Heating and hot water are two essentials of modern-day living, and both of them depend on one thing – a reliable central heating system.
But more than just reliable, the boiler system you choose to use should also be suited to your home. It’s important to understand the differences in complexity and function of each type of boiler, as boiler breakdowns are costly and may leave you without any heating or hot water whatsoever. This quick guide will give you a breakdown of the types of boiler you’ll find available and the benefits of each.
Combination or ‘combi’ boilers are the most popular type of boiler in the UK, a fact which may be down to the small size of the average home in relation to many other countries. This type of boiler does not use a hot water cylinder or cold water tank for storage, which take up a fair amount of room, but instead heats the water as and when you require it. This means that a combi central heating system can be a very economical option, as it’ll only heat the water you use.
As hot water is not stored over any length of time, there will usually be a slight delay in waiting for the water to heat up, and using more than one hot tap at a time will affect the water’s pressure and flow. Another issue with combination boilers is that, as both your radiators and taps are supplied by this one central unit, a breakdown may leave you without either.
Despite these concerns, the straightforward and compact design of a combi boiler makes them good for most homes and means installation should be quicker than with other types of central heating system. Because water is fed directly from the mains, you should get a good level of pressure without the need for a separate pump or other extra parts.
This type may also be known as an ‘open-vent’, ‘regular’ or ‘heat-only’ boiler. Due to the need for both a hot water cylinder and a feed & expansion tank, this type of central heating system is more appropriate for a larger home. With a large store of warm water available, multiple taps can be supplied without any noticeable effect to residents. However, this does mean that your hot water supply is limited, and if this runs out, you’ll have to wait for more to be heated.
In this type of central heating system, water is heated and sent to your radiators as well as stored in the hot water cylinder. This is fed by the feed & expansion tank, which is found above the highest radiator in the house. This tank is supplied by the mains and allows the movement of water both down into the heating system – when more water is needed – and back up out of it – necessary as the heating of water causes it to expand and will push water back into the tank. Supply in this system requires a pump to provide enough pressure to reach all areas of your home, and overall, this is the most costly and complicated type of system to install and maintain, meaning it could benefit from boiler insurance.
System boilers work in a similar way to regular heating systems, the difference being that many of the major components – such as the expansion vessel and pump – are actually built into the boiler. This is a more modern system as compared to a regular boiler, and is contributing to the decrease in homes using that type.
Like a conventional boiler, a system boiler still allows water to be heated and stored, but no longer requires a feed & expansion tank, making it better for both space and servicing. Installation is also more straightforward, but due to the complexity of this type of central heating system, repairs and maintenance can be expensive. For this reason, boiler breakdown cover would be useful to avoid potentially high repair costs if you were to experience a breakdown.
This last type can be used as a primary heating system, but you’ll find it most often used as a backup. This is due to the cost of heating large amounts of water with this system, which uses an electric resistance coil within a container to heat the surrounding water in much the same way as a kettle.
As they work on electric, immersion heaters are easily switched on and off, and provide a quick supply of small amounts of hot water. This is what makes them good backups to a main boiler system, and especially useful when it comes to combi boilers. As it’s a one-unit system, a combi boiler breakdown could leave you with neither heating nor hot water, so an immersion heater would be a useful fall-back from this. Overall though, heating water using gas rather than electricity is far cheaper and more efficient.
Why You Need boiler breakdown cover
The different types of boiler available and the benefits of each will make them more or less suited to your home. With all systems, there are disadvantages – the greater number of parts necessary for regular and system boilers may mean that there’s more to break down, but the one-unit system of a combi boiler may leave you in a worse state if you were to experience a sudden failure. For this reason, a good boiler breakdown cover policy would provide peace of mind around the home and may help you avoid significant costs over the winter period.