The Complete Guide to Off-Grid Electric Boilers

While traditionally off-grid houses have heated with wood or propane,  advancements in technology are changing that.  The electric boiler is a heating system that is steadily becoming more popular with off-grid homeowners.

Electric heating systems such as electric boilers, electric radiators, and electric underfloor heating already have some amazing benefits such as very fast heat-up times and close to 100% efficiency at the point of use.

But until now, the running costs have always been perceived as high when directly compared with wood and propane alternatives.

Here are several reasons why you should consider the electric boiler heating system for your new cabin build or renovation.

What is an electric boiler?

Electric boilers are a method of heating water to heat your home using only electricity –not to be confused with an electric water boiler that is for making tea.

A typical boiler uses gas to heat the water.  An electric boiler can be used in off-grid areas, or where a gas supply is either not wanted or not possible.

Electric boilers come in different variations, such as electric combination boilers, system boilers, and flow boilers. A typical electric boiler is 100% efficient, meaning that for every 1kW of electricity you use you will receive 1kW of heat.

If you are looking for an eco-friendly alternative to gas or oil boilers, electric boilers could be the answer. They are zero carbon emissions and require little maintenance.

How does it work

The electric boiler heating system can come in various forms, but typically you will have water running through an element and being heated. You will sometimes see long slim units that are designed to create a maximum surface area to heat the water.

Once the water is heated, it then passes through the rest of your heating system and heats your home to the desired temperature.

Types of electric boilers

Electric boilers come in different variations

    1. electric combination boilers combi-boilers use a large water tank and serve the dual function of heating your house while also providing your home’s hot water.
    2. system boiler — sealed system boilers only require a small water cylinder and can fit in much smaller spaces than a conventional boiler. They work by drawing cold water in, heating it, and then using the water cylinder to store the hot water until the thermostat kicks on and the water is circulated through the system.
    3. flow boilers –electric flow boilers operate by having running water pass through an element, which is heated by electricity before it circulates through the home.
off grid boiler heater

What are the advantages of an Electric Boiler?

Heating with electricity is becoming more popular due to advancements in off-grid power generation technology.  Here are some advantages to using an electric boiler heating system.

  • Reduced Maintenance Costs – Other kinds of boilers have more moving parts, which can cause breakdowns in comparison to electric boilers which have no moving parts.
  • Save the Planet – An electric boiler has a lower carbon footprint than a combustion boiler
  • Safety – There is no risk of gas leaks and no risk of explosion because there no combustible fuel
  • Easy Installation – Electric boilers are easier to install than other alternatives. There is no requirement for a flue as there is no combustion happening within the boiler. This means that an electric boiler can be placed almost anywhere within the property.
  • Low Installation Costs –Since electric boilers are fairly simple and easy to install, the overall cost of the installation is much lower than a gas boiler.
  • Efficient – Very little heat is lost in the process of heating the water, so electric boilers are between 99-100% efficient vastly outperforming appliances powered by gas or oil which rarely score above 93%.
  • Silent operation – As they have very few moving parts and don’t burn any fuel, you won’t hear it every time they start to heat.
  • No Storage – There is also no need for any sort of fuel storage, as required by other alternatives such as wood or biomass boilers.
  • Alternative power compatible – They can be linked to environmentally friendly electricity generation sources, such as solar panels and windmills.
  • No emissions  –  With no emissions being let off into the atmosphere, electric boilers are a greener choice for the environmentally conscious.
  • More Control – Electric boilers make it easier to control the temperature in a room and are more efficient than traditional systems.

Can it save you money?

The running costs of an Electric Boiler vary from home to home. This is due to a number of external factors such as level of insulation, windows, cost of generating electricity, climate, comfortable temperatures, and many other factors.

The cost of generating electricity can be higher than that of gas, which inflates the running costs of electric boilers. However, Electric Boilers are more efficient than gas meaning you will receive more actual heat per unit of fuel you pay for.

electric boiler system


Of course, if electric boilers were the best solution, you would see them everywhere, but you don’t. There are some downsides to electric boilers:

  • Electric boilers tend to have a much lower power output than gas or oil boilers. This makes them suitable for small homes and cabins, but not larger buildings.
  • Other options might be better. In an off-grid situation, many people prefer to heat with woodstoves that are backed up heaters.

Consider an Electric Boiler for your off-grid cottage

When heating an off-grid cottage you would ideally have more than one heating option available.  That way you will always have a backup heat source in case something goes wrong.

The continued development of electric heating technology, the flexibility of installation, and the improvement to battery systems that can be powered by a generator, solar, or other alternative energy make electric boiler heat a more attractive option than ever.

If you found this article informative, try some other articles in our off-grid category.