One aspect that we were faced with when renovating our home was deciding on a new hot water and heating system. When we moved into the property in 2012 we had no idea of how inefficient electric storage heaters were. It was a total shock how cold the house was during the winter period! I remember feeling a cold draft hitting our legs as we watched the TV in the lounge, with me having to layer-up with multiple knitwear pieces and blankets just to stay warm. It honestly felt like we had stepped back in time to the Victorian era!
There was essentially no central heating system in the house, no boiler and no gas or oil to the property. We had a coal-fired Rayburn in the kitchen which heated our hot water during the winter months and in the summer months, an immersion which ran off the economy 7 timings. Our hot water cylinder was located within the airing cupboard of our (purple!) family bathroom.
To begin our search, we explored renewable technologies such as ground source and air source heat pumps but due to the costs to implement these, together with the vast amount of work required to make our house more energy inefficient, we had to look at other options. We considered installing an oil tank (but oil prices are only going one way…!), so opted for LPG. We have no mains gas to the property so installed an LPG underground tank close to the front drive.
Our next consideration was the type of boiler we should install. Based on our demands as a family and the number of ‘outlets’ (showers, baths etc.) within the property, we had to ensure we opted for the best boiler system. We were recommended to install a regular boiler (we chose a Worcester Bosch Greenstar 30CD ErP regular LPG boiler) with a hot water cylinder. For larger homes with multiple bathrooms where hot water is in high demand, a hot water cylinder will allow for more than one water outlet to be used at any one time, meaning you can have two (or more) showers operating with equal amounts of hot water distribution.
Before we carried out our renovation works, we had a low-pressure gravity system which meant a pump was required to boost the flow of water to our showers and hot water storage cylinder. By upgrading to a boiler with an unvented hot water cylinder, it uses the pressure from the water main to deliver higher flow rates and more powerful showers without the need for a pump.
To free space up within our family bathroom, we decided to relocate our hot water cylinder to the loft, along with our new boiler. This meant that we could have a large tank, sufficient to provide enough hot water for the whole household, yet in a discrete location that doesn’t interfere with our family space.
We have a hot water timer located in our understairs cupboard which regulates the boiler to fire at specific times of the day to heat the hot water. At this point, I’ve to got admit, we did learn the hard way when after 3 months of living in the house, we realised that the timer hadn’t been set and the boiler was firing all hours of the day – needless to say, we were getting through a vast amount of LPG!!
There are many myths that go with opting for a hot water cylinder but here are my top tips for choosing one;
- It allows for multiple outlets (showers etc.) to be run at the same time
- A sealed mains water pressure system will give higher pressure
- It doesn’t need to be installed in the same place – freeing up valuable space
- For those with multiple bathrooms, it is no less efficient
- You’ll need a hot water cylinder if you plan to use renewable technology such as heat pumps or solar thermal panels
- You can add a hot water cylinder to a combi boiler if you add a bathroom or extend for instance, if there is still capacity within the output
With regards to our heating system, as we were rebuilding the entire house, we really liked the idea of laying underfloor heating – both upstairs and downstairs. We opted for a water-based wet system as opposed to a dry system (which works off electricity), as it distributes heat more evenly and requires water at a lower temperature compared to radiators, making our boiler more efficient. Underfloor heating also frees up wall space, giving us greater flexibility with our interior decor – which is always a bonus!
Alongside the installation of an underfloor heating system, we took measures to improve the energy efficiency of our house. In order for the heating system to work effectively, it is important to retain as much heat within the property, as possible. As such, we insulated the loft, the floors and all external cavity walls, we also installed low u-value glass windows and doors.
Now, the house feels like it has been completely transformed! It no longer feels cold, we can walk around barefoot with a lovely warm feeling, there is never a shortage of hot water and even in the depths of winter, I feel warm and cosy whilst sat on my sofa watching TV!
If you are in the middle of deciding on the right hot water and heating system for your home and require further information on the solutions available, visit the Hot Water Association website www.hotwater.org.uk.
Thanks for reading! SJ