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Energy efficiency is the buzzword in many areas of life today, so it unsurprising that the best boilers are designed and manufactured to provide consumers with hot water and an effective central heating system at a manageable price with little impact on the environment.

If you’re looking to upgrade your existing boiler and want to install the best boiler for your needs, budget and for the environment, it’s worth giving careful consideration to two of the most popular boiler types available: the gas combi and the electric.

What is a combi boiler?

A combination – or combi – boiler is a highly efficient, compact device that supplies hot water to your taps and central heating system. Combi boilers, which account for over one half of all new installations in the UK, remove the need to store large volumes of hot water in cylinders as water is heated on-demand, making them an ideal solution for smaller properties where space is a premium.

These boilers, which are gas-fired, are connected to the mains water supply and are activated when a hot tap, kitchen appliance or the central heating is turned on. Water is heated by a heat exchanger and dispersed instantly and, because the supply is straight from the mains, there will always be ample hot water to meet demand. For this reason, they are commonly found in larger houses as well as in smaller properties.

What is an electric boiler?

Electric boilers function in a similar way to a kettle, with water warmed by a heating element before it is dispersed around your home. Although the size and design of these boilers varies, the internal mechanism tends to be similar between models. Crucially, they are powered by electric instead of gas, meaning they may be more suitable in homes where gas cannot be supplied.

Electric models can be installed in a variety of locations around the home, including on internal walls, and tend to operate very quietly compared with their gas-powered rivals.

What are the key differences between these types of boiler?

When you’re choosing the best boiler for your home, you want to make an informed decision between the boiler types so it’s important to understand the key differences between the combi and electric models.

Both types of boiler are compact and can be installed discretely within the home, though the electric model offers more flexibility in terms of the location where it is positioned. Installation costs are often cheaper but bear in mind that the price per unit for electricity is usually higher than for gas. Fortunately, both combi and electric models offer fantastic efficiency of at least 90%.

If you’re looking to reduce your carbon footprint then the idea of a combi model churning out gases into the atmosphere might not appeal; however, the manufacturing process for electric models is thought to generate emissions comparable with the day-to-day running of a gas combi, so the overall difference may be negligible.

Should I consider a combi boiler?

A combi is a perfect solution if you live in a smaller property such as an apartment or small house, as the unit can be fitted discretely in a kitchen or bathroom without taking up too much space – and could even be accommodated in a standard kitchen wall cabinet! As the boiler heats water internally, there is no need for a large hot water cylinder in an airing cupboard or a header tank supplying cold water from the loft.

If running costs or efficiency are a priority, then a combi would also be a good choice. Because these boilers heat water only when it is needed, they tend to be highly efficient; the best boilers offer an efficiency rating of at least 90%. A lower risk of pipes freezing in winter and a less complex internal structure also mean that repair and servicing costs are lower than other types of boilers.

As combis are usually powered by gas, you need to have a gas supply to your home to be able to install one.

Should I consider an electric model?

Electric boilers are particularly suitable if you live in a property where there is no mains gas supply, such as in rural areas. You can still benefit from the advantages of a modern, efficient boiler that provides hot water and heating on-demand, without the need for gas. Also, some properties, such as listed buildings, have restrictions on the installation of gas appliances so an electric alternative is a safe and efficient option.

Combis must always be installed on an outside wall as there needs to be a flue to release gases and condensation. However, an electric model can be safely installed on any internal wall so if you require greater flexibility in the location of the boiler, this option could be a solution. As these boilers operate very quietly, there is likely to be less noise disruption if one is sited close to living or sleeping areas of your home.

How much do new central heating systems cost?

The cost of installing a new boiler or a new complete central heating system can be high, depending on how whether you’re moving the boiler location or a number of other factors. Read our complete guide to buying a new boiler or learn about the boiler finance options we have available.

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