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Witten by Bernard Morgan (Engineer) & Adam Apperley (Marketing). Published: January 23, 2024. Updated: January 29, 2024

Electric Boiler vs Oil Fired Boiler

If you live off-grid you will need to look at alternatives to natural gas boilers.

Up to 4 million UK households, or about 15% of the total population, are living off-grid. As such you can’t fit a gas boiler in these homes. But there are plenty of other options, including a range of other fuels. These include oil, LPG, biomass and electricity.

The UK average cost of heating a three-bedroom house with an oil boiler is around 50% cheaper compared to LPG and about 75% cheaper than electricity. 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.

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
  • The installation is straightforward
  • Easier to operate
  • Compact and smaller compared to all other boiler types

Cons

  • Electricity is expensive (4x natural gas in January 2024)
  • They use electricity that is manufactured by burning non-renewable resources
  • You may require a three-phase electricity upgrade at your property, which is expensive
  • Massive electricity usage
  • 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. 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 an electric boiler
  • Environmentally friendly, you can use recycled fuels or biodiesel
  • You can install an oil boiler outdoors
  • Fuelling the boiler is easy and automatic
  • 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 expensive, but long-term savings can outweigh the initial cost
  • You may need a tank to store hot water
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Upfront Installation Costs

Electric heating – £2,400 – £4,000

Oil Boiler – £2,900-£5,600

Electric boilers may look cheaper on paper, but this is the installation of the boiler only. Remember oil boilers need oil tanks and electric boilers need three-phase supplies. Both come with an additional cost.

Installation costs can be misleading. For example, if you can get a ground source heat pump installed at your off-grid property, they are very efficient. They are cheaper to run than gas. But, it can cost you over £10,000 to install a ground source heat pump. An oil boiler installation fits nicely between a conservative mains gas boiler installation and heat pumps.

Running costs

And then you need to consider the fuel. Oil is approximately £0.68p per litre (correct in January 2024). Each litre of heating oil (kerosene) contains approximately 10 kW of energy.

If your home required 15,000 kWh of energy to heat, that would equate to 1,500 litres of kerosene, totalling £1,020 of oil.

The same 15,000 kWh of heating with electricity will cost you £4,290. Gas would equal £1,110. And this doesn’t take into account the standing charges. Standing charges would be an extra £195 a year for electricity and £108.04 for gas.

Winner – Oil Boiler

For us, oil boilers win. They’re cheaper to run and with bio-oils they’re very environmentally friendly. We recommend the Navien LCB700, a great boiler that is future-proof with Blue Flame technology and 93% efficient.

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2 replies
  1. nicholas holmes
    nicholas holmes says:

    You claim that electric boilers are not environmentally friendly, but:
    a) an increasing proportion of UK electricity is generated from renewable sources
    b) you can *choose* to buy 100% green electricity

    i suppose we should not be surprised that a company that does not sell electric boilers concludes that they are worse!

    Reply
    • Bryn Lloyd
      Bryn Lloyd says:

      Hi Nicolas,

      Thanks for the comment.

      While we may suggest that electric boilers aren’t the most environmentally-friendly, we agree that there are still other options available.
      In the UK for example, our electricity is generated in a number of different ways:

      42% from Natural Gas (2016)
      21% from Nucleur (2016)
      9% from Coal (2016)
      3.1% from other fuel sources (2016)

      Beyond this, modern technology allows us to use renewable fuel sources to create the electricity, including wind, wave, marine, hydro and solar. In 2016, they took up almost 25% of UK electricity and will continue to grow as the UK aims to reach 30% by 2020.

      With this considered, we are looking at all options for future products and installations, electric boilers included.

      Thanks again for your comment!

      Reply

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