Do you need a new boiler?

Wednesday 3rd July, 2013 By Martin Fagan
Do you need a new boiler?

If you’re forever paying to have your boiler repaired, it might be time to invest in a new one. But which type of boiler should you choose? Read our guide to find out.

You don't realise quite how important your boiler is until it breaks down and you're left with cold showers, no heating and a big bill for emergency repairs.

So should you keep paying to having an old boiler repaired or bite the bullet (and expense) of having a new boiler installed.

Getting a new boiler can be expensive, but if your current one is older than 10 years, you should start thinking about having it replaced.

While the cost might be daunting, boilers account for around 60% of what you spend in a year on energy bills, so getting an efficient boiler can make a big difference and save you lots of money on your heating bills.

In fact a new, high-efficiency boiler could cut your heating bills by up to 40% straight away - so you'll make savings and help the environment over time.

According to Which?, the best high efficiency condensing boilers are typically at least 25% more efficient than a non-condensing model.

Read our guide to find out whether you need a new boiler.

1. The low-down on boilers

It's better not to wait until your boiler breaks down before looking for a new one as you'll probably end up paying more for it that way. If your boiler is old and you know that it will be packing up soon, start shopping around so that you don't make a panic buy that will cost you even more.

British Gas is the UK's biggest boiler installation and maintenance company, but while they're a trusted and known name, British Gas is a name that you could well have to pay extra for. As well as independent installers, other major energy suppliers such as E.ON and Southern Electric also fit and repair boilers, so do shop around and check to see if your own energy supplier will offer you a discount.

Make sure that you opt for an A-grade high-efficiency boiler carrying the Energy Saving Recommended logo. A-grade boilers convert at least 90% of their fuel into heat and only these boilers carry the logo. Many will also be future-proof which will allow you to connect innovative, new, energy-saving technologies as they become available and more affordable.

Shopping around is always a good idea, but you'll most likely have to get an engineer out to do a quote as there will be work costs on top of the boiler price that will have to be taken into consideration.

You'll also need to find a gas safety registered engineer to do the work - you can find registered installers on the Gas Safe Register.

2. What types of boilers are available?

By law all new boilers fitted in the UK now have to be energy-efficient condensing boilers, as boilers account for around 60% of domestic CO2 emissions. This can push the cost of a new boiler up in some cases, but also means that your new boiler will be more environmentally friendly and more economic. According to the Energy Saving Trust, a high efficiency condensing boiler could save you as much as £300 a year - and installing the right heating controls at the same time can save you even more.

You can visit the Boiler Efficiency Database to check the credentials of your chosen boiler at www.boilers.org.uk and even get an estimated heating cost for your home.

The type of boiler you go for will depend on the fuel type you use - oil or gas - the size of your home and how you expect to use it.

3. What's the right type for me?

Although all new boilers are now condensing boilers that reuse much of the heat that would normally be released, you'll still have to make a choice about which is the best type for you and your home.

  • Combination or Combi boiler - This is the most popular type of boiler because they provide both central heating and hot water without the need for a separate tank to store water. They can be tucked away into small spaces such as kitchen cabinets - perfect for smaller homes with only one bathroom. They provide instant, unlimited hot water and are compact, but are unable to run more than one shower or bath at the same time and the hot water flow rate will be lower than with other types of boiler.
  • System boiler - A system boiler (also known as a "sealed system boiler") provides central heating and hot water through a storage cylinder housed in an airing cupboard so there's no need for a water tank in the loft, as with an open vent boiler. System boilers are ideally suited to homes with more than one bathroom or for larger households that use a lot of hot water and need to run more than one shower or bath at a time. However, once the storage cylinder has run out hot water won't be instant so you'll need to wait for the water to reheat.
  • Open vent/heating -only An open vent boiler (also known as a heating-only boiler) provides central heating and hot water through a boiler, a storage cylinder and water tank in your loft. This is quite a dated system and most people doing a full central heating overhaul will opt to switch to a sealed system. Open vent boilers are good for larger homes with an existing open vent boiler. They have the same advantages as system boilers such as a high flow rate and being able to run more than one shower or bath at a time. But they take up more space than a system boiler and also have the same disadvantages such as having to wait for the water to reheat once it has run out. For this reason, many people choose to have them replaced.

4. What can I expect from my new boiler?

As well as being energy efficient and allowing you to do your part for the planet, a new boiler will save you loads of money on your heating bills too.

According to Boilers.org.uk the annual heating cost for a detached house using an old, heavy weight boiler with 55% efficiency would be around £634.

Switching to a new high-efficiency condensing boiler running at 90% efficiency would cut this cost to only £401 a year - a saving of £233 - and A-grade boilers run at over 90% efficiency.

5. How much will it cost?

Installation costs can vary widely. You should expect to pay around £600 - £800 for a good, gas boiler and more for an oil one, but it's the work itself that will also cost money. If you're having a full heating system overhaul, including radiators and heating controls, the cost will go up considerably.

6. What if I can't afford it?

First up, you should check to see if you're eligible for any grants or special offers. The Energy Saving Trust supplies a list of all available offers by postcode.

If you can't get a grant or discount through one of these schemes, most major installers offer a "buy now, pay later" scheme - some of these offer 0% interest for a set time, while others will tailor your repayments to suit your circumstances. However, be wary of taking this type of finance - the interest is usually around 30% and you could get a much better rate on a loan from your bank.

7. Aftercare and boiler insurance

Once you have bought your new boiler, it could be a good idea to look into getting some boiler insurance as well.

Although you would not expect your new boiler to breakdown immediately, if it did and you are not insured and out of guarantee it can be costly.

Boiler cover will give you peace of mind that if the worst happens and you are left without any heating or hot water. It can however also seem like a waste of money - paying for something that you never use.