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14 September 2021

Which boilers are most energy efficient?

Find out which boilers are the most energy efficient and how boiler efficiency is measured
SM
Sam Morris
Radiator being adjusted

Heating your home, particularly during the colder winter months, can make up more than half of your energy bills (Energy Savings Trust, 2021)

However, an efficient boiler will get maximum heat energy out of the fuel it burns, lowering heating bills and minimising carbon emissions.   

Read on to find out more about how boiler efficiency is measured, and which boilers are the most energy efficient. 

Need a new boiler? Read our Best Buy boiler reviews

What is the most efficient type of boiler?

Gas stove on cooker
Condensing boilers are the most energy efficient, typically being 25% more efficient than non-condensing models. If you still have a old-style non-condensing boiler, then replacing it with a new condensing boiler could save you £45 to £300 a year (Energy Savings Trust, 2021).

All modern boilers that you can buy are condensing boilers and have been for a while. Since 2007, except in exceptional circumstances, building regulations have stated that all new boilers installed in a domestic home should be high-efficiency condensing boilers. So the chances are you already have one if you've ever had a new boiler installed since 2007.

But to make sure you make the most efficient choice, you need to pick the right type of boiler for your home. Getting the wrong type can lead to unnecessarily high bills.

  • Combi boiler heats water as you need it, ideal for smaller homes.
  • Heat-only (Regular) boiler – a heat-only system means you will have a cold water feed and hot water tank where hot water can be stored for later use. They're ideal for larger properties.
  • System boiler – like a heat-only boiler but more components are built in, meaning they take up less space and you don't need a cold water feed tank in the loft. 

Learn more about the pros and cons of each boiler type, and which would suit you best, in our full guide to the different types of boiler

What is the most efficient size of boiler?

Boiler Engineer
Once you've decided on the type of boiler you need, the next key question is the size. 

The size of the boiler – in the context of efficiency – is its heat output, measured in kilowatts (kW). The higher the heat output of the boiler, the more energy it will be using when it's switched on. 

In most cases, larger homes with more radiators and more bathrooms will need a larger heat output than smaller ones. 

However, getting a boiler size that's too large for your home means you'll be using far more energy to heat your home than you need to, resulting in higher bills and carbon emissions than necessary. 

Learn everything you need to know about picking the right size boiler for your home in our how to buy the best boiler guide

Boiler efficiency ratings explained

Once you know which type and size you need, you can use the boilers' energy efficiency ratings to refine your choice of boiler and pick the most efficient one. 

ErP energy rating

All modern boilers are rated for efficiency under the European energy label ErP which stands for 'Energy-related Products' (introduced in 2015). It rates boiler efficiency from A+++ to F, with the former being the most efficient boiler system you can get.

Combi boilers have two ratings: space-heating (the letter under to the radiator symbol) and water heating (the letter under the tap symbol). Space-heating is how efficient the boiler is at heating your radiators, while the water heating component is how efficient the combi boiler is at heating your hot water for showers and taps. 

Heat-only and regular boilers only have the space-heating part of the ErP label.

The ErP label also shows boilers sound power level measures in decibels (dB). The higher the number, the louder the boiler is while operating. Finally, it also shows the boilers heating output in kW.

Nearly all modern gas condensing boilers available in the UK get an A rating on this label. Additionally, in 2018, the UK government introduced 'Boiler Plus' legislation which requires all boilers in England to have a minimum ErP efficiency of 92% (or 'A-rated'). This is great news, as it means almost any modern boiler you can get will be efficient.

You can find each boiler's ErP efficiency ratings in the 'Tech Specs' in our boiler reviews.

SEDBUK efficiency rating

If you are interested in the minutiae of how one boilers efficiency compares to another, it can be more useful to use the SEDBUK 2009 efficiency rating.

SEDBUK stands for Seasonal Efficiency of Domestic Boilers in the UK, and is a system used to classify and compare boilers on how efficient they are at converting fuel into heat.  

Traditionally, SEDBUK ratings were shown on labels as a letter, but these letter labels have been withdrawn to avoid confusion with the ErP labels, which use similar ratings but are based on different principles. 

There are currently two different types of SEDBUK ratings – called SAP scores – that you should look out for when you are buying a boiler. 

  • SAP winter efficiency – this is measured by an independent laboratory and is the efficiency of the boiler including space heating and hot water. There are only marginal differences between modern condensing boilers on this measure. 
  • SAP hot water efficiency – this figure measures how efficient the boiler is at producing hot water for your taps. There tends to be a much bigger difference between boilers on this measure, so if you are keen to get the most efficient boiler possible, this figure that you should hone in on. 

You can find each boiler's precise efficiency ratings for winter efficiency and hot water efficiency in the 'Tech Specs' in our boiler reviews under the labels 'Efficiency' and 'Hot Water Efficiency' respectively.

Got the most efficient boiler? Read our guide on boiler controls or thermostats to potentially save further money on your heating bills

Sustainable energy and fuels

Gas and oil boilers burn fossil fuels, which releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Fossil fuels are also going to run out eventually. This means that despite boilers being very efficient, they are not sustainable. 

Carbon emissions from heating our homes accounted for about 15% of the UK's total carbon emissions in 2020, according to the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. 

To tackle climate change, the UK government has committed to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050. So if we are going to reach the UK's net zero target, we will all eventually need to heat our home with sustainable energy (such as electricity generated by renewable sources like solar and wind) or sustainable fuels (like hydrogen).

However, at the moment, switching to a non-fossil-fuel boiler isn't necessarily cheap or easy. Most of us will be getting gas and oil boilers for the foreseeable future, so this really makes your choice of boiler a key priority as an efficient one – correctly sized for your home – will still help to reduce your carbon footprint.

Some low-carbon heating systems can be installed now, while others – like hydrogen-ready boilers – won't be available to buy until at least mid-2020s.

Interested in going low-carbon today? Read our guides on solar water heatingground source heat pumps or air source heat pumps to learn more

Which are the most efficient boilers?

In the table below, Which? members can see a selection of the most efficient combi, heat-only and system boilers – according to the boilers' ErP efficiency ratings for hot water and space heating. 

The boiler brands included in the table are all Which? Best Buys, so you can also be sure they are reliable and well loved by owners and Which? Trusted Traders.

If you're not a Which? member, sign up now to reveal the boilers in the table.

Most efficient combi boiler

  • 84%
    £1610.00

    With two A's on its ERP efficiency label, this is one of the most efficient combi boilers you can buy. It's also available in a heat ouptut as high as 50kW, so it could be perfect for even a large home. It's also from an incredibly reliable brand, which is well loved by its own customers and heating engineers.

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  • 81%
    £1080.00

    This boiler has two A's on its ERP efficiency label, this is one of the most efficient combi boilers you can buy. It's available in a heat output ranging from 26kW - 35kW, meaning there is a boiler in this range suitable for small and larger homes.

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Most efficient heat-only boiler

  • 84%
    £1030.00

    An efficient and affordable heat-only option from a very reliable brand. It's available in sizes ranging from 9kW - 30kW, so there should be a size of boiler suitable for any sizes home.

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Most efficient system boiler

  • 84%
    £1220.00

    This system boiler is one of the most efficient you can buy and from a very reliable brand. It's available in 30kW and 35kW sizes, making it a good choice for larger homes, but you would want to consider a smaller size for small and medium homes to get the most efficient heating system for your home.

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  • 81%
    £1190.00

    This system boiler is one of the most efficient you can buy, with an A efficiency rating for space heating. It's available in 11kW to 32kW sizes, meaning the will probably be a size to suit most homes in this range.

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Tables last updated 14 September 2021