Whether installing a heating system in a new home or upgrading an existing heating system, a key component of many systems is a boiler. Boilers are used to heat hot water. When choosing a boiler, homeowners must consider a number of factors including the type of boiler.
Types of Boilers
Many older gas and oil boilers are known as regular or conventional boilers. They may also be referred to as open vent boilers. Conventional boilers feature a separate hot water cylinder where hot water is stored until it is needed. Hot water is provided from multiple taps at a time, although hot water can run out and time is needed until water is reheated.
Unlike regular boilers, a combination or combi boiler does not have a cylinder and hot water is provided directly from the boiler. Combination boilers are more economical and use up less space. They also provide homeowners with immediate access to unlimited hot water without waiting for water in a cylinder to heat up. Some combination boilers may have water pressure issues if more than one tap is running.
System boilers feature a water cylinder and no water tank. These types of boilers are also known as sealed systems. While system boilers save space and there are no issues with water pressure when running more than one tap, hot water is not provided instantly like a combination boiler.
Alternative heating systems with integrated boilers are also available. These types of systems offer improved fuel efficiency and lower carbon emissions. They can also be used to generate energy, which can help homeowners generate income by selling surplus electricity back into the grid through the government's Feed-In Tariff. Examples of alternative heating systems that include boilers are solar, oil, liquid petroleum gas (LPG) and warm air systems.
Choosing a Boiler
Since 2005, all gas boilers must be condensing. A condensing boiler is more efficient since heat does not escape from a flue of a non-condensing boiler. Since heat is captured and re-used, less fuel is needed and homeowners save on energy bills. A conventional condensing boiler might have two water tanks and a cylinder. All new boilers must also be energy-efficient. As of 2010, new boilers must be A-rated for energy efficiency. This means that boilers need to be at least 88 percent efficient.
A boiler accounts for approximately 55 percent of annual energy costs, according to the Energy Saving Trust. As a result, having an energy efficient boiler can lead to significant savings for homeowners. Homeowners can save up to £305 annually with a new boiler, according to the Energy Saving Trust. Replacing an older boiler without heating controls with an A-rated, high-efficiency boiler will increase efficiency. Newer boilers are also environmentally friendly and help cut a home's carbon dioxide emissions.
The type of boiler selected depends on a number of factors, including cost. A larger household will use more hot water, meaning a conventional boiler might be a better option than a combination boiler. If a house has limited space to store a boiler, a combi may be useful since it does not have a hot water cylinder and occupies less space than a regular boiler. If a house uses solar power for water heating, combination boilers may not be a good choice. Some combination boilers are not compatible with solar water heating while others do not use this type of energy very efficiently.
Finding a Boiler Installer
Oil and solid fuel boiler installers should be registered with a Competent Person Scheme. To find a installer, visit the Competent Persons Register (www.competentperson.co.uk). An installer that is registered with a Competent Persons Scheme will generally carry the Benchmark logo. Hiring a registered installer will ensure that any work will be done under licence and in accordance with all relevant legislation and building regulations. Other resources with information on registered installers include the Heating & Hotwater Industry Council (HHIC; www.centralheating.co.uk) or the Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers' Federations.
Installers must be Gas Safe registered in order to install gas or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) boilers. A Gas Safe registered installer may not have a Benchmark logo. In addition to being on the Gas Safe Registry, registered installers may also be members of the Oil Firing Technical Association or OFTEC. OFTEC represents the UK and Ireland's oil heating and cooking industry.
When selecting an installer, get at least three quotes and look into the installer's background. A good installer should have customer references available upon request and operate a local office. Choose an installer that has been in business for several years. Also consider referrals from friends and family when selecting an installer.