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Types of Boiler Explained: Which is Right for You?

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Different types of boiler

Trying to find a new boiler for your home? We’ve looked closely at all the boiler technologies currently available to help you keep your toes toasty and showers hot during those cold winter months.

What types of boiler are there?


The most common type of boiler in the UK is the combi boiler, though it may not be the best option for your own home. While boilers can come in many different shapes and sizes, there will always be a handful of things that remain true no matter which kind you go for.

  1. Cheap and cheerful might not be the best idea. Different types of boiler have varying rates of efficiency, so ponying up for a more efficient technology will be more economical in the long run.
  2. Capacity matters only if you need to take more than one shower at the same time. If you supersize your boiler when you don’t regularly use all the capacity, then you are just wasting energy and money to heat up water you don’t need.
  3. Gas and electric boilers are both good options depending on your circumstances. The main one is whether your home has access to both kinds of energy. Even if you don’t, there are ways to get the most out of these types of boiler.
  4. Insulation does wonders for your energy efficiency every day of the week. Look into getting a jacket for your boiler. Aside from the added spiffy look, you’ll be grateful for the increased reliability and savings on your energy bills. There are incentive schemes that help people to upgrade to more efficient boilers.

Read on to find out more about different types of boilers, together with the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Electric Boiler: the compact option

While electricity costs more per unit than gas, it’s worth bearing in mind that we use much less electricity than gas. Electric boilers have one ace up their sleeve when compared to some gas boilers: since they only warm up water when it’s needed, their high efficiency is there by design, just like gas combi boilers.

However, the average cost of running an electric boiler is still trumped by the low price of natural gas, making a gas boiler a better value overall.

Electric boilers are only a good option if the following applies to you:

  • Your home is electricity-only and hooking up to the gas supply is not a feasible option.
  • You live in a small flat or home and need a compact type of boiler.
  • You have a smaller budget.

Boiler broken down?Read our guide to work out whether you should repair or replace your boiler

Gas Boiler: the middle of the road

Condensing gas boiler diagram

A unit of gas in the UK is roughly three times cheaper than electricity, however, the average home uses three times more gas than electricity.

Gas boilers work both for hot water and home heating by warming up water so that it can be pumped through a compatible heating system. For the most part, gas boilers are cheaper to run than electric, oil, or solid fuel boilers powered by wood, pellets or coal.

Combi, system and conventional types of boiler are all powered with natural gas from the national grid. These types of boiler all have condensing variants that let them trap valuable warmth that would otherwise be lost up the flue. This means increased efficiency for your home - the same amount of heat for less money.

The downside to these types of boiler is that external piping is vulnerable to freezing. This means you need to insulate it appropriately and keep an eye on it during those colder months. However, damaged pipes are a big hassle and fixing them costs a pretty penny.

This is why we urge you to service your boiler yearly to protect your investment and prevent serious issues from developing. While your home insurance emergency cover will not include a yearly boiler service, there are several affordable boiler cover options that do and are worth looking into.

The good news is that most new types of boiler have a condensing circuit built in and this means value for money when it comes to picking a new type of boiler for your home. Boilers nowadays come with efficiency ratings and it’s worth comparing to get the best one, whatever your budget.

Combi Boiler: hot water on demand

Combi boiler

The combi boiler is an on-demand gas boiler design that does away with the unwieldy hot water storage tank.

This makes it a good type of boiler for those living in smaller homes and also those of us who are eco-conscious, since energy isn’t wasted by keeping water at a certain temperature all day long.

However, before going down the combination boiler road, you need to know that they can be a bit of a pain to install. You need to be prepared for rewiring and new pipes to accommodate the plumbing.

Conventional Boiler: the king of central heating

Conventional boiler wall mounted

Standard boilers are gas-powered and they require cumbersome hot water tanks and cylinders which makes them a no-go for smaller floor plans.

One upside to this bulky boiler installation is that you can have hot water coming out of several taps at the same time. This means you can finally wash the dishes while your significant other takes a shower, and keep the radiators going, as conventional boilers can hold more hot water than many other designs.

Conventional boilers have a long history when it comes to powering a central heating system and this means they work well in large homes, if you can comfortably fit the storage tank. Be aware that if you live somewhere with an unreliable gas network, then these types of boiler are vulnerable to outages, leaving you without hot water.

Oil-Fired boiler: the rural option

Heating oil tank for oil boiler

As the name implies, these types of boiler are powered by heating oil that comes from tanks (either underground or overground) on your property. This is a legitimate option for a lot of rural customers who are far away from gas networks but can rely on regular heating oil deliveries.

Current oil boiler designs share all the advancements of combi boilers, which allows them to provide hot water when needed.

Thanks to the higher energy density of oil (when compared to natural gas), they are able to achieve at least 95% efficiency when it comes to turning fuel into heat.

If you aren’t hooked up to natural gas and your home has the required fuel tank set up then this may be worth considering for your home and water heating needs.

Solid Fuel Boiler: the rustic option

Wood fuel for solid fuel boilers

If you are living the dream life in the middle of the woods, a solid fuel boiler may be the option for you. You can throw in wood, coal, or fuel pellets to make it work.

As long as you have suitable storage space for your choice of fuel, you’ll be all set. Another bonus is that wood and fuel pellets are carbon-neutral, which is not something any other types of boiler can really say.

While coal and wood burning boilers do produce a lot of ash, if you have wood you’ll be happy to know that it is compostable or can be directly used as a fertiliser because of its lime and potassium content, which your garden will thank you for.

Solid Fuel boilers are made of steel or cast iron and while they both require a chimney or flue for reliable ventilation, cast iron models can last up to 50 years and they are immune to power cuts! That’s right, they can keep you warm even if the electric goes out in your quaint corner of the British Isles.

This unique type of boiler is good value for money in terms of energy efficiency as long as you can stomach the sticker price. You also need to bear in mind that you will literally need to keep the home fires burning with a solid fuel boiler.

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Gas Safe Register check, login & how to get certified

The Gas Safe Register is a list for gas safe engineers who are qualified to legally work on gas appliances and to be authorised to issue a gas safe certificate. Anyone can check the validity of a gas engineer. Find out how to make a gas safe register check today. Our guide contains gas safe login info, contact numbers, registration costs and much more.

The services and products mentioned on this website may only represent a small selection of the options available to you. Selectra encourages you to carry out your own research and seek advice if necessary before making any decisions. We may receive commission from selected partner providers on sales of some products and/or services mentioned within this website. Our website is free to use, and the commission we receive does not affect our opinion or the information we provide.

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