Should I replace my boiler?

Should I replace my boiler with a new energy efficient model?

This is a question we get all the time from customers. In this blog I intend to show you how to run the numbers to see if it is worthwhile you splashing the cash on a new shiny energy efficient boiler!

You will need two bits of information to allow you to do this. Firstly, the amount of gas in kWh you use per year. Your utility provider should be able to provide you with this figure, or it might even be on your gas bill (although to be honest the energy companies make these a bit of a bugger to read!).

The other thing you need to do is to determine the energy efficiency of your existing boiler. This is a relatively simple process provided you can find the make and model number of your boiler (this is normally on the instructions or on the boiler casing somewhere).

Once you have this – click on the link below:

Next to your boiler you will see the SAP2009 annual efficiency rating, which provides you with the efficiency rating of your boiler.

You may be surprised to hear that the European Union are still messing about trying to establish some Europe-wide benchmarking mechanism to measure the efficiency of boilers, therefore we have to refer to the SEDBUK boiler efficiency ratings (which are much more sensible anyway because they simply go A-G rather than have A+, A++ and A+++).

The table can be found on the right, and your boiler should sit somewhere on that scale. So now when someone mentions replacing a ‘G’ rated boiler you actually know what he or she is taking about.

Should I replace my boiler now?

So now you know the energy efficiency rating (both number and banded letter) and the usage, you can do so simple maths to see what kind of financial savings you would make by installing a new boiler. I am going to take you through a worked example using the following 3 assumptions:

• Yearly gas usage: 15,000kWh (slightly lower than the national average)
• Old boiler: Baxi Combi Instant 80e – D rated running at 78.6% efficiency
• New boiler: Baxi Avanta Plus 39c Combi – A rated running at 90.8% efficiency

See below if the numbers stack up for you!

Step 1: Calculate how much useful heat units my current boiler produces per year

So my current boiler will turn 15,000kWh of gas into 11790 units of useful heat (simply calculated by multiplying 15,000 by 0.786).

Step 2: Find out how many equivalent kWh of gas my new boiler would have to burn to produce the same number of units of useful heat

11,790 divided by 0.908 = 12,984 kWh of gas.

Step 3: Calculate how much less gas you are using by installing new boiler

15,000 minus 12,984 = 2016 kWh less units of gas needed

Step 4: Multiply the units of gas saved by the average cost of gas (4.5p / kWH)

2016 kWh x £0.045 = £90.72 per year saving

Now an average boiler costs about £2,500 to buy and the estimated lifespan of a boiler is 12 – 15 years. So even if you were to replace this today, you are only looking at saving £1,088 over 15 years from replacing it, based on this energy usage.

What if you used 27,000kWh of gas – does that make it worthwhile replacing the boiler?

Old boiler produces 21,222 units of useful heat

New boiler needs 23,372 kWh of gas to produce the same amount of heat

New boiler saves 3627kWh of gas per year.

3627 kWh x 0.045 = £164.24 per year saving

Remember an average boiler costs £2500 to replace, and replacing a D-rated boiler with the A rated boiler detailed above would provide about £1970.88 of savings over the next 12 years (without factoring in any increases in energy prices over that time). You can begin to see that actually it may be worth considering!

The issue is more pronounced however if you are having to pay a yearly sum to keep your boiler alive. Obviously if you are paying £200 a year to get a plumber out to essentially put a plaster on  your boiler to get it through another winter then this it becomes an even more attractive proposition.

The key though is to run this calculations for yourself to see if it is worth doing.

In the final table below you can see that I have taken the average efficiency for each band and run the calculations on the average yearly gas usage in the uk – 17,000kWh, so you should be able to see that from upgrading from a band ‘D’ boiler to a band ‘A’ will save you £85 per year will upgrading from a band ‘G’ to a band ‘A’ will save you £170 per year.

Hopefully the blog above has given you the means to decide whether it is worthwhile replacing your boiler with a new more energy efficient one. As I mentioned earlier though we have not taken into account any fuel price rises in this, so if gas continues to rise at 10% a year then the savings will increase significantly.

If you want to give yourself a sense of how much a boiler replacement costs, you may be interested in reading this blog.

If you are considering replacing your  boiler, fill in the form below and we will send one of our partnered gas safe engineers to quote for the job.

How warm should my house be?

March 3, 2018

Some people like to heat their homes to Sahara-like temperatures, while others prefer a more arctic feel, however the majority of us sit somewhere in between. The whole ‘how hot should my house be’ topic is a bit of a contentious issue, so I will take you through some of the key points and try to give you a better idea of the temperature that might be right for your home.

What does the government say about temperature?

A recent government study found that in the UK, the average temperature of a home is 17.7°C, whilst the recommended level is 21°C (70°F). This discrepancy in temperatures has been used to show how fuel poverty was preventing people from heating their homes to a comfortable temperature – it is estimated that 2.5m people are currently living in fuel poverty.

This is really oversimplified though, because some people will need higher temperatures – like the elderly or ill – whilst the average person can get away with having the temperature much lower. It is a little odd for the government to recommend this relatively high temperature when it is trying to reduce energy consumption.

To be honest, the majority of people can live very comfortably at a temperature well below 21°C, so don’t just set the thermostat at this temperature out of habit!

Using a thermostat to set temperature

Many people use a thermostat to set their temperature, but you need to make sure it is set up correctly. A thermostat works by recording the ambient air temperature around it. If the temperature of the air is lower than the thermostat, it will send a message to the boiler to fire up, while if the temperature of the air is higher, it will tell the heating system to switch off.

Therefore, a thermostat positioned right by your draughty front door is going to kick in at a lower temperature than one in your living room. In this case, even though you are setting your thermostat to 21°C by the door, the temperature in the living room might be getting up to 24°C.

As a result, it is really important to know your house and how warm you need it, rather than just setting it at a certain level and forgetting about it. You can negate this by using a wireless thermostat that you can place where you like.

Insulation is just as important as your thermostat

It’s no good setting your thermostat to save energy if you are inefficient to begin with. You can set your thermostat down at 16°C or 17°C to save money, but if you have no insulation and an old inefficient boiler, you are still going to be spending a fortune, since whatever heat you pump into the home to warm it up, will quickly escape through the walls. If you set the thermostat to 25°C in a poorly insulated house, it might not even get that warm, because the rate of heat loss will be just too high. So increasing the amount of insulation in the loft, on the walls and under the floor is key to being able to heat your home effectively. Don’t forget your windows either; even if double glazing seems too expensive, secondary glazing like Ecoease could be the perfect way to reduce heat loss.

Every degree costs you money

Every house will vary, but the generally accepted rule is that for every degree you increase your thermostat, you will be paying an extra £60 a year. This is because your boiler needs to work harder to get the temperature up – if you have electric heating the savings could be even higher.

For larger or more inefficient homes, this can be much higher. So bear that in mind when you go to turn up your heating. If you need to be warmer, put on a jumper, or you could try supplementary heating like an infrared heating panel. This boosts the temperature in a room with instant heat, without having to turn up your thermostat for the whole house.

You shouldn’t be wearing shorts in the winter

It is a bit obvious, but you can keep your thermostat down if you wear warmer clothes. A recent study found that some people set their thermostat to 30°C, whilst many were setting it above 25°C. In a poorly insulated home, this would mean that the heating would just stay on all day, because that temperature will probably never be reached. These people would save hundreds of pounds a year by setting their thermostat to 21°C or below and wearing some thicker clothes.

Different rooms need different temperatures

Using only a thermostat means that you could be overheating other rooms in your home. Heating controls are really important. If you have them, use them. If you don’t have them, get them.

Thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) let you control the temperature of each room individually. For example, a bedroom can be comfortable at 16°C (as you’ll be under the covers), whereas a living room might need to be warmer. Traditional TRV’s are simple, usually using a dial between 1-5 to set the rate, and you can pick them up for as little as £12.50, but there are also more high spec options. If you want full control of your heating system then smartphone enabled systems will give you the ability to zone out your house and only use the energy you need. This starter pack from tado provides everything you need to get set up with.

Don’t heat your home when you’re not there

It seems simple, but lots of people set their thermostat to 21°C and leave it there, even when they are out at work. Make sure you use your programmer as well, and if you want to control each room while you are out, you can get yourself a remotely controllable tool like a Nest. These gadgets let you control each room’s temperature remotely, even when you are out of the house.

Temperatures have been increasing for years

The average temperature of homes has increased over the decades. Ever since the advent of central heating, people feel like they should be able to walk around their home in a T-shirt in winter, whereas years ago people would wrap up even in their living room. Whilst there are certain situations where the heating needs to be up high (for instance when there is an elderly or unwell person in a room), you can usually wear a jumper and turn the thermostat down. Do we really need to have the heating up 4 degrees warmer than our parents had it a few decades back?

Can there ever be a perfect temperature that you should heat your home to?

The best answer as far as we are concerned is – the lowest comfortable temperature. Some people will happily turn down their heating in the bedroom but don’t want to wrap up in their living room, while others will put on jumpers and use an extra high tog duvet. At the end of the day, it’s your money – so decide for yourself what you are comfortable with, but don’t set the thermostat to 21°C simply out of habit!

Installing a new heating system

Are you thinking about installing a new heating system in your home?

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

Can I still get a grant for a free boiler?

April 16, 2014

UPDATE: As of 30 March 2016, the government has stopped funding and the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund is closed to new applications. You can read about it here.

Can I still get a grant for a free boiler?

For many years, the Warm Front scheme helped disadvantaged and  vulnerable members of society get a new boiler and up to that point it was free. The scheme worked really well, but because it was funded directly by the government, it was deemed not to be cost effective and was subsequently scrapped in favour of ECO and the Green Deal over a year ago.

• So have we seen the death of completely free boilers under ECO?
• When companies are offering a ‘free’ deal, is the boiler really free?
• Are companies offering grants for boilers and asking for a contribution actually con artists?

We answer these questions below, and show you how you could benefit from the new ECO / Green Deal scheme.

Is ECO the new Warm Front?

The Energy Company Obligation, or ECO as it is more commonly known, is a legal obligation placed on the larger energy suppliers (British Gas, Npower, E.ON, SSE, etc.) to deliver energy efficiency measures to domestic energy users. To you and me this means they are obliged to pay money that will help provide grants towards boilers and loft and cavity wall insulation.

One stream of the ECO funding is known as HHCRO (Home Heating Cost Reduction Obligation) and is specifically set aside to help vulnerable people get their old boilers replaced.

When the scheme launched in early 2013, there was sufficient funding to cover the entire cost of the boiler install for the majority of homes, hence companies were offering ‘free boiler installs under ECO’.

Since the beginning of 2014, the market has changed and installers are getting less and less per installation, which means that in most cases they don’t have enough funding to help pay for the boiler outright and therefore customers are being asked to contribute towards the cost of installation.

How do they calculate the grant funding for new boilers under ECO?

To explain further, the grant money an installer receives is based on the energy savings made as a result of getting a new boiler installed. This not only depends on how old the boiler is that is due to be replaced, but the size of the property and the build type.

For example, installing a new boiler in a large 4 bedroom property will result in far higher energy savings than a small 1 bedroom flat. This means there is a preference to install boilers in larger properties because the installers will get more funding and therefore they don’t have to deal with the difficult situation of asking the customer to contribute.

This is why we have seen some customers who live in smaller properties having their ‘free boiler’ installation date announced then cancelled, without any explanation of why they are no longer getting it – the installers have simply moved onto the more profitable jobs.

People don’t understand why they get the installation refused whereas a friend or neighbour in another part of town has had the installation absolutely free.

This has made a lot of people angry and disappointed and we have certainly spoken to people who have concluded that the ECO free boiler scheme is nothing more than a scam!

Do we think the process has been unfair up to now? Absolutely!

Do we think installers and companies promising free ECO boilers should be more upfront with customers how this process works? Absolutely right!

The changing nature of ECO grant funding

The good news is that the government has extended (Dec 2013 announcement) the bit of ECO that guarantees a grant for boilers for the most vulnerable members of society right through until 2017.

The bad news is that the grant in most cases will not cover the full install cost of the boiler; it will however make a significant dent in the amount you need to pay.

Perhaps more worryingly, vulnerable customers will still be attached to the whims of the energy companies and these rather complex delivery targets that too few understand.

There are certain target figures they need to achieve, and when these targets are reached, the funding will cease or rapidly reduce. Where will this leave the millions of vulnerable customers this scheme is there to help?

If you look at the graph below from OFGEM (the industry regulator), you will see that in November 2013, 73% of the funding for boilers had been used up, and by February 2014, it was extremely difficult for a new customer to get a boiler under the scheme, simply because the money available was, for all intents and purposes, gone.

Bear in mind that the winter just gone was one of mildest winters in a long time – if we have a really cold winter next year, there could be some serious repercussions for those unable to afford a new boiler.

How does ECO boiler grant funding work today?

We are now seeing the environment for these grants changing on a weekly basis.

For instance, some installers are able to get something called a ‘fixed rate’, whereby they receive the same funding for any type of property  (no matter the size) as long as the average savings they submit for a group of properties adds up to a certain target figure.

This will mean that each householder will get the same amount of grant money, with some contribution perhaps having to be made depending on the cost of the specific job.

Other installers (as before) allocate the grant based on the saving made by each property. This means that some properties will get completely free boilers, while others will have to contribute a lot of money or be refused the job.

The first method can be very complicated and in the end it may still exclude some people. For example, if the job is complicated (i.e. the boiler needs to be moved) then the costs will add-up and the grant will simply not cover the installation costs.

The second method as mentioned before is unfair and many with smaller properties lose out because they will receive very little funding.

The future of ECO – combining with the Green Deal?

[Update: the Green Deal scheme has now finished.]

The Green Deal, which is the Government’s flagship energy efficiency scheme and available to all, is designed to reduce the up-front cost of measures like new boilers by providing finance at competitive rates that can be paid back through the electricity bill with the savings you make from the measure.

It was actually always intended to work with standalone or side-by-side the ECO grant scheme (to those that are eligible), however recent evidence suggests a lot more work needs to still be done here.

For example, in a scenario where the customer who can get the boiler grant is being asked to pay £1,000 up front towards their new boiler because their ECO grant does not cover the cost, it may be very attractive.

The cost of the job is £2,200 for a boiler install where ECO will pay for a hypothetical £1,200 as a grant. The customer cannot afford £1,000, but because the savings made will be substantial, the Green Deal could pay for the difference – assuming the customer is ok to take out the Green Deal Finance loan, paying it back through their electricity bills.

In this ideal scenario the customer can get a relatively low cost boiler install that they would not have been able to afford using just one of the schemes.

Company websites offering free boilers – is this a scam?

In a landscape where the funding tends to be stretched with more and more middlemen in the market distributing the funding, it suggests the customer will get less and less at the end of it. Our view is that the days of grants covering the cost of completely free boilers are probably gone.

The customer needs to be very careful as there are companies out there that ask for money upfront and promise the earth and don’t respond to calls after this has happened.

To avoid this, ask the operative some more information. For example the customer will need to be assessed first by a qualified Energy Assessor. They will walk around the property taking various measurements and produce an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).

The assessor will take photographs of the property’s walls, the boiler, windows, loft insulation to work out how much cost the property could save with a new boiler. They will also ask for proof of tenure and take copies of the qualifying benefits. Don’t worry – this is quite normal.

An assessor may ask for a call out charge, which should be the cost of producing an EPC but no more. This is only to cover their time to make sure you qualify. But this should be no more than £50 – £60.  Not £100s, as some companies have been found charging!

The installer of the boilers will have to be a PAS2030 qualified Green Deal Installer – licenced to carry out installations on behalf of this Government backed scheme. Make sure you always ask to see the ID of any of these people before inviting them into your property.

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

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