler is a basic boiler design that uses a cold water tank (and a hot water cylinder).

The tank holds cold water and heats it up when the boiler is ready. The hot water cylinder keeps hot water hot.

These were the original boilers until the invention of the combi boiler.

These boilers are older than other options, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are a bad choice.

These boilers can still be powerful and provide hot water at a high flow rate. However, they can be very wasteful in how they heat water.

These tanks are usually installed on the top floor or in the loft. The water must travel up to heat the higher floors, and they can be less efficient.

Combi Boiler

The main focus of a combi-boiler heating system is the combi boiler, but they are also the most popular type in the UK.

Each combi boiler is cost-effective and efficient, eliminating the need for separate water tanks. They heat water instantly as and when you need it.

Combi boilers are usually smaller than other options. You can place a combi boiler in a cupboard or other small space, and you don’t have to make a separate room for it.

Combi boilers heat water immediately, rather than heating it separately, making it ideal for emergency situations and quick use.

A number of sizes are also available for most combi boilers.

Although most boilers only use one type of power, there are many options for combi boilers that can be purchased in both electric and oil versions.

This means you don’t have to replace all your existing power options when installing a new combi boiler.

They can be used as standard boilers and can be replaced by any type of boiler. They are also very economical once installed and will not quickly burn through your hard-earned money.

Back Boiler

It is rare to see a back boiler, as most systems are outdated.

A BBU (back boiler unit) provides heating and hot water.

They are placed behind a fireplace rather than in separate cabinets. If your current system is not working, we don’t recommend that you install another back boiler.

They are often very inefficient and out-of-date. There’s not much to be said about them.

It is worth replacing with combi boilers. Even the simplest combi boilers can offer better heat management at a fraction of what you would pay for a day of heat.

System boiler

The system boiler works in a similar way to a combi boiler, but it uses a larger tank to store and maintain hot water.

Although this takes up more space in the cupboard, it can be used to provide hot water to multiple locations at once. This makes it easier to cover a large house.

Although the average system boiler is relatively economical and efficient, it can become excessively expensive in smaller properties that do not require a lot of hot water.

They can be extremely useful in larger homes with multiple users, as they provide hot water for all residents.

A system boiler is an excellent choice for houses that have more than one bathroom. They can be more challenging to maintain and require more space to be installed properly.

Gas vs Electric heating system

Both electric and gas central heating systems are very common.

While most central heating units in the UK use gas, electric boiler options are becoming more common. It is hard to predict which type will be dominant in the future.

Although they may look the same and offer similar results, electric and gas central heating systems can provide very different results.

Understanding the differences between them is essential, especially if you’re a first-time homeowner.

Gas Boilers

Natural gas heating systems are dependent on a gas boiler. This boiler has a constant gas supply through the mains.

This gas is then sent to a pipe that contains cold water. It heats up the water and provides heating.

The heated water travels through the pipe circuit and all over your home. This water is pumped through each appliance (e.g. radiators) and eventually returns to the boiler once the circuit is complete.

This means that water loses heat as it travels to the boiler. The circuit can then make the radiators at either end slightly colder. The radiator where the water touches first will be warm and often about the same temperature.

An electric pump moves the water. The boiler must operate continuously to maintain heat.

To do this, it needs to have hot gas. Alternate gases can sometimes be used if the boiler is not connected directly to the mains.

However, these are more expensive in the long term.

Hydrogen-ready gas boilers

The latest progress in the gas boiler is that they are now hydrogen-ready boilers.

This means they can currently run on a mix of up to 20% hydrogen with natural gas. They can also be amended slightly in the future with a few small minor part changes to run on 100% hydrogen.

The benefit of this is that the only by-product of hydrogen is water.

Hydrogen-ready boilers are available to buy right now, and almost every new gas boiler now is hydrogen ready. To ensure they are available to everyone, they cost exactly the same as the old versions but are ready for the future.

Are Gas Boilers Worth It?

Gas boilers can be quite affordable compared to other options, such as oil and coal.

High-efficiency options might provide approximately 90% of the fuel’s maximum heat output. They also produce less CO2 than you might think.

Condensing gas boilers improve this by reducing CO2 and making it more difficult for water to lose heat. These boilers can be more expensive to install than run, even though the technical costs are lower.

Gas boilers are relatively inexpensive to operate as a daily option.

However, they can sometimes become expensive if you use them too often. If your boiler isn’t connected to the mains, a more costly type of gas will increase its cost to run.

A gas system is a cost-effective alternative to existing options. This is especially true if you are using a condensing one.

Gas prices are constantly rising, and connecting to the mains can be costly. They also need to be serviced annually.

Electric Boilers

Many electric boilers can be used to replace smaller models. They are also gradually becoming more adept at handling larger spaces.

They have fewer parts than other options and can often make heavy use of the digital interface. This makes them more accessible to people without much experience.

They are incredibly efficient and small, which is why they are so popular.

This makes them incredibly convenient for a smaller building or home, and that is not even to mention that they are much more environmentally friendly than any other boiler type.

Although it can be challenging to convert your heating system, once you have one in place, you’ll be able to get more efficient heating at a much lower price.

You will also save time and money on servicing.

There are many models available on the market. We have compiled our top recommendations to help you choose the best electric boilers.

Are Electric Boilers Worth It?

Electric boilers can be very cost-effective and affordable, especially if they are already in place.

You don’t have to spend time or money setting them up. It is also possible to get lower electric tariffs, making it an affordable option for those with smaller homes.

The heat is also available on demand and does not depend on a steady supply of physical resources. This is a significant benefit.

It also prevents the need for constant service checks.

A 100% efficiency rating is excellent, but electric central heating costs far more as gas is cheaper even amid rising energy costs.

A gas boiler will usually reach around 95% with significant upgrades or modern components.

Some larger buildings require two electric boilers to support all their needs equally. There is no heating/hot water if the power goes out.

Which heating system should I choose?

Many types of central heating systems work well for different purposes or locations.

Therefore, there is no one perfect solution. It is impossible to predict new designs’ evolution over time so that electric options may become more powerful.

Your decision should always be based on what you feel makes the most sense. A single gas boiler might be more efficient than two electric options if you have a larger property.

A smaller home with only one bathroom may not need a full-system boiler.

Remember that central heating systems, including boilers, are intended to provide heating. It is important to remember that heating systems are designed to provide heating.

Ever thought about the cost of underfloor heating and if it is better for your home?

Read our quick guide to see if it is a viable option for you!

Is your central heating system future-proof?

Our central heating systems face the most significant threat because of their efficiency and impact on the environment.

30% of all CO2 emissions come from home heating. Most people rely on a gas boiler for warmth from all the different central heating systems.

They are reliable, efficient, and effective. They are not suitable for the environment. Our gas boiler emits carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every time we turn on the heating. This is a significant cause of climate change.

This is something that the UK government recognises and has pledged to do by 2050.

Many solutions are found in renewable heating systems like heat pumps, electric boilers and biomass boilers. They are also carbon-neutral and can help reduce heating bills.

These are just a few of the many ways that you can make your central heating system more resilient in the future.

Air source heat pumps

The air source heat pumps consume very little electricity and have a 200-600% efficiency rate. They reduce greenhouse gas emissions and your household’s carbon footprint.

It’s easier to switch from a central heating system that has radiators to an air-to-water heat pump because they were designed for this purpose.

The air-to-water heat pump works by heating water using heat from the outside air. A separate hot water tank is required to install this heat pump.

Ground Source heat pumps

A ground-source heat pump is similar to an air-source heat pump but relies on heat from the ground. This geothermal heat is then transferred into your home by the ground source heat pump, keeping your home warm all year round.

The main advantage of these is that they are super energy efficient, but when you take into consideration they cost at least £10,000 to install and require a lot of lands to bury the cables, they are a less viable option for most people.

What are the best times to get a new central heating system installed?

Although you won’t likely need to replace the entire central heating system at once, some parts might wear down more quickly than others.

These are some things to remember before replacing your heating system.

Age. An indication that parts are getting old and the system is not functioning as efficiently. Boilers should be replaced every 10 to 15 years. If the system’s lifespan is approaching its end, it may be time to replace it.

Low efficiency. Over time, heating systems lose efficiency. It might take longer to heat your house, or your energy bills are higher than usual.

These are signs that your heating system is using more energy than normal. You can extend the life of your heating system by upgrading to a modern, more efficient boiler.

High repair costs. Every year, your heating system should be serviced to ensure that all components are functioning correctly. There will be inevitable repairs. Consider asking your heating engineer whether it’s time for a replacement.

If cost is an issue, why not consider boilers on finance to help with getting a brand new boiler installed in your home in under 24 hours and not pay a penny until your first instalment?

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