Eco Happy (Solar Expert)

Published February 23, 2024

Are you caught in the dilemma of choosing between an electric or gas boiler for your home heating needs? Energy costs continue to be a major concern for UK homeowners and laws talk about ‘banning’ gas boilers, which sounds a bit harsh for such a solid, reliable workhorse! However, the truth is that gas boilers aren’t being banned – they’re just being phased out over an extended period.

Sustainability and reducing our carbon footprint are hot topics at the moment. And if the gas boiler goes the way of the dodo and electricity remains comparatively more expensive, millions of pockets will be affected.

To help you make sense of it all, we’ve put together a comprehensive electric and gas boiler comparison to help you make the best heating decision for your home.

Key Differences Between Electric And Gas Boilers

Gas boiler

Gas boilers are often called ‘traditional boilers’ for good reason. They represent a tradition of British household heating.

These conventional boiler systems incorporate cold water tanks and hot water cylinders to heat your radiators and serve hot water to your taps.

The gas is ignited in the boiler’s burner and creates a flame. This flame heats the heat exchanger – a component that transfers the heat to water. Water circulates through the exchanger and warms up. A pump then circulates this hot water through pipes and radiators in your home.

Gas boilers are fired by gas – methane mostly. This gas supply mostly comes from the mains network; however, homes off the grid may use LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas). Let’s look briefly at the differences between natural and liquefied gas:

  • Natural gas boilers: Natural gas heating uses methane gas, which is the most popular type of gas used to heat up boilers. The gas is piped into homes via a well-established pipeline network.
  • LPG boilers: LPG boilers are powered by a fuel mixture of propane and butane. The boiler sources the gas from tanks or cylinders brought to the property. LPG boilers are often fitted in remote properties that aren’t connected to the gas supply network.

Electric boiler

An electric boiler works by utilising an electric heating element to generate heat. When electricity is supplied, the element operates similarly to a kettle and heats the water circulating within the boiler. The water is then pushed through the central heating system to provide heat and hot water.

Electric boilers are generally more compact and easier to install than gas boilers since they don’t require a flue or chimney.

Like conventional boilers, electric boilers have controls and thermostats to regulate temperature and usage. Modern electric boilers also typically have smart thermostats aimed at boosting energy efficiency.

Other boiler varieties

Combi boilers and system boilers are two other popular central heating options.

Combi, or combination boilers, are smart boilers that provide both heating and hot water. They draw water directly from the mains and heat it on demand. The process does away with the need for a storage tank, which makes these compact units great if you have a smaller home.

As with gas and electric boilers, combi boilers can also be powered by gas or electricity. However, when it comes to eco-efficiency, electric combi boilers are hard to beat.

System boilers also heat water directly from the mains. The water is then stored in a hot water cylinder. System boilers are efficiently designed with major components built into the boiler unit itself. They also perform more efficiently than a conventional boiler. Their heating element can be powered by gas or electricity.

Costs Of Electric And Gas Boilers

While they both bring comfort and warmth to the home, comparing the cost of gas and electric boilers is not as straightforward as comparing cats and dogs. There are a bunch of cost elements to consider here, which include:

  • New boiler price: The cost of the boiler unit will vary widely depending on the model, size, and type. Electric models may start slightly cheaper but the top-end units are more expensive.
  • Installation: Including wiring and fittings, installation is usually the major boiler cost component. You also need to ensure your boiler is professionally installed by a Gas Safe engineer, in line with the boiler installation guide. An electric boiler installation generally costs less than a gas boiler because it’s a less complex system. The savings here could be £1,500.
  • Energy cost: While wholesale energy prices fluctuate, the unit price of gas is currently cheaper than electricity and has been for a long time. With the average gas boiler running costs at 7p/kWh compared to electricity’s 29p/kWh, gas is clearly cheaper on this score. These prices and the standing charges are based on the Ofgem price cap, which will be reviewed again in April 2024. Against this, the average electric boiler performance is more efficient than the standard gas heater. What does this mean? You’ll get more heat generated for the same cost with an electric boiler.
  • Standing charge: Energy companies charge you a daily fee to be connected to their mains supply. On average, you’re looking at 53p daily for electricity and 30p for gas.
  • Maintenance costs: Gas boilers require regular maintenance, servicing, and safety checks to ensure they’re in sound nick. An annual boiler service by a Gas Safe registered engineer is vital and is often a condition of the warranty. Gas boilers also have more moving parts than electric boilers, which means they are more prone to breakdowns and repairs, which can be costly and inconvenient. Since electric boilers are simpler appliances, the cost of annual maintenance is a lot lower, though you shouldn’t skimp on regular servicing.

Cost breakdown

Gas boiler

  • Boiler unit: £550 – £2,000
  • Boiler installation: £2,000- £3,000
  • Average running cost: 7p/kWh
  • Average standing charge: 30p per day
  • Average annual maintenance: Over £100 (potentially several hundred)

Electric boiler

  • New boiler unit: £500 – £2,500
  • Installation cost: £1,000- £2,000
  • Average Running cost: 28p/kWh
  • Average standing charge: 53p per day
  • Average maintenance: Under £100

Environmental impact on costs

How does the environment impact your costs and investment? Making sustainable heating choices will become an increasingly important part of the boiler discussion going forward. The UK government is seeking to reduce the country’s carbon footprint by cutting carbon emissions to net zero by 2050.

The government’s Heat and Buildings Strategy aims to tackle emissions from homes and businesses. Gas systems aren’t as efficient as electric ones and they also create high carbon emissions. So, part of the government’s strategy involves gradually phasing out natural gas boilers because they rely on burning fossil fuels. However, this will only happen over the next decade or two.

Pros And Cons Of Electric vs Gas Boilers

Electric boilers

Pros

  • Lower installation cost: Since electric boilers are less complex the installation cost is usually lower.
  • Efficiency: Electric boilers have a higher efficiency rating than gas units, meaning they waste less energy. Rated at 99-100% efficiency compared to a gas boiler’s rating of closer to 93%, electric boilers provide more energy-efficient heating.
  • Lower noise: In a noisy world, it’s good to have a system that goes about its business quietly. The typical electric boiler is usually a quieter operator than its gas counterpart.
  • Safety: With an electric boiler you don’t have the safety concerns of dangerous gas leaks.
  • Eco-friendly: Electricity is considered a greener fuel type. That said, fossil fuels are burned to produce most of the world’s electricity. To achieve complete eco-friendly home heating, you would need to operate your electric boiler via solar or other renewable sources.

Cons

  • Better-suited for small homes: Electric boilers are not ideal for large properties with high heating and hot water demands.
  • Higher running cost: The higher cost of electricity potentially makes an electric boiler a more expensive option.

Gas boilers

Pros

  • Popularity: Conventional boilers are still by far the most common type of boiler in the UK. This popularity means the market is competitive with plenty of choices and attractive deals for units, installation, service, and parts.
  • Suitability for various properties: As the big beasts of heating, gas boilers can provide consistent and powerful heating and hot water for any size of property regardless of the electricity situation. Gas boilers can also work with different types of heating systems, such as radiators, underfloor heating, or air-source heat pumps.
  • Lower running costs: Since gas is usually a cheaper fuel than electricity, conventional boilers cost less to run than electric boilers. And if you’re wondering how to reduce your gas bill, upgrading to a modern, energy-efficient gas boiler is the way to go.

Cons:

  • Higher servicing costs: Gas boilers require regular and more expensive maintenance, servicing, and safety checks.
  • Noise: With all the moving parts such as fans, pumps, and burners that create sound, gas boilers can make quite a racket. That thing that goes bump in the night might be a cranky old boiler rather than something out of Ghost Adventures!
  • Safety: Safety risks such as gas explosions or a carbon monoxide leak can both be fatal. In addition, gas boilers need to have a flue or a chimney to vent out the waste gas and carbon emissions and this adds to larger environmental damage.

Choosing Between Gas And Electric Boilers

The best heating arrangement for your space boils down to your household needs, budget, and preferences.

If you need something more energy-efficient and eco-friendly then an electric boiler can be the answer.

 If you plan to install solar panels capable of powering much of your central heating requirements, an electric boiler certainly makes sense and will reduce your heating system costs nicely (though the cost of solar installation should be factored in).

However, if you need to heat a large home effectively, then the gas boiler has a tried and trusted reputation for meeting such heating demands.

If you’re not connected to the gas grid, you have to consider electric, LPG, or other alternatives like heat pumps that capture warmth from the outside and transfer it indoors.

It’s important to research different boiler types, weigh up the pros and cons of electric boilers vs gas, and discuss with experts how the different systems will fit your home and your budget.

FAQs

How much will it cost to replace my gas boiler with an electric boiler?

The cost of switching between a gas and an electric boiler could cost you between £2,500 and £4,500. This includes the cost of buying the boiler as well as the installation costs.

Your final spend depends on the model of electric boiler or electric combi boiler you choose, as well as how tricky it is for the engineer to remove the hot water tank and cold water unit.

What is the life expectancy of electric boilers vs gas boilers?

On average electric boilers have slightly better longevity than gas units. A good modern conventional boiler may last 15-20 years whereas a quality electric boiler can give you 20-25 years if well looked after.

What are the most energy-efficient gas boilers?

The top Condensing Boilers can achieve energy efficiency close to 99%. This is because they use not only the energy from gas combustion but also extract additional heat from flue gases.

Conclusion

Both gas and electric boilers are crucial to the UK’s heating infrastructure. Currently, gas systems heat large properties all over the country at comparatively affordable running costs. By 2050 we can expect to see their numbers significantly reduced. Though traditional boilers won’t disappear any time soon, they won’t be fitted in the homes of the future.

Unlike gas boilers, electric boilers are currently seen as part of the future. Additionally, in 25 years it may be difficult for you to buy new parts for your gas system.

Switching to an electric boiler is a better option for future-proofing your home. Though the price of electricity is more expensive than gas, advances in heating technology and design can potentially bring costs down.

Eco Happy is committed to finding the best heating solution for each home and delivering the customer satisfaction that comes with it. Reach out to our experts to discuss future-proofing your central heating. Whether you choose a gas or electric boiler,l we guarantee a safe, professional, and regulation-compliant installation in rapid-fire time.

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