Best Boilers Advice

Boilers: fuels and typesBoilers

Most households have a boiler installed yet, because it’s not in use all year round, we don’t always think about it. We just assume it will work efficiently year after year. When we do come to use it, we don’t want to be left out in the cold when we need it most. 

You may be looking to install a new boiler but are unsure about which type would be best for you and your home. Here we explain what each type of boiler is and how they work - so you can make a good informed decision before you invest.


Types of boiler

Boilers are an essential part of any home, so we can start by looking at each type to better understand what is available to you. 


Regular boilers

These are often referred to as traditional or conventional boilers, and are a common type used in many homes - more prevalent in older properties. You will find gas and electric fueled versions.

How does a regular boiler work?

Regular boilers work using a cold water tank, usually situated in your loft, that feeds directly into your boiler. The cold water tank needs to be higher than your boiler so the water pressure is adequate enough to feed into the system. Once the boiler ignites, the water will be heated and then pumped to a hot water storage cylinder - stored ready for when you need it.  

Regular boiler uses

These traditional boilers are used for your central heating (by feeding radiators with hot water), showers and hot water taps. 

Regular boilers are best suited for larger homes or replacing already existing boilers of this type. This is due to their size and the number of elements required for the system; cold water tank and hot water cylinder, as well as the boiler itself. They are also great for homes with multiple bathrooms, as more than one hot water source can be used at once without any heat loss.


System boilers

These are very similar to regular boilers, but without the need for a cold water tank. The closed system contains all of the components (including the pump) - making them more compact, easier to install and maintain compared to a regular boiler.  

How does a system boiler work?

Unlike regular boilers, system boilers don’t need a large cold water tank, meaning they take up less space. Cold water is fed directly from the mains, which will give you a higher water pressure compared to a water tank, meaning a faster supply of water. The water is then heated, via a heat exchanger, and stored in a hot water cylinder. It’s recommended that your hot water cylinder is well insulated to ensure the water doesn’t cool down too rapidly, but should last for several hours.  

System boiler uses

This type of boiler is pretty economical and suitable for any home. Quickly heating your radiators, they provide hot water to your taps and shower too. Larger family homes will see a benefit from a system boiler, as they are able to supply multiple uses at the same time. But, once the hot water cylinder is empty you will have to wait until a new batch is heated.


Combi boilers

A combi or combination boiler is a compact heating and hot water system in one. With no need for a cold water tank or hot water cylinder - they already have the benefit of taking up less space than regular or system boilers. These boilers are the most common type installed in homes today as they are quicker and easier to install.

How does a combi boiler work?

The combi boiler heats cold water directly from the mains supply, in the same way as a system boiler, and gives you on-demand hot water for your home. So, no waiting for the hot water tank to fill up or the risk of running out. 

Combi boiler uses

These are suitable for any size household as the hot water supply is instant. You won’t have to think about the additional storage space as just the one unit is needed - no bulky tanks here! Combi boilers are also highly energy efficient to use, resulting in savings on your energy bills and a reduced carbon footprint.


Biomass boilers

Biomass heating systems, also known as wood-fueled systems, burn organic materials such as wood pellets, logs and chippings. These types of boilers are a little more expensive than your average boiler, but the fuel and running costs are relatively cheap. If you're looking to become greener with your choice of heating, biomass boilers are considered a good sustainable investment with supporting technology. 

How does a biomass boiler work?

This type of boiler works by using a fuel hopper which automatically feeds into the boiler unit, so you will need to check regularly that the hopper is topped up with fuel. The boiler then goes through a gasification process, where the fuel is burnt at a high temperature - this releases gases which are then re-burnt to heat the water. Water is then stored in a hot water cylinder, ready to supply your taps and radiators with hot water. 

This is a simplified explanation of how this type of boiler works. As there are a few different types of fuels that can be used: pellets, logs, wood chips and shavings, and cereal-based products, they will all work in a very similar way, although the storage required is likely to differ.  

Biomass boiler uses

Biomass boilers take up considerably more space than a standard-sized boiler, so you’ll need a dedicated area to house it along with the relevant fuel storage. They may well take up a whole utility room or larger, depending on which fuel type is chosen. For this reason, they are better suited to larger properties. 


Fuel types

Depending on the type of boiler you choose and the area in which you live, there are several different types of fuel that each boiler can use. The below gives you a guide to the different types of fuel available:

  • Gas: is a fossil fuel and the most common type of fuel used in homes, although not every home is connected to a gas main. Gas-fueled boilers are more economical than electric.


  • Electric: electric-powered boilers are more efficient than the gas versions, due to less heat loss from waste gases. Although the cost of electricity is higher than that of gas, they are cheaper to install.

  • Oil: boilers that use oil are cheaper to run than gas or electric, but do cost more to buy and install. This type of fuel is less common than gas and will need an additional tank to store the oil - in turn taking up more space. There are two types of oil available: red diesel - also known as 35-second oil or gas oil, and kerosene - also known as 28-second oil or heating oil. Kerosene is considered the more efficient of the two types. Oil-fueled boilers are typically used more in rural areas where there is no access to gas.

  • LPG: these work in a similar way to gas and oil boilers, and will need a storage tank to store the fuel - as you would with oil. LPG boilers cost less to buy than a gas boiler, yet the fuel does cost slightly more - but as LPG burns more efficiently than oil you could end up saving money on your bills.

  • Organic fuel: this is a renewable fuel and is only used in biomass boilers. In a domestic setting, the fuel will most commonly consist of wood pellets or chips and is considered to be carbon-neutral energy - a great option for the eco-conscious.  

You can browse a wide range of boilers and water cylinders at Travis Perkins, to keep the home or office warm and cosy. And don’t forget the boiler controls and accessories, so you can programme the ideal temperature or set a timer with ease.