I asked on one ng, was sent to another and the one answer there
suggested here, and I see that there are several vaguely similar
questions here, so here goes.....
I'm here to ask for advice about heating. Our gas back-boiler system
died with a spectacular bang recently, and we have a couple of estimates
for replacement. One estimate was firmly for Combi, the other firmly for
a wall-mounted boiler feeding our trad system. I think I favour trad,
wife and son think Combi as it sounds newer and might sound that to a
future purchaser of the house. So the central heating part will have to
be one of the types of gas installation and we will fight that out, but
I've been getting really confused about whether to replace the fire part
with a gas or electric unit. It needs a quick decision because of
chimney liners etc. As an aside, I'm not really sure that I understand
why the not-all-that-old chimney liner for the back boiler system can't
be re-used for a new gas fire and would have to be replaced.
The requirement for the fire is that it should produce efficient radiant
heat to please the daughter or whoever else wants to lie on the rug in
front of it. General circulating air type heat will be from the central
All the info on the web I've looked at seems very vague about real
efficiency, and a lot of the 'efficient' fires seem to get the name from
their heat exchange convection features.
The British Gas estimator seemed to be saying that electric was the more
cost effective type of fire after the fuel price rises. We looked at
fires in B & Q today, but got totally depressed at the fake flame
effects and general cheap and phoney look of the offerings. This also
applied to their selection of gas fires.
I'm not particularly bothered about which supplier of gas or electricity
is the cheapest, as any decision about that can come later.
Any advice about cost-effectiveness for a system? Are there any really
useful websites or other sources of info?
Sorry to be so long winded (lots of hot air) in my first post here.
A combi uses no hot storage tank, so is useful in small flats. However
they deliver terrible hot water flow, making baths and showers
miserable. I've heard stories of them taking 1/4 of an hour (!) to
fill a bath.
thats easy, gas. Gas has been way cheaper for decades. Its not today
though, but as ever electricity is generated from fuels so the most
probabl future prediction is that in the longer run gas will be
significantly cheaper. No-one has a crystal ball though. Theres also
the fact that gas CH outperforms electric fairly easily.
On Tue, 05 Aug 2008 16:07:22 -0700, meow2222 wrote:
A combi gives unlimited hot water which doesn't run out. I've heard
stories of people waiting 3/4 of an hour (!) for a hot water
cylinder to heat up so they can have a bath. Actually it's happened to me.
There's nothing as miserable as sitting in a lukewarm-and-cooling-down
bath waiting for the system to recover enough to top it up with some hot
If you've got a good traditional system you can fill a bath in less time
than it takes to get undressed and get into it ... and if you get
side-tracked for a minute you've overfilled it and run the hot water cold.
With a combi you (I mean I) start running it for a couple of minutes before
getting in and continue filling it, adjusting the temperature as it fills
and I get used to the temperature, until I have a nice bath full of
steaming hot water, just as I like it. Maybe that does take 10 or 15
minutes altogether, but a bath is about relaxing, not hurrying.
And as for showers there's nothig quite as miserable as a shower off a
traditional system, unless you've got a fairly serious pump. If
you've got decent mains water pressure a combi effortlessly gives a good
I have an Aqualisa fed via carefully routed and installed 22mm pipe from a
storage system and it's very, very good. It's pretty old and I dunno if
showers designed to work properly off a low pressure system are still
available. It gives a higher flow of water (at the required temperature)
than my mains supply is capable of - regardless of how it was heated.
*Therapy is expensive, poppin' bubble wrap is cheap! You choose.
Dave Plowman firstname.lastname@example.org London SW
British gas prices (dual fuel, after the recent price increases)
Electric 20.5p per kW falling to 9.6p per kW with higher usage.
Gas 7.1p per kW falling to 3.6p per kW
In general, per kW gas is around a third of the price of electricity.
You may find that with some flame effect gas fires most of the heat
goes up the chimney as some of them are less than 50% efficient. However
you could go as low as 30% efficient and gas would be comparable with
electricity, price wise, for heating.
Get a quote form someone else. BG estimators have a reputation of
quoting at least 30% higher than a local reputable heating company.
The snag with this advice is that we have been to the local known good
non-BG supplier and his preferred scheme took a gas pipe through a
child's bedroom and the flue up through a long and winding road through
the loft (which is full of books and other memorabilia that were being
saved for our retirement and would take months to get back down and to
the tip. To give access would mean a huge amount of work).
BG say they will run the gas externally, and would install the boiler
where we prefer. That just puts the flue through the kitchen wall. They
were only slightly more expensive, but I, personally, have had very
negative experiences with them in the past, and would never, ever have a
maintenance contract with them again. It's all decisions....
SWMBO gets very stressed about gas inside the house anyway, and we did
know someone whose baby was blown through the lounge window of their
bungalow onto the front lawn by a gas explosion..It bounced, I
understand, and is now a happy teenager.
Local man suggests combi, BG man suggests non-combi. I favour the
latter, SWMBO and son thinks the former sounds "more modern".
But I was really looking for guidance about the gas/electric fire aspect
of the change. I have carried on searching and found no real info about
the radiant heat efficiency aspect of simple fires. Current dead Baxi
has ceramic grid thing to radiate, and seems good to me, SWMBO thinks it
looks old fashioned. It's a hard life and a decision must be made pretty
soon as I seem unable to manually control the immersion to anyone's
The old fire may well have its power output on the ratings plate, probably
a max and min. Knowing this will give you some idea as to how big an
electric fire you would need and thus help with the cost calculations.
As others have pointed out the "real flame" gas fires have terrible
efficiency, the ceramic radiant bars are the way to go.
Why do *you* have manually control it? It should have a thermostat to stop
the cylinder going above 60C or whatever. More to the point educate the
family into thinking about their hot water requirements in advance and
switch it on/off themselves. It's not "difficult" FFS!
I'm coming back to this because I am still very confused about my
original question which was really about the replacement fire part of a
But, to deal with Dave's point, I control the immersion because I know
my family. I'm the only one who drives, can work the video recorder, can
set up to watch freeview etc. etc. Luckily, they do the cooking, though.
Suggesting that the family needs educating could severely compromise my
access to culinary delights.
I've looked at electric fires. I hadn't realised that almost all the
modern ones are fan heaters with a picture of a fire that lights up. My
experience of fan heaters is that they are mechanical, throw away
devices, so I'm not too impressed. I remember fan motor bearings gumming
up and elements glowing red.
SWMBO doesn't like the ceramic gas fire like the one we are removing.
Antique would be acceptable, old-fashioned isn't, I'm told.
Taking, for example, the current Valor catalogue has the typical ceramic
radiant fire as 79% efficient. A flame effect fire that is radiant +
convection quotes 89% efficiency. However the same fire quotes heat
input 5kW and heat o/p 4kW or input 2.3 and o/p 1.8. How this translates
to 89% is beyond my understanding of mathematics. In addition, I assume
that the gas fire draws cold outside air into the room through the vent.
The supplier who gave me the catalogues advised to take efficiencies
with a grain of salt as the same fires quoted different efficiencies in
different countries based on measurement methods and the likelihood of
We have been looking for a third quotation, but the most recommended man
has retired, and we are in the holiday season. Maybe I'm taking all this
too seriously. I keep having to tell the family that the reason the
country is such a shambles is that we don't seem to have any politicians
who think through the consequences before producing half-baked policies.
Not had that but in general I don't like fan heaters because of the noise.
The good old radiant bar electric fire is silent, if it ain't it's got a
Can't say I've looked at electric fires in a very long time but I see that
of the 27 that Argos have none are radiant bar. Presumably because people
these days are so dim that getting to close or sticking things into them
doesn't register as a stupid thing to do.
No mains gas here so haven't looked at gas fires for ages either, do they
still have gas showrooms? I guess they are all the living flame type now
as well. Why don't you suggest that if she really wants the living flame
look that you put a real living flame stove or open grate in. Let that sit
for a while then remind her that they are rather dirty and a nice clean
efficient gas radiant fire would be so much easier to control and there
would be no lugging of fuel or ash pans about.
You'd have to check the regs but a gas fire might not require a vent, just
normal room ventilation. Your back boiler will have required a vent though
as its demand for oxygen is far greater than a gas fire.
I get the impression you are stuck between a rock and hard place. I'd
certainly take a hard look at the design of a living flame gas fire but I
can't really see how they can match or better the efficiency a
conventional radiant gas fire.
On Fri, 08 Aug 2008 21:29:45 +0100, Dave Liquorice wrote:
Indeed. If it's a DFE (like a tray, trough or basket of gas-fired fake
coals/logs sort of free-standing in the fireplace) then you'll need
ventilation equivalent to leaving a fanlight open 24*7 all-year-round.
(Likewise for flueless fires.)
If SWMBO won't go for the old-fashioned gas-fire look, then some of the
fake coal/log effect fires that have a surround that fits into the
fireplace can fairly chuck out the heat (OK, not brilliantly efficiently,
but how long will it be running for?) and if it's 7kW or less you
probably don't need additional ventilation.
Very easy one to solve. Accept their quote or on condition its sited/
run where you want. Or better, ask another firm, specifying from the
start where you want things run..
It is... but that isnt a reason to install something! Just tell her
about bath fill times.
so what? Lots of technologies we use daily are old fashioned, and work
If you really want to modern-fashion it, you could paint incandescent
salts onto the ceramic nodules so that it glows whatever colour you
like. I dont know of any treatment that would change the non-
incandescing colour of the plates, perhaps someone does. Maybe - and
only a guess here - a dilute slip made from fire cement plus chosen
It can, provided that it is in a condition such that it can be expected to
last the lifetime of the new fire. How old is "not-all-that-old"? Are we
talking geoligical age here? :-) A back boiler that dies is generally out
of the ark.
Of course the installer is staking their professional reputation and more
on assessing the condition of the liner and may understandably err on the
side of caution and say it can't be re-used.
Most efficient are traditional radiant-type fires, less so are fuel-effect
with a back/surround and on a par with burning £10 notes for heat are
decorative fuel effect (e.g. basket types)
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