Buying a new boiler is a big investment, so it’s important to make sure you have as much information as possible before making your purchase. With so many factors to consider: installation costs, running costs, sustainability and safety, there’s plenty to think about. Fortunately, this quick guide to gas and electric boilers will take you through the pros and cons of the available options and help you make an informed decision.
What’s the Difference?
Simply put, a boiler heats water for your home, the difference between gas and electric boilers is how they heat that water. A gas boiler heats the water by burning gas and an electric boiler by using electrical elements (a little like a big kettle). Both types of boilers are available as system boilers, which store water in a tank, or combi boilers, which heat the water as it is used. In many ways, gas and electric boilers are very similar; however, there are a number of distinct differences that will make one the perfect choice for your home.
Which is the most sustainable?
More and more people are starting to consider how they can live in a way that is as ecologically sustainable as possible. How we heat our homes is an important part of this decision, but which is actually more sustainable: a gas or electric boiler? It is undeniable that gas boilers burn fossil fuels; on the other hand, electric boilers draw power from the grid and at least some of that electricity is produced by burning fuel too. In recent years gas boilers have become much more efficient, and most newly installed models have an ERP rating of A, compared to many electric boilers that have an ERP rating of D. This means that most electric boilers burn more energy to produce the same amount of heat as a gas boiler, they are actually less efficient. Where an electric boiler wins out is if you can guarantee the energy you are using is carbonfree: if you are producing it yourself through a solar installation or paying for electricity from exclusively renewable sources. If this is the case you would be heating your home without burning carbon, but until that point, you may burn less fuel using a gas boiler.
Which is the cheapest to install and maintain?
Over 80% of boilers installed in the UK are gas boilers; this means it is easier to find a range of offers and expertise when you choose to install a gas boiler. Prices between the two types of boilers are pretty similar; the greater range of options means it is easy to find a cheaper gas boiler (they can be as cheap as £600), whereas most electric boilers are around the £1000 mark. This said gas boilers are larger and more complicated to install and depending on the space you have and options available can cost upwards of £2000.
If you are not connected to the mains gas supply, have limited space or do not have access to an exterior wall you may find installing an electric boiler to be significantly cheaper.
Another important consideration is the cost of maintaining your new boiler; gas boilers have many small moving parts that are much more likely to break than those in an electric boiler. As a result, it is recommended that you have a professional service for your gas boiler once a year, this costs around £100 and can add £1000 to the cost of the boiler over a lifespan of 10 years. This is not to say that electric boilers do not suffer from mechanical failures and regular servicing is still recommended.
The price of installation for both gas and electric boilers is highly dependent on a number of individual factors and it is best to talk to a professional and get a quote before making a decision. At CRB Boilers our expert team can provide you with a quote and guaranteed professional service.
Which is the cheapest to run?
At nearly a quarter of the price per kilowatt natural gas is without a doubt the cheapest choice when it comes to heating your home. Unless you are generating your own electricity an electric boiler will always be more expensive than a gas one connected to the national supply. There are many reasons to choose an electric boiler but cutting bills is not one of them. If you are not connected to the national gas grid then an electric boiler may seem like a lower cost option but you should still consider bottled LPG (liquid petroleum gas) boilers which are often cheaper to run.
Other factors to think about
One important consideration between gas and electric boilers is safety; whilst dangerous faults are very rare in a gas boiler with an electric one they are almost nonexistent. There is no gas to leak or flame that can ignite a fire or produce carbon monoxide, in a small space such as a flat this can make all the difference. Combined with ease of installation and their relatively small size electric boilers do seem to be a better option for heating smaller or poorly accessible properties. Because of their relative inefficiency, however, electric boilers are not recommended for heating large spaces such as houses with many rooms or communal buildings. In these cases a gas boiler becomes increasingly efficient, using the same amount of energy to heat much more space.
So Electric or Gas?
So which boiler should you choose, gas or electric? While it is clear that in certain scenarios an electric boiler can be safer, easier to install and potentially more sustainable than a gas boiler these situations are few and far between. Yes, if you are installing a boiler in a flat or remote location electric might be the choice for you. On the other hand, gas boilers are almost always cheaper to run, even with the added price of maintenance and yearly servicing. The difference in sustainability between the two types is negligible if you cannot guarantee renewably sourced electricity and the extra power needed by an electric boiler can make them prohibitively expensive. The one thing we can say for sure is that the decision between electric and gas is one to make with a professional, get in touch with us at CRB Boilers and we would be happy to talk you through your options.