Fuel Types

What type of fuel you should use?

Although most condensing boilers use mains gas, there are some alternatives for those who live off-grid or just want a different option.

While most homes will use gas, it is also advisable to find out what type of fuel is available in your local area if you do not already have heating installed or you are thinking of changing.

Here’s a breakdown of the different fuel types:

1. Gas

Gas is the most common fuel for heating the home and it’s available in two forms, natural gas and LPG.

Natural Gas:

  • Piped to your home via a supply company.
  • Very convenient and you will not run out of fuel for your heating.
  • It can cost a lot of money to get connected if it is not yet connected to your home.
  • You can install a gas central heating system yourself, but will need a Corgi registered installer to make the connection to the gas supply.
  • Wide variety of heating systems that can be powered by gas, such as combis, back boilers, wall heaters, etc.

gas-heater

What if I can’t access mains gas?

Many properties across the UK don’t have access to mains gas. Those without access can still run their home on gas, but it will be in the form of LPG (below) and will be more expensive than accessing it from the mains.

LPG:

  • Alternative to natural gas where it is too expensive or impractical to get natural gas.
  • LPG is supplied to your home via large orange cylinders that are roughly 4 feet tall. Usually, two of these cylinders will be required and must be fitted with a valve to switch between the two, as there are no gauges on them to tell you how full they are.
  • LPG works in exactly the same way as natural gas, but you will need a boiler that can be made compatible via a conversion kit.

Need to replace your gas boiler? Get 3 quotes now from local installers.

2. Oil

Many homes in the countryside are not connected to the grid and still rely on oil boilers which is one of the best value alternatives to gas boilers.

Roughly 1.5 million homes in the UK use oil for their heating.

Most oil boilers use kerosene as a fuel and are floor standing. Like gas boilers, they also come in both combi and heat only condensing styles.oil-boiler

Considerations of an oil boiler:

  • In most cases for an oil boiler a tank will need to be installed outside of the house. These tanks are usually large and hard to disguise.
  • You have to conform to a variety of regulations in sighting it.
  • If you let it run out, you will need a heating engineer to re-prime the system before you can get it operating again.

Do you want to switch from Oil to Gas? Local installers in your area can give you all the advice you need. Get 3 quotes now.

3. Solid Fuel Boilers

Often when considering types of boilers, we immediately think of oil, electricity or gas boiler. But, there are alternatives such as a boiler that runs on solid fuel.

What is solid fuel?

solid-fuel-boiler
A solid fuel boiler runs on what is referred to as “solid fuel”, which can take many forms including coal, wood, paper etc.

There are some solid fuel boilers which run the same way as other fuelled boilers and use automatically fed pellets from a hopper situated outside the house.

Some say this type of boiler can be an aesthetically pleasing system that could provide cheaper energy bills as the costs of fuels rise.

Considerations:

  • Solid fuel heating boilers are mostly limited to back boilers, or kitchen ranges.
  • Most solid fuel heating systems are inefficient as they consist of open fires.
  • Can be described as a messy alternative to a “clean” gas boiler.

The fire providing the essential running heat must be active, even marginally, at all times.

4. Biomass Boilers

One type of solid fuel boiler, which currently still receives the feed-in tariff, is the biomass boiler.biomass-boiler

A biomass boiler or wood boiler, is the other main alternative and, as the name suggests, relies on wood pellets, chips or logs to generate heat.

If you have a biomass boiler you are also eligible for the renewable heat incentives – the feed-in tariff.

The main issue with biomass boilers is that not many homes are suited to them, as they are expensive to install and a lot of space is needed due to their size.

Benefits of a biomass boiler:

  • The carbon dioxide given off by wood pellet boilers is similar to that absorbed by new plants, so it is a sustainable fuel.
  • They emit around 3 tonnes fewer of carbon dioxide a year compared to a gas boiler.
  • Pellets are the most practical solution for biomass boilers even though logs are cheaper, as they can be automatically fed in to the system.
  • Wood pellet boilers are cheap in comparison to the other alternatives, costing an estimated £600 a year to run, and are energy-efficient. Read more on the cost of boilers.

Considerations:

  • The Energy Saving Trust estimates installation costs between £7,000 and £13,000 and a tonne of wood pellets can cost under £200. Read more on the cost of boilers.
  • Unlike gas or oil boilers, a wood pellet boiler will generate ash, so you will have to empty it out approximately once a week. The ash may be self-cleaned depending on the boiler, but if it is not keept clean, it could shut down.
  • Biomass boilers tend to be bigger than gas or oil boilers and you will also need somewhere to store the heating fuel.
  • It will need a flue or chimney, which may mean that planning permission is requires, so be sure to check the regulations for the property in advance.
  • The flue pipe or chimney must be maintained to keep it clean of soot deposits.
  • A supplier for pellets, must be sourced and they are not as easy to find as other fuels.

5. Electric Boilers

Until recently, effective electric central heating was limited to storage heaters or blown air systems.electric-boiler

Consideration for getting an electric boiler?

  • Run off cheap rate electricity supplied in the small hours and in some cases, for a short top up period in the afternoon.
  • Though storage heaters (the most popular) are reasonably efficient they have a problem of being on all the time, so if you have a hot day after a cold day in the winter, you will have heating even though you don’t need it. They are also susceptible to drafts which can discharge them very quickly indeed.
  • A new form of electric powered heating has appeared recently in the form of electric heating boilers.
  • These can directly replace other boilers in conventional heating systems; they are very compact, light and can be run off cheap rate electricity.
  • Another benefit is that they are completely silent.
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