Adam Taylor, heating & plumbing product specialist from builder’s merchants, Beesley & Fildes, discusses the potential of electric boilers as an affordable, easy to install alternative to both gas and air source heat pumps.

With rising gas prices and challenging carbon emissions targets, the UK Government is keen to nudge homeowners, landlords and homebuilders towards alternative approaches to heating our properties over the next few years. The horse they are backing is air source heat pumps, with grants available to encourage take-up. But the upfront costs remain high and the pay back period is considerable. Moreover, air source heat pumps are not suitable for all properties, they require electricity to operate the pump and they can be difficult to retrofit.

While there does need to be a focus on transitioning domestic heating systems to more sustainable options, there also needs to be more creativity and pragmatism applied to this issue. Electric boilers offer an affordable, easy to retrofit, fit and forget solution for providing more sustainable and affordable heating, suitable for smart integration.

An easy alternative

For existing properties, electric boilers can be installed using legacy pipework and radiators. In effect, the electric boiler is a like-for-like switch for its gas predecessor. This not only minimises disruption for the homeowner or landlord, but also reduces the installation costs and avoids any additional costs involved in modifying the property for new technology.

For landlords, it’s a particularly beneficial switch, because an electric boiler requires no flue, no gas safety certification and no mandatory maintenance inspections. For rented properties and social housing, therefore, an electric boiler reduces maintenance costs and provides an assurance of tenant safety, with no risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, gas leaks or explosion.

Myth busting

One of the common push backs when it comes to electric boilers is the running costs. Electric boilers often seem cost prohibitive as compared to gas, but they can be operated using renewable energy sources to keep running costs down and homeowners can choose an renewables only energy provider. An ideal configuration for a smaller property, for example, would be an electric combi boiler and a solar power installation. For larger properties, an electric boiler combined with an unvented cylinder can take advantage of lower electricity tariffs during the night to heat enough hot water to last for the whole day at low cost. Electric boilers also provide an ideal energy source for underfloor heating, delivering a solution for contemporary homes and new builds.

Comfort must also be considered. Contemporary electric boilers, such as the EHS boilers stocked by Beesley & Fildes, are efficient and reliable: the key is to specify the correct size and type of boiler for the property. Just like gas boilers, they can also benefit from the use of smart controls, enabling the homeowner to programme in their own requirements or control their heating remotely for improved comfort, energy efficiency and cost management.

Practical option

Many homeowners recognise the environmental value of renewables but are not ready to pay the price of higher purchase and installation costs. With continuing investment in sustainable energy infrastructure promising low costs and environmental impact from electric heating, CO2 savings compared to gas, and practical considerations compared to heat pumps, electric boilers are a practical option for forward-focused homes.