What's in this article?
The combi boiler is the most popular type of boiler installed in UK homes, providing homes with heating and hot water from a single unit. However, in some situations, a system boiler may be more appropriate.
In this article, we will explore some of the most common questions related to system boilers, including:
- What is a system boiler?
- How do system boilers work?
- System boilers vs combi boilers
- Who is a system boiler suitable for?
- How much do system boilers cost?
This guide was so easy to digest, even Kirk off Corrie could understand it
System Boilers Explained:
System boiler vs Combi boiler vs Regular boiler
In addition to the system boiler, which is the star of this show, there are two alternative types of boiler:
What is a regular boiler?
Also known as a conventional boiler which is similar to a system boiler but requires an additional cold water storage tank (usually in your loft) which acts as the water supply as opposed to the mains – meaning a lesser water pressure and less room in your attic for dead bodies or prisoners.
What is a combi boiler?
The UK’s most popular and – in most cases – most efficient boiler, requiring no cylinders or water tanks and providing instant hot water and heating to your radiators. It’s the boiler dream.
The only downside of a combi is that if it does break down, your home will have no heating, and no hot water. You don't have the backup of an immersion heater.
Back to the point, though.
What is a system boiler?
System boilers are very similar to regular (conventional) boilers in that they deliver hot water directly to the central heating and store hot water within a hot water cylinder.
However, they differ in that their water is supplied directly from the mains water supply, this advantage, means they do not require as much storage space. It also means they deliver water at high pressure, so provide a more consistent flow rate.
Curious to know which boiler brand performed worst? Find out in our report of the worst boilers.
System boiler key points:
How does a system boiler work?
There are two main components to a system boiler – the boiler itself (the ugly white box)
...and the water cylinder (the other ugly thing that’s probably hiding in your airing cupboard).
How a system boiler heats your home:
Your system boiler uses water direct from your mains water supply.
When you switch your heating on, the boiler will rapidly heat water from the mains supply and deliver it like Royal Mail straight to your radiators.
How a system boiler provides hot water:
To provide hot water for your taps, bath, and shower – your system boiler heats the water inside your water cylinder (that thing in your airing cupboard again).
This is done relatively slowly, taking up to an hour depending on your boilers power and water cylinder size. So you’ll be having to switch your boiler on well prior to needing any decent amount of hot water.
Unfortunately, water that’s heated slowly doesn’t share the bonuses of a slow cooked lamb leg – it feels, cleans and tastes exactly the same. Your skin will not fall off the bone.
What is a system boiler suitable for?
System boilers are in fact suitable for any home, but that doesn’t mean they’re the most suitable.
The water storage cylinder might mean that you’ve had seven cups of coffee prior to it being ready, but it also means that once that water is hot – there’s enough to go round for multiple showers or baths at the same time, even if someone decides to do the dishes during - controversial.
This makes them most suitable for larger family homes where hot water is likely to be demanded more than chips for tea.
Want to learn about the future of heating in the UK? Check out the latest innovation of hydrogen boilers.
Note: If you have an older boiler and are suffering from lockouts and lukewarm water, you may want to consider whether you have a faulty heat exchanger.
Curious to know how condensing boilers differ from combi boilers? Read condensing boilers vs combi boilers.
Pros of a system boiler
#1 - They can handle high hot water demand with ease
Never judge a water tank by its cover.
The beast in your airing cupboard might seem like an ugly waste of space but a large amount of stored hot water (that’ll stay hot for hours) will allow numerous household occupants to use hot water at the same time.
#2 - Quick to heat your house and eco friendly
A water pump within system boilers allows for super quick delivery of water to your radiators, and the insulated water storage cylinder is an economical way to provide hot water to a number of outlets and relentlessly showering family members.
#3 - Harvest the power of the sun
Water storage cylinders and tanks of regular and system boilers can be heated through solar panels after installation. Soak it in.
#4 - Improved water pressure over a regular boiler
System boilers use the mains water supply when delivering water to your hot water outlets which provides improved water pressure. This is opposed to a regular boiler that relies on water from a dirty tank in your attic that harbours dead birds and lazily relies upon gravity for its pressure.
#5 - Additional loft space over a regular boiler
Unlike regular boilers that essentially require a steel bathtub to be installed in your attic space, a system boiler only requires a water cylinder, tucked inconspicuously away in your airing cupboard - like a burglar thats heard you come home early.
All of this extra space means you can store even more trash and Christmas decorations in your loft. A real bonus for your dust collection.
Cons of a system boiler
#1 - Saint-like patience required – a lack of instant hot water
System boilers heat a large amount of hot water (in the cylinder) relatively slowly which means if your boiler has been switched off for a significant amount of time, you’re waiting for that water to be heated from cold which could well test your patience.
#2 - System boilers use more space than combi boilers
One of the many perks of a combi boiler is that the boiler itself is the only component. System boilers require an additional water cylinder that is going to take up space somewhere in your home, most likely an airing cupboard. That’s space you could be using to store golf clubs, wine or poorly behaved children.
It’s not how you use it. Tank size matters
Water cylinders don’t really come in all different shapes but definitely come in different sizes. It’s possible you’ll have a small cylinder and suffer from an inadequate hot water supply or maybe an oversized cylinder and you have to watch an entire series of The Soprano's before it's been heated.
Want to save money and energy on your heating bills? If so, you should consider installing one of the best smart thermostats.
System boilers – The best system boilers available
Irrespective of your type of boiler, be it regular, combi or system – the foundations of picking a good one remain the same:
Is it reliable?
Is it well priced?
And does it have a good warranty?
#1 - Viessmann system boilers
Viessmann are statistically the UK’s most reliable boilers, Which? Best Buy award winners and through Heatable – all come with a 10-year parts & labour warranty. It’s German magic.
|Vitodens 100 19kW||10 Years|
|Vitodens 100 26kW||10 Years|
|Vitodens 100 30kW||10 Years|
|Vitodens 100 35kW||10 Years|
#2 - Ideal system boilers
Ideal boilers are a mainstay in the British heating industry and have been delivering quality boilers for longer than your Dad has been looking for his glasses. They offer outstanding value for money and there’s no finer option for a tight budget.
|Ideal Logic 15kW||5 Years|
|Ideal Logic 18kW||5 Years|
|Ideal Logic 24kW||5 Years|
|Ideal Logic 30kW||5 Years|
#3 - Vaillant system boilers
Vaillant has always had boilers in abundance so we’ve just picked the best ones. They’re a sturdy and reliable British company with a great reputation and decent warranties – albeit a touch overpriced in our opinion.
|Vaillant Model||kW Outputs||Warranty||Price|
|ecoTEC Plus||12 - 37kW||5 Years|
|ecoFIT Pure||12 - 30kW||2 Years|
|ecoTEC Exclusive||27kW||5 Years|
#4 - BAXI system boilers
BAXI are the underdogs of the boiler world, quietly going about their business in the background. They may be guilty of producing too many boilers, but their system boilers are more limited and they’ve done a ruddy good job with impressive 7-year warranties.
#5 - Worcester system boilers
Perhaps the only boiler you think you’ve heard of. An outstanding boiler company, with a great reputation and some fantastic boilers – but beware, they certainly have the price to match it.
How much do system boilers cost?
Typical Heatable costs for Ideal Logic system boilers, based on a straightforward like-for-like system boiler swap.
|Ideal logic 15kW||5 Year (Parts & Labour)||£1,895|
|Ideal logic 18kW||5 Year (Parts & Labour)||£1,995|
|Ideal logic 24kW||5 Year (Parts & Labour)||£2,195|
|Ideal logic 30kW||5 Year (Parts & Labour)||£2,345|
Typical Heatable costs for Viessmann system boilers, based on a straightforward like-for-like system boiler swap.
|Viessmann 100 19kW||10 Year (Parts & Labour)||£1,895|
|Viessmann 100 26kW||10 Year (Parts & Labour)||£1,995|
|Viessmann 100 30kW||10 Year (Parts & Labour)||£2,195|
|Viessmann 100 35kW||10 Year (Parts & Labour)||£2,345|
Check out our new boiler costs guide for something more comprehensive and if you want to know which boiler to choose, see our best condensing boilers review.
How much to ditch your system boiler and convert to a combi boiler?
Converting from a pre-existing system boiler to a combi boiler is going to be significantly more expensive due to the extra materials and work required.
Typical Heatable costs for Ideal & Viessmann combi boilers [converted from system boilers].
|Ideal Logic Combi 24kW||5 Year (Parts & Labour)||£2,790|
|Ideal Logic Combi 30kW||5 Year (Parts & Labour)||£2,990|
|Viessmann 050 29kW||10 Year (Parts & Labour)||£2,939|
|Viessmann 100 30kW||10 Year (Parts & Labour)||£3,370|
Heatable’s conversion prices include full removal of your old boiler & system cylinder, installation and upgrading of pipework if required and – obviously – your new combi boiler.
The only thing not included in a Heatable order is a stuffed meerkat.
If you live in an average-sized home, see our guide on choosing the best boiler for a 3 bedroom house.
System boiler size calculator
Sticking with your loyal system boiler? Get the right size...
Getting the wrong size system boiler isn’t quite as bad as forgetting to wear pants in public. People won’t point and laugh. But you will be extremely let down with yourself for such a basic error.
|What size boiler for...||Boiler Size Calculation||Minimum kW Size|
|6 Radiators||6x 1.5kW + 3kW||12kW|
|8 Radiators||8x 1.5kW + 3kW||15kW|
|12 Radiators||12x 1.5kW + 3kW||21kW|
|15 Radiators||15x 1.5kW + 3kW||26kW|
|20 Radiators||20x 1.5kW + 3kW||33kW|
Essentially, for small to medium-sized homes – allow 1.5kW per radiator + 3kW for your cylinder.
For something way more comprehensive, read our boiler size guide.
Don’t like maths? Let Heatable do the whole thing for you – get quotes.
How to get the best price on a new system boiler
How? Without boasting, buy from us.
We're an online, nationwide boiler installation business with 500+ 5 star reviews from a shed load of happy customers.
Because we're online, our overheads are low which means we pass those savings on to our customers, ensuring they're always getting the best boiler replacement. Plus, because of the volumes that we install, we're able to access exclusive warranty lengths from our partner manufacturers. For example, we can offer 10 years of protection on the Viessmann 050-W range, whereas your traditional installer can only offer you 7. Boom.