Can I replace my back boiler?

UPDATE: Please note that since this blog was written, the last model of back boiler has been taken out of production. You may be able to find a back boiler at a plumbing merchants but this will be discontinued stock. We would recommend switching to a conventional or combi boiler instead.

Over the years there have been many different types of boiler installed in people’s homes. We come across a number of different styles and models when we visit people’s homes, and perhaps the most discussed is the infamous ‘back boiler’.

What is a back boiler?

A back boiler is a unit fitted to the rear of a fireplace that both heats the room it is in, but also provides hot water for central heating and household use. They were installed frequently in the 1970s and ’80s, and although there are modern condensing back boilers, they are very rarely installed these days.

You can usually tell if you have a back boiler by looking at your gas fire. If you take off the plate at the bottom of the heater, there will be a model number under there that you can check, and you should be able to see the pilot light as well.

What are the advantages of a back boiler?

So why were they installed so much 40 odd years ago? The back boiler will improve the efficiency of the stove, or heater in front of it by acting as a heat sink. They also take up less space than a traditional floor standing boiler, because they are hidden behind a fireplace that would otherwise be empty space. The direct competition back in the 70s would have been the giant washing machine like boilers that sit on the ground, look a little ugly and take up acres of space in your house. It is easy to see why they were attractive back then.

Add on top of that the fact that back boilers are extremely reliable – they tend to break down less than conventional boilers – and they made a lot of sense back then.

>>> Should I replace my conventional boiler with a combi? <<<

Why did back boilers get phased out?

There are probably several reasons that have lead to the decline of the back boiler. Firstly, those fridge sized floor standing boilers from the 70s are long gone, and the units themselves are much smaller, more compact and attractive. The combi boiler has meant that all the tanks that used to be necessary for a boiler are no longer needed and a small wall mounted unit takes up less space than both a conventional or back boiler, making them the preferred choice for smaller properties.

The other point is that since 2005, regulations mean that you need to install high efficiency condensing boilers. Since at the time there were no condensing back boilers, anyone who had their back boiler break down for good or just wanted to upgrade, had to install a conventional wall mounted boiler instead.

What are the options for back boilers today?

Of course, there are many properties where moving over to a conventional boiler is going to be both technically difficult and expensive, with rerouting of pipe work and gas lines adding significantly to the cost.

There is now however, at least 1 model of back boiler on the market that meets the current efficiency standards, so you can install a modern back boiler no problem these days.

Should you upgrade your back boiler?

Although the cost of upgrading to a new back boiler is going to be a couple of thousand pounds, the savings over an old G-rated boiler are going to be considerable. Depending on the size of the house and your gas consumption, you are probably looking at savings of £200-300 a year. That means the new boiler will pay back in less than 10 years.

Installing a new boiler

Are you thinking about getting a new boiler? We have scoured the country for the best tradespeople, so that we can make sure we only recommend those we really trust.

If you would like us to find you a local installer to install a new boiler in your home, just fill in the form below and we will be in touch shortly!