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I'm a west-coast American living in London. I grew up with baseboard and central forced air heating. I'm currently living in the UK where water radiators are common (if not pretty much the standard). And while I do know a couple people in the US who had under floor heating that used forced water, I'm really not to familiar with the configuration of water based heating systems.

I was looking at a small row house recently that had a boiler in the kitchen and a water tank some distance away. The boiler was gas powered, while the water tank was electric. I was offered a brief explanation of how the two systems inter-opted, but it didn't really make sense to me. There definitely was some kind of communication/sharing between the two - it wasn't two completely independent systems.

My question is, is this a common set up, even for a smaller (relative to US standards) place? And what would be the advantage to doing this over using just one system over the other?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Yes this is common in the UK.

The boiler will feed hot water into the heating coils in the tank as well as providing the hot water for the radiators.

The electric (or immersion) heater will be there either as back up (in case the boiler fails) or to heat the water on cheaper electricity (Economy 7) overnight.

There'll be a thermostat on the tank which feeds back to the boiler to turn off the heating when the water is hot enough, but other than that there's no direct communication between the immersion heater and the boiler. There might be communication via the timer used to control when each is turned on, but that's not usual.

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So different there. But then, Europe is ahead of the USA in many types of conservation and efficiency. I was in Germany a few times and was fascinated by some of the technology –  shirlock homes Nov 10 '11 at 23:54
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