What system do I need?

5 Jul 2016
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United Kingdom

My partner and I have bought a flat and are trying to figure out what to do about the heating and water, which are both rubbish at the moment.

At the moment, we have an Economy 7, electric only system. There is a tank that switches on during off-peak that also has a boost for when we need it. There are also 3 storage heaters (one in each bedroom and one in living room) that are all wired into the off peak system.

The problem: the water heater is next to useless - we have two showers (one en-suite and one over a bath) in the flat and there are two people living in it - they each get water in the shower for about 15-20 minutes max in the morning. Any longer and they have to use the boost, which is very expensive. There is no hot water at all any later in the day. The boiler itself does seem to work properly - the elements had been switched around when we first moved in (boost at the bottom and off peak at the top) but we had these switched back and replaced. So In guess it is an insulation problem?

The storage heaters are also crap and much too expensive.

Ideally, I want to switch away from an Economy 7 (I am told that most companies will just switch you to a new tariff?) system and then I want to install a new heating system for water and central heating that actually works. I can spend up to about £1000 or £2000 max.

So, is there any chance of switching to something like a combi-boiler?

If not, can I put in a normal tank boiler with a timer that comes on a couple of hours in morning and in afternoon? Would I need a new RCD Unit for all this, rather than one set up for an Economy 7 system?

Are there any better options that would involve sticking with Economy 7?

My girlfriend keeps suggesting we just install a couple of electric showers instead but I think this would basically waste all the water in tank, as it definitely does not stay hot until evening (for washing up, etc), even when not used for any showers.

Any help or advice much appreciated (especially with an idea of price in London) - Am new to all this but very keen to try and figure out what system would be best, so I can at least get suitable quotes.

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Thanks for reply. No, it is electric only.
My girlfriend keeps suggesting we just install a couple of electric showers instead but I think this would basically waste all the water in tank, as it definitely does not stay hot until evening (for washing up, etc), even when not used for any showers.

Your girlfriend is correct, as an instant fix, an electric shower runs directly from the cold mains and heats the water instantaneously, it does not use the hot water store and would be 1 solution to your current situation. There are other electric solutions but depends on outlay - get gas installed if possible. No matter how you use it, electric CH/HW is always going to be more expensive.

The booster (should be top element) in your cylinder should be connected to a standard and not economy 7 leccy feed, that allows it to be boosted to give you enough HW for your other requirements (dishes etc) at any time of the day. You could install a high efficiency HW cylinder that would would probably stay hotter for longer but your old one may just need proper insulation added as you suggest.
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Thanks Rob,

I know that electric shower is connected straight to cold mains - it just bothers me because in that case the tank would spend all night heating up water that I then wouldn't be using at all (opting for the electric shower instead). I guess I could just turn the boiler off altogether. The booster is as you describe but does pretty much nothing (water gets lukewarm for about 5 mins after an hour boost). I will look at HW cylinders, thanks. I'm reluctant to spend money on electric shower only to decide that I need to spend another couple of thousand on a new system in a few months time. Unfortunately there is no chance of installing gas - it's 7th floor of a managed block of flats and they won't do it.

Thanks again for reply.

Ask your neighbours what they (may) have done to improve their situation!
Your water should be getting a lot more than lukewarm and last for more 5 mins even if it's just boosting the top 1/3 of the cylinder. Have that looked at. What size is the cylinder, any pics? Insulation, as you say is the big thing.

The question is also, how long is a suitable shower? If you wish to supply 2 showers for 30+mins then you're looking for a much bigger system or individual electric showers. They're the cheapest way to overcome your current issue and then just change when/how the cylinder is heated/used. Don't heat overnight and the boost should be enough for later in the day when smaller amounts of stored HW is needed, or an alternative instantaneous HW supply could be installed.
How long does the average person spend in the shower these days? I thought cost comparison figures were based on a 4 minute shower?
No such thing as an average person - they only exist for the bean counters :sneaky:
TBH - I think a 20 minute shower per person would be plenty, so in effect they are getting a 30 - 40min shower out of 1 cylinder, that aint too shabby.

My point around time in the shower is, if someone is a landlord .... could a system that delivers 2 x 20min showers in the morning be considered more than adequate and if they want more then it's a case of, sorry guys, you are getting plenty of hot water, just don't take so long in the shower every morning or share :sneaky: or we come to an agreement to allow a system to be installed that will provide more.

Either that or install 2 electric ones and let them worry about the leccy.

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