Electric Boilers vs Oil Boilers

If you’re living off the mains gas grid or if you have a cabin in the woods where you’d like to escape to during weekends, you will need to look at alternatives to gas boilers.

Up to 4 million UK households, or about 15% of the total population, are living off the mains gas grid. You can’t fit a gas boiler in these homes, but there are plenty of other options, including a range of other fuels to heat homes, like an Oil Fired Boiler, LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas) Boiler, Electric Boiler using mains electricity, and alternative options like solid fuels and microgeneration.

The UK average cost of heating a typical three-bedroom house with an oil boiler is around 50% cheaper compared to LPG, and about 75% cheaper than electric. Of course, mains gas is the cheapest, but if you’re living off the gas grid and don’t have that option, you can’t go wrong with an oil boiler. Those who have static caravans and park homes, and especially those using bottled gas may experience particular issues. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of electric boilers and oil boilers.

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Electric Boilers

Pros

  • Electric boilers are hassle-free and cleaner
  • Less condensation, fewer contaminants and lower emissions, no exhaust fumes
  • They run on fairly advanced technology
  • The installation is straightforward and easier
  • Easier to operate
  • Compact and smaller compared to all other boiler types

Cons

  • Electricity is expensive
  • They use electricity that is manufactured by burning non-renewable resources
  • Not environmentally friendly
  • Large carbon footprint, massive electricity usage
  • Huge energy bills, not cost-effective with electricity prices increasing all the time
  • Not a good option for regions with no electricity or frequent power failures
  • No hot water if there are power outages

Oil Boiler

Oil boilers use oil to heat up water. They are sometimes referred to as oil-fired boilers as well. What these essentially are, are closed containers that heat water that is distributed throughout a building or complex for various purposes. When you are considering buying a new oil boiler, one of the most important choices to make is with regards to the fuel. Oil boilers are sought after for several different reasons, and some of their pros and cons are outlined below:

Pros

  • Consistent, on-demand, heating and hot water 24/7
  • A modern oil condensing boiler is considerably cheaper than electric or LPG boilers.
  • Oil boilers are even cheaper than alternative fuel sources
  • Environmentally friendly, you can use recycled fuels or biodiesel
  • You can install an oil boiler outdoors
  • With oil prices consistently decreasing, expect it to become even cheaper
  • Fuelling the boiler is easy and automatic. You don’t need to load the appliance, as you need to with solid fuels
  • You can combine oil heating systems with other technologies such as solar thermal heating and solid fuel stoves to reduce heating bills
  • You can save money by shopping around for the best oil prices – changing supplier is simple
  • It’s kinder to the environment than some fuels that have higher CO2 emissions

Cons

  • Installation can be a bit complicated
  • You may need a chimney to vent exhaust gases
  • Can be a bit expensive, but long term savings can outweigh the initial cost
  • You may need a tank to store hot water

Electric Boilers

Pros

  • Electric boilers are hassle-free and cleaner
  • Less condensation, fewer contaminants and lower emissions, no exhaust fumes
  • They run on fairly advanced technology
  • The installation is straightforward and easier
  • Easier to operate
  • Compact and smaller compared to all other boiler types

Cons

  • Electricity is expensive
  • They use electricity that is manufactured by burning non-renewable resources
  • Not environmentally friendly
  • Large carbon footprint, massive electricity usage
  • Huge energy bills, not cost-effective with electricity prices increasing all the time
  • Not a good option for regions with no electricity or frequent power failures
  • No hot water if there are power outages
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Insulation

It’s extremely important to make sure that your insulation is top-notch. You can get the most advanced A-rated boiler 98% efficiency etc. but if hot air is escaping through your walls or windows, you’re still losing money.

The size of a typical UK house is about 75 sq. m (807.2 sq. ft). If the house is poorly insulated, or it’s an old Victorian home, you’re probably paying more than £1000 per year to maintain temperatures of 22℃ during winter. In direct comparison, in a newer property that is built to meet modern building insulation standards, you will be able to maintain the same temperature as above for £500-£600 per year. That’s half the money!

A future proof, extremely efficient, superbly insulated Passive House, where there is next to no heat loss, it’s not entirely out of the question to maintain 20℃ temperatures for less than £100 a year, even going down to as little as £50!

passive house, insulation, electric boiler vs oil boiler

A Passive House (Passivhaus) construction on the left, and thermogram of another one on the right showing how little heat is escaping compared to a traditional building right next to it.

If your insulation is not up to even the normal standards, don’t blame the boiler!

Upfront Installation Costs

Electric heating – £1000 – £2000

Oil Boiler – £3,500-£5000

While the initial cost of installation of an electric heater might look cheaper on the paper, over the long term the running costs of electric storage heating are sky high and ridiculous. And as mentioned above, with the ever-increasing prices of electricity, you can expect those costs to go even higher. Regardless of the insulation of your property, an electric boiler would still be twice or thrice as expensive compared to a gas, LPG or oil condensing boiler.

Installation costs can be misleading. For example, if you can get a ground source heat pump installed at your off-grid property, that would be superb. That’s even cheaper than gas over the long term. It can cost you over £10,000 to install a ground source heat pump at your property. An oil boiler installation fits in nicely between a conservative mains gas boiler installation and the rarer ground source heat pump installation.

Conclusion: Winner – Oil Boiler

When it comes to cost-effectiveness, being environmentally friendly and in direct competition with an electric boiler or an LPG boiler, over the long term oil boiler is definitely the right choice. What’s more, modern oil boilers are condensing boilers, which means they are highly efficient, rated class A, achieving more than 90% efficiency.

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