Types of Central Heating Systems Simply Explained

Confused about what type of central heating system operates within your home? Thinking about upgrading? Find out how your home plumbing works and why it matters.


A quick Google search for the term ‘types of central heating systems’ is going to bring up some very varied and confusing results. You’ll find information on countless different types of heating concepts, boiler types, and plumbing methods, all with perplexing jargon. It can’t really be that complicated, can it?

It’s not.

Homecare Plumbers are here to help simplify things and inform you of the basics behind the different types of central heating systems. No fuss, no confusion, and no scary plumbing-specific lexicon. Just information anyone can understand, whether you are simply curious about plumbing basics, need to know what system is in your home, or are considering options for upgrading.

The Different Types of Central Heating Systems

There are three main types of central heating systems found in modern British homes:

  • Conventional Central Heating
  • Combination Boiler Systems
  • Pressure System Central Heating

Conventional Central Heating

The conventional system used to be the most common type of central heating system in the home. Modern alternatives have resulted in a reduction of usage, especially in new builds, but you’ll still find conventional systems across many older houses and buildings.

So how does a conventional system work?

Cold water is controlled via mains pressure and disconnected from the central heating system. For hot water used in heating and out of the taps, a hot water tank is found high up in the home, usually the loft or cupboard on the highest floor. The boiler is then used to heat this water. Once warm, water can flow down into the lower floors through your pipework, into radiators, and out of taps, by the natural pull of gravity.

This type of central heating system has seen a major decline in use for two reasons:

  • Gravity-fed systems have limits of pressure, as they are subject to the laws of physics. In order to increase pressure, additional systems must be installed.
  • Heating a hot water tank can be wasteful, as all the water may not be used, yet energy is required to heat it and keep it warm.
Types of Central Heating Systems Simply Explained

Combination Boiler Systems

If conventional/gravity-fed systems were the benchmark in previous decades, the combi boiler is the current title holder. This type of central heating system has risen to prominence in recent years thanks to its efficiency and compact nature.

So how do they work?

Combi boilers heat water at the source. When you turn on your hot water tap or start up your boiler, heat is created immediately by the combi boiler. All heating is output by the appliance at the point of use, meaning no hot water storage.

This has a number of advantages over conventional types of central heating systems:

  • As mentioned, combi boilers are efficient. You only heat the water you need. There is no wastage involved.
  • All water is run at mains pressure, as it flows through the boiler cold and is then heated. This ensures good pressure throughout the home.
  • Heating directly through the boiler means that there is no need for a hot water tank. This is especially useful in smaller properties, where housing a hot water tank would be difficult.
  • Combi boilers are compact and can be fitted in a cupboard or loft.

Of course, there are disadvantages to combi boilers. They are more technologically advanced, with more complex inner workings, creating more potential to go wrong than the old workhorses that are conventional systems. Water pressure is also dictated by usage. Combi boilers are limited in their ability to produce hot water, which means you’ll experience poor flow rate if attempting to have two hot water taps run at once. This means it’s not suitable for large properties with multiple occupants.

Combination Boiler Systems

Pressurised Central Heating Systems

A pressurised type of central heating system operates in a similar fashion to a combi boiler. Mains water is heated directly, rather than in a hot water tank, which means a reduction in wastage while saving space over conventional systems. However, the pressurised system is different to the combi boiler as water is heated via a water cylinder, rather than the boiler itself.

A small unit that can be neatly fitted into the home, a water cylinder is a tank that heats water as it passes through. The result is that hot water can be run at mains pressure from multiple taps at once, which is much more suitable for large properties.

1. Higher Installation and Maintenance Costs: Pressurised systems are more expensive to install and maintain due to their intricate design and the need for annual inspections by highly skilled plumbers, who typically charge premium rates. These ongoing costs can add up over time.

2. Reliance on Local Mains Pressure: Pressurised systems are heavily dependent on adequate mains pressure for optimal performance. If your area experiences low mains pressure, this system may not be the most suitable option as it could lead to compromised water flow and overall performance.

Pressurised Central Heating Systems
Need boiler installation in London or expert advice on central heating systems for your property? Contact the experienced plumbers at Homecare Plumbers today!

Our team of skilled plumbers can help you choose the right Types of Central Heating Systems for your home, whether you’re looking for a combi boiler, a conventional system, or a pressurised system. We’ll provide you with a comprehensive quote and expert guidance to ensure you make an informed decision.

We fit all types of boilers and use the top manufacturers like Baxi, Worcester, Ideal and more

For more information on boiler types and their respective advantages and disadvantages, check out our informative article,How to turn on your central heating

Get in touch with Homecare Plumbers today and let us handle your central heating needs!

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