Safe, affordable, environmentally friendly – is this all true of electric heating? We asked the experts from EHC
The first electrical heating appliances utilised large light bulbs based on the principles of passing an electrical current through a filament to produce heat energy. Scotland’s own Alexander Graham Bell invented the first electric heater in the late 1800s when he created a metal box with high-powered light bulbs inside that radiated heat into the room. This heater was however dangerous and inefficient at filling a room with heat.
Electric heating technology has progressed far from the 1800’s and is now utilised throughout the UK in domestic and commercial properties. Our greater understanding of chemistry, and production techniques have now led us to an age where electrical heating is safe and reliable with low installation costs and are green with zero low carbon emissions.
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The Electric Heating Company has been at the forefront of the UK’s electric heating & hot water sector for the past sixteen years. EHC realises it has an obligation to support all its customers and is always happy to assist with making the transition to electric heating, which for some can be daunting task. Therefore, the following information should aid in making that transition a little bit easier.
Prior to making any purchase a customer should weigh up the pros and cons of any product. Here are the Positives aspects of electric heating appliances –
- Safer – There are no concerns about gas leaks with electric boilers because they do not burn fuel at all and therefore, they do not create carbon monoxide.
- Low installation costs – Electric boiler installations are normally cheaper compared to fossil fuels. There is no need to install a gas line or fit an oil or LPG tank in the garden. They do not require a flue which is one of the biggest safety concerns relating to fossil fuel boilers, with no need to bore a large 110mm hole through internal & external walls.
- Better for the Environment – Electric heating appliances do not produce any local emissions, i.e. flue gases. Modern gas appliances do contain condensing technology which lowers carbon emissions but produces an acidic water that must be disposed of safely which can create problems of its own. A further environmental positive of an electric boiler is the Green aspect as the property can fully take advantage of the ever increasing availability of Green electricity tariffs and PV Generation.
- Space saving – As electric boilers have fewer components and they don’t require a flue, they can be located/installed in areas where a gas or oil boiler couldn’t.
- Sustainability – Where a property has a Photovoltaic (PV) array installed an electric heating system is an ideal partner to take advantage of the generated power to provide the property with free heat and further reducing the carbon footprint of the property.
- Easier Maintenance – Electric boilers do not require a mandatory annual inspection by a specially qualified engineer therefore obtaining a service engineer is made easier and annual maintenance costs are reduced. There are some components which do require some annual maintenance.
- Efficiency – As electric appliances do not produce waste there is no lost heat. Most electrical heating appliances are 100% efficient.
Although there are several benefits, here are the negatives –
- Running costs – Electricity is more expensive than gas – even though the electric appliance is more energy efficient than its gas counterpart you will have slightly higher bills due to the cost of electricity. We advise to shop around and ensure you are on the lowest and most suitable tariff.
- Capacity Limitations – Typically, electric boilers are more suitable for properties up to 3/4 bed that do not require a high heating output due to limitation with UK domestic power supplies. Larger properties may be better suited to a gas, LPG, or oil heating if a 3 phase power supply is not available.
Some extra advice
Prior to purchasing any model of electric boiler or radiators The Electric Heating Company advises that it is always advisable to seek the services of an electrician to carry out a load check. This ascertains the amount of amps the electricity distributor is providing your home, and if it can handle your chosen boiler’s electrical demand on the system.
Normally a domestic property will have a single-phase supply rated at 60A, 80A or 100A, but some domestic or commercial properties will have a three-phase supply which can handle much higher loads. The maximum boiler heat output rating for a single phase supply is 14.4kw based on a 100A supply – anything larger enters three phase territory.
Due to some restrictions imposed by the rating of domestic power supplies, other high load appliances in the home require to be considered, suchas electric showers, instantaneous water heaters, hot tubs, pottery kilns and large range cookers. Where these types of appliance are present, counter measures need to be implemented to prevent these appliances operating at the same time as the electric boiler, which in most domestic cases would overload the supply.
In all the above cases, the risk of supply overload can be prevented by the installation of additional controls which would result in the electric boiler automatically shutting down should one of the above primary appliances be activated.
It is a common misconception that electric appliance requires no annual service. Unlike gas, there is not any legal requirement to service an electric appliance, but there are components which can get blocked or do require annual checks. An example of these components are magnetic filters, expansion vessel, and system water treatment, and it is also worth checking for signs of corrosion.
A relatively new appliance to come onto the electric boiler market is the combination boiler. These boilers supply heating and instantaneous hot water and therefore no longer require a hot water cylinder for producing hot water. There are a variety of makes and models, but they all work on the same principles, which can be confusing for a customer to understand.
The downside of all combination boilers, whether gas or electric, is the hot water production capacity. The greater the hot water performance and flow rate, the greater the boiler capacity (output) will be required.
As explained, if you have a single-phase supply for electricity the maximum heat rating of a boiler is 14.4 kw – with gas you do not have this limitation. Because you have a maximum of 14.4 kw, the hot water production of the electric boiler is limited. A 14.4 kw rated appliance is only suitable for a small property with a sink, basin, and a standard head shower – however for larger properties we would recommend a boiler and cylinder combination like our Comet or Slim Jim models.
Some boilers have a storage vessel which may store 30 to 50 litred of hot water, which manufacturers use to increase their figures on how much hot water a boiler produces. This can be misleading as once the storage runs out, the boiler can only produce at an instantaneous rate far below the advertised figures.
If you have a three-phase supply in your property you can install a higher heat rated boiler which will produce better hot water production.
The Electric Heating Company hope you find this information helpful on selecting your next boiler and provided you with a better understanding of electric heating appliances. Take care, and stay warm!