Free Boilers & Boiler Grants: how to get a free boiler

Believe it or not, it is possible to get a completely free boiler. This is thanks to an environmental scheme from the government. If you meet the eligibility criteria, you can receive a boiler grant for up to 100% of the cost and installation of a new appliance. You don’t have to pay this money back, saving you an incredible £2,000.

How to get a free boiler

The Energy Company Obligation

Boiler grants are just one of several energy efficiency measures on offer from the ECO. The goal of the ECO is to help households on lower incomes reduce their carbon emissions and pay less for heating. As the name implies, the scheme receives financial support from large energy companies. This includes the “big 6”, such as British Gas and E.on, as well as other energy companies who are deemed large enough based on the amount of customers they have.

Other energy saving measures available from the ECO include:

  • Loft insulation
  • Cavity wall insulation
  • Solid wall insulation

ECO October 2018

The current phase of the ECO initiative comes to an end on 30th September 2018. Its replacement will run from 1st October 2018 to 31st March 2022.

The new scheme will place extra focus on the most poor households, as almost a third of those supported by the current scheme are not on low-income homes. Another change is that grants for free oil and LPG boilers won’t be available any more.

How it works

The process is relatively straightforward. After determining that you are eligible, a contractor will come round in order to review the existing installation. They will also consider other factors in order work out exactly how much financial support you are entitled to. While boiler grants can and do cover 100% of the cost, you may be required to contribute a certain percentage of the total. This depends on several factors, such as the energy efficiency of your home. On the plus side, the grant is not a loan, and you will never have to pay back the money.

Once these things have been settled, the new boiler will be installed by a qualified engineer. This shouldn’t take too long –  swapping an old combi boiler with a new one in the same place generally doesn’t take longer than a day. The engineer may also replace the heating controls with a modern programmable thermostat. Replacing an old G-rated non-condensing boiler with an A-rated condensing boiler can save you up to £340 a year. The new boiler will also be quieter, safer, and faster at heating the hot water and your home. Plus, with an annual service, you’ll probably have a manufacturer’s extended warranty of anywhere up to 10 years.

Am I eligible for a boiler grant?

The eligibility criteria are very strict. You must live in either your own home or in privately rented property and have a connection to the gas main. You also need to receive a certain combination of income-related benefits, such as Job Seeker’s Allowance and income support.

The boiler which will be replaced must also be a non-condensing boiler which is at least eight years old. Non-condensing boilers are always less energy efficient than condensing boilers. (Click here to learn more about this topic.)

What exactly are the benefit criteria?

Free boiler for pensioners and over 60s

  • You will satisfy the benefit criteria if you receive Pension Credit

Free boiler with Child Tax Credits

  • You will satisfy the benefit criteria if you receive Child Tax Credits and you live in a home whose annual income is less than £16,010 per year.

Free boiler on Income-related benefits.

If you receive either i) Income Support, ii) Income-based Jobseekers’ Allowance, or iii) Income-based Employment & Support Allowance, you will satisfy the criteria if you receive at least one of the following components. Note that full-time education excludes higher education, i.e. university or NVQ Level 4 equivalent or higher:

  • Pension Premium
  • Employment Support
  • Disability Living Allowance (Higher Rate)
  • Child under 16
  • Child under 20 (not at university or studying for NVQ Level 4 or equivalent)

Free boiler on Working Tax Credits

You will satisfy the benefit criteria if i) you receive Working Tax Credits ii) you live in a home whose annual income is less than £16,010 per year and iii) receive at least one of the following components:

  • Receiving disabled worker component or severe disability component
  • Over 60 years old
  • Child under 16
  • Child under 20 (not at university or studying for NVQ Level 4 or equivalent)

Free boiler on Universal Credit

You will satisfy the benefit criteria if i) you receive Universal Credit and ii) you earned £1,250 or less after tax in any period within the last 12 months and iii) receive at least one of the following components:

  • Child under 16
  • Child under 20 (not at university or studying for NVQ Level 4 or equivalent)
  • Receiving Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independent Payment (PLP)
  • Limited capability for work, or limited capability for work and work-related activity
Posted in Guides | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Free Boilers & Boiler Grants: how to get a free boiler

What size boiler do I need and what do kW and kWh mean?

What size boiler do I need – come the colder months, lots of people will be asking themselves this question. There are also other considerations, such as what type of boiler is necessary. If you’re stumped for an answer, fear not – this page will explain exactly how boiler sizing works and what the associated terms mean.

What size boiler do I need?

The best boiler size, or to give its correct term, boiler output, depends on several factors. The main considerations are the number of radiators, the number of bathrooms, and how many people live in the home. Some of these factors will also affect the type of boiler that is suitable for the property. For example, a combi boiler probably won’t be suitable in a house with two or more bathrooms. This is because hot water is not stored in advance but heated on demand from the mains. If two people shower at the same time, the consequence of dividing the mains this way will be two equally disappointing showers.

Calculating the size

In order to determine the appropriate size of boiler for a household, a competent heating engineer will need to calculate the appropriate heat output needed in every room in the home. There are numerous factors which affect how much energy is required to heat a room to the suitable temperature. These include – but are not limited to:

  • The dimensions of the room
  • Whether or not the windows are double glazed
  • Whether or not the room faces north, and if the room is upstairs or on the ground floor. (A room on the first floor will benefit from heat rising from the room below it).
  • The purpose of the room – bedrooms may be one or two degrees cooler than the living room; bathrooms may be one or two degrees higher.

If the necessary heat output is not calculated correctly and a boiler with insufficient power is selected, the home won’t be warm enough and won’t have enough hot water to keep up with demand. A boiler with excessive power will waste energy, resulting in unnecessarily expensive heating bills and damage to the environment.

While the necessary boiler size must be calculated on a case-by-case basis, most properties fall into one of three ranges.

Boilers for 1 and 2 bedroom flats and houses

For these properties, a 24-27 kW combi boiler is adequate in most cases, assuming a property with one bathroom, 2-3 people, and up to 10 radiators.

Boilers for 3 and 4 bedroom houses

For medium to large properties with 3-4 bedrooms, one bathroom, or up to 15 radiators, a 28-34 kW boiler should be suitable. However, if there is more than one bathroom, you should consider a regular or system boiler which integrates a hot water cylinder. This will help ensure that there is enough hot water to keep up with demand.

Boilers for big houses and houses with 4+ bedrooms

For large properties such as those with 4 or more bedrooms, a 35-42 kW regular or system boiler is necessary, especially if the property has more than one bathroom.

It is important to remember that these ranges are a guideline rather than a rule. This guide assumes average size rooms and therefore average-sized radiators. The best boiler size should always be calculated by a qualified heating engineer.

What does kW mean?

Boiler output is measured in kW or kilowatts. A watt is a measurement of energy in relation to time, i.e., how much energy can be delivered per second. One watt of energy equals one joule of energy per second. At maximum output, a 24 kW boiler therefore delivers 24,000 joules of energy every second of operation.

So what does kWh mean?

The term kWh stands for kilowatt-hour. No doubt you will have seen this term on your energy bill. At first it may sound confusing to express a quantity of energy with a measurement that we normally associate with measuring time, but it’s actually quite straightforward. Here’s how it works:

  • There are 3600 seconds in an hour.
  • If a 24 kilowatt boiler running at full power delivers 24,000 joules of energy per second, that’s 86,400,000 joules of energy per hour. (3600 seconds x 24,000 joules).
  • 86,400,000 – eighty-six million, four hundred thousand – is a big number. Instead of having to write it out like that, it can simply be expressed as 24 kW/h.

So to continue with the same boiler:

  • If it was operating at full power for 2 hours, it would therefore deliver 48 kW/h of energy or 172,800,000 joules.
  • If it was operating at full power for half an hour, it would therefore deliver 12 kW/h of energy or 43,200,000 joules.

Bearing in mind that energy is measured in joules, if we assume that one hour of boiler use produces such a large figure, then try to imagine how many joules of energy your home uses every month – the number would be huge. It’s much easier for energy companies to express this figure as kilowatt hours. (And while we are at, if the average UK home uses 4000 kWh per month, then that figure would be 14,400,000,000 joules. That’s fourteen billion and four hundred million!)

Posted in Guides, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on What size boiler do I need and what do kW and kWh mean?

Boiler filling loop: the 2 different kinds and how to use them

The boiler filling loop is a boiler component which provides a temporary connection to the mains in order to fill and pressurise the central heating system with water. It also allows the system to be topped up where necessary, for example, after bleeding radiators. Regularly topping up the system usually indicates a leak, and doing so will damage the system in the long-term.

The filling loop itself consists of either a rigid section of pipe, or a braided hose. A filling loop can be either part of the boiler itself, or it can be fitted close by. Filling loops usually have a stop valve at one end and a double check valve on the other.

Filling loop overview

In a sealed central heating system with a combi or system boiler, there is no feed and expansion cistern in the loft. Instead, the system is supplied by the mains.

The requirement that the connection is temporary is because Water Regulations prohibit the backflow of water into the mains, which would risk contaminating it. The risk of contamination from a central heating system is even greater because of the corrosion and sludge which can build up inside a central heating system, and/or the presence of anti-corrosion and biocidal chemicals. A permanent connection to a central heating system is therefore not permitted, and wouldn’t be possible anyway due to the fact that cold mains water is likely to be at a higher pressure than the pressure of, for example, the central heating system of a standard combi boiler when cold.

External filling loops

A generic external filling loop simply consists of a length of braided hose with compression fittings at each end. There will be at least one stop valve which is used to control the flow of water. There will also be a double check valve to prevent the backflow of water into the mains. A double check valve is so called because it contains not one but two internal spring-loaded anti-backflow mechanisms. When installing an external filling loop, care must be taken to ensure that it is fitted the right way round. Otherwise, valve will stop the system from filling up.

Internal filling loops

Some boilers, such as the Ideal Logic Combi range, feature integrated filling loops. They may look more complicated, but still function on exactly the same principle. Since all combi boilers have a direct connection to the mains anyway (mains water is heated by the boiler for the hot taps), the filling loop may tee off from this pipe.

How to use the filling loop

If the pressure is too low or keeps dropping, repressurising your boiler and central heating system is very easy:

  1. Firstly, identify the pressure gauge on your boiler. Most combi and system boilers require a pressure of 1 – 1.5 bar in order to operate.
  2. Open the valve or valves on the filling loop. You should hear the sound of rushing water – the system is filling up. You should also see the needle on the pressure gauge rise.
  3. When the needle indicates the target pressure, close the filling loop.
  4. Use the controls on the front panel of your boiler to clear any low pressure fault codes. This may or may not be necessary, depending on the make and model of your boiler.
  5. Congratulations – you have heating and hot water again!

Why do I keep having to top up my boiler?

If you keep having to use the filling loop to top up your boiler, you probably have a leak somewhere. The leak will either be on your central heating (one of the joints or radiators), or one of the boiler’s components. Faulty expansion vessels and pressure release valves are likely suspects inside the boiler.

Either way, if your boiler pressure keeps dropping, you should get the leak fixed pronto. Regularly topping up the system with oxygen-rich mains water will encourage internal corrosion and the build-up of sludge. If left untreated, this will gradually ruin your central system from the inside out, destroying the boiler and causing your radiators to develop leaks.

Posted in How to | Tagged , | Comments Off on Boiler filling loop: the 2 different kinds and how to use them

Economy 7: The guide to the Economy 7 Tariff

Economy 7 is an energy tariff. It is designed to help consumers pay less for their electricity by encouraging its use at night. This is achieved by offering two different rates based on the time of the day. Economy 7 tariffs go hand in hand with a range of specifically designed appliances, such as electric storage heaters.

What exactly is Economy 7?

As one would expect, the heaviest demand for electricity is during the day from breakfast  until dinner time. By encouraging the use of power during the night, Economy 7 tariffs reduce the peak-time demand on the national grid.

Economy 7 tariffs are widely used in properties which are not connected to the gas main. They are also used in properties where it would be difficult or impossible to install an oil tank, such as flats. Instead of wet central heating, such properties typically contain electric storage heaters. Unlike radiators, these aren’t linked together, and can be operated independently from each other. As the name suggests, they heat up ceramic bricks or clay during the night, which is then emitted throughout the day.

Heat is then emitted throughout the day, warming the home without drawing on the more expensive day rate electricity.

Economy 7 tariffs can also be utilised by specifically designed hot water cylinders. These are known as direct hot water cylinders. In a direct cylinder there is no heat exchanger – the water is heated directly by two immersion heaters. One of them is situated near the bottom, and another just beneath the crown of the cylinder. During the night, the bottom heater heats the overall body of water on the cheaper night rate. During the day, the top heater functions as a “boost” heater, operating intermittently to keep the water at the desired temperature, and heating the cylinder when the hot water is replaced with fresh cold.

When does Economy 7 go on and off?

The cheaper night rate is generally available for around seven hours, hence the name. It may be active from midnight until 0700, from 2300 to 0600, or from 0030 to 0730, for example. The exact time span, however, depends on the energy provider.

Economy 7 tariffs are only available for electricity, not gas or oil. They also require the installation of a special meter. Switching to an Economy 7 tariff or switching back to a standard tariff will require exchanging the meter. You will have to contact your energy supplier to facilitate this, and there may be a charge for it. Note that simply using electricity during the night on a non-Economy 7 tariff will not result in cheaper bills.

Economy 7 problems and tips

One of the main criticisms of this tariff is that the day rate is overpriced. While this is done to encourage night time use, it increases the chances of consumers paying too much for electricity overall. If you don’t heat your home with electric storage heaters and you tend not to use any electric appliances at night, Economy 7 is the wrong tariff for you and you will definitely end up paying too much. On the other hand, if electricity is your only heat source, Economy 7 is likely to be the best option. If you work anti-social hours and tend to use a lot of energy during the night, you may save even more money.

A disadvantage of this tariff is that since energy is stored in advance, you will have to plan ahead with your energy usage. For example, when a cold snap is coming up, you will want to make sure your heaters charge up enough during the night, otherwise they will run out towards the end of the day, and you won’t be able to have a cosy warm living room on a winter’s evening without drawing on expensive day rate electricity.

An obvious way to take advantage of the cheaper night rate with other appliances in the home is to use timer plugs. These can be digitally or manually operated. Simply set the timer, plug in, and your appliance will come on at the preset time. However, you should be aware of any considerations when it comes to leaving electric appliances unattended, and you shouldn’t leave tumble dryers unattended at all.

Posted in Encyclopaedia | Tagged , | Comments Off on Economy 7: The guide to the Economy 7 Tariff

Turn off the mains fast: how-to guide

Need to know how to turn off the mains? While it’s easy to take the plumbing in your home for granted, it pays to know how to shut off the water. It’s good practice if you are leaving your home for a long period of time. Plus, if you have a leak, the usefulness of knowing how to turn off the water in an emergency speaks for itself.

How to turn off the mains

In order to do this, you’ll need to find your internal stopcock or stop tap or stop valve. This is a small, brass-handled valve which controls the flow of water into your home. To turn off the mains, simply turn the handle clockwise as you would do with any other tap.

Where is the stopcock?

In most properties the mains stopcock is located near the kitchen sink or in the cupboard underneath it. However, it may also be in a pantry or in a downstairs WC. In some older properties it may even be under the floorboards. Even worse, stopcocks sometimes get concealed behind a cupboard or wooden panelling by an inept carpenter or kitchen fitter.

Some properties may have multiple stopcocks, with one valve controlling the overall flow of water in the property, and a secondary stopcock controlling the flow of water to the outlets in an extension.

Shutting off the water

You should be able to turn off the stopcock without any tools. It may take a minute or two for the water to stop flowing. Note that if you have a cold water storage cistern, turning off the mains will stop the cistern from filling, but any leak originating from the cistern or from appliances fed from the cistern will continue until the cistern is empty.

If you have a cold water storage cistern and a hot water cylinder, turning off the mains also won’t stop the flow of hot water until the cold cistern is empty. The hot cylinder will remain full even with the mains off. The same is true if your hot water cylinder is mains fed. It is the pressure of the cold water coming in at the bottom which pushes the hot water out at the top.

If your internal stopcock doesn’t work or you can’t find it

If your internal stopcock has seized up or is nowhere to be seen, the only other way to shut off the water is via the external stopcock. This is usually located underneath a small hatch in the pavement in front of your property, anywhere up to a metre below ground level to protect it from frost damge. Opening or closing an external stopcock usually requires the use of a stopcock key.

Some properties may share an external stopcock. You should consider the possibility that turning your stopcock off may also affect your neighbour’s water supply.

Generally speaking, the homeowner is usually responsible for the plumbing within the boundary of a property. Anything outside of the property is usually the responsibility of the water board. Therefore, in most cases, the external stopcock usually belongs to the water board. The homeowner may be held liable for damage to it. Its operation may require permission from the water board, even in an emergency.

See also:

Posted in How to | Tagged , | Comments Off on Turn off the mains fast: how-to guide

Condensing vs Non-Condensing Boilers: what’s the difference?

Condensing vs non-condensing boilers – the main difference between them is that condensing boilers are 10-25% more energy efficient. Not only can they save you several hundred pounds on your annual energy bill, they’re also better for the environment. But how do they do this? When you’re looking to buy a new condensing boiler or simply want to learn how they work, this article will point you in the right direction.

Condensing vs Non-condensing boilers: what’s the difference?

When a boiler burns fuel, one of the byproducts of the combustion process is water vapour. This water vapour – steam – contains heat. Imagine that you open a window, put a pan of water on the hob, bring it to the boil, and leave it there until all the water boils away into steam. The heat you’ve paid for has literally gone out of the window.

This principle is effectively what happens in a non-condensing boiler. The water vapour produced from the combustion process is simply expelled via the flue, heating the outdoors instead of your home or your hot water.

The condensing boiler advantage

Condensing boilers don’t let that heat go to waste. Instead, they draw so much heat out from that vapour, it condenses back into water. This recovered heat is then used to heat the water for your radiators or the hot water tank. This means that condensing boilers require less fuel to generate the same amount of heat – and fewer carbon emissions. They’re better for the environment as well as for your wallet.

The condensed water – or condensate as it is known – is collected in a trap before being discharged into the sewer via the condensate pipe. These components are usually plastic, as the slightly acidic condensate would react with metal pipework. Most boilers eject condensate in small spurts so that a constant dripping doesn’t freeze and block the pipe. Frozen condensate pipes are an extremely common reason for a winter boiler breakdown.

How energy efficient is a condensing boiler?

Very efficient – you can usually expect an energy efficiency of at least 90%. This means that for every £1 you spend on your energy bill, 90p is directly going towards heating your home and the hot water. Compare this to a non-condensing boiler, which may only have an energy efficiency of 70-80%. In older boilers, that figure may even be as low as 50-60%, which amounts to a tremendous waste of money and energy. Condensing boilers are always more energy efficient than non-condensing boilers.

UK energy efficiency regulations require that all gas boilers installed after 1st April 2005 and all oil-fuelled boilers installed after 1st April 2007 must be condensing boilers.

How much money will I save?

Of course, the answer to this question depends on the efficiency of the boiler you wish to replace. According to The Energy Saving Trust in ThisIsMoney.co.uk, replacing a Band G non-condensing boiler with a Band A condensing boiler and modern central heating controls, you can save up to £340 a year on your energy bills. You’ll also dump 1,500 kg less carbon dioxide into the environment, helping to shrink your carbon footprint.

Is it still possible to install a non-condensing boiler?

Yes, but only in circumstances where a qualified heating engineer has determined that a condensing boiler is unsuitable for the property. A points system is used to determine this, and if a score of over 1000 is reached, the engineer will issue a certificate to say that a non-condensing boiler can legally be fitted. It is extremely important that the homeowner does not lose this certificate should they wish to sell the property in future, as it confirms that the presence of a non-condensing boiler is legal.

What other types of boiler are there?

The issue of condensing vs non-condensing boilers relates to energy efficiency rather than the actual type of boiler for a particular central heating system configuration.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Condensing vs Non-Condensing Boilers: what’s the difference?

Boiler Types: The 3 different boiler types explained

There are three different boiler types: combi, system, and heat-only or conventional. The most common type is the combi boiler. When selecting a new appliance, the best boiler type usually depends on the size of the property, how many bathrooms it has, and the existing plumbing system. Choosing a new boiler is hardly an every day task, but in this guide to boiler types, we’ll help you understand the main differences. We’ll also go through their advantages and disadvantages.

Different boiler types explained

Heat-only boiler

Prior to the combi boiler, a heat-only boiler (or regular or conventional boiler) was the most common boiler type in UK homes. Heat-only boilers are usually found in family homes and require a cold water storage cistern and a feed and expansion cistern in the loft. They also require a hot water cylinder. They are so called because they simply heat water, with no direct role in heating water for the taps. Hot water from the boiler is either pumped through the radiators, or through a coil of copper pipe inside the hot water cylinder.

Advantages

  • As the hot water is heated and stored in advance, they cope well in households with a high demand for hot water.
  • They tend to be low pressure, with less wear and tear. A pump is also an option, though, for better flow rates and a better shower.
  • They can be used in compliment with solar panels to reduce heating bills. Energy from the sun can be used to offset the amount of energy needed by the boiler.

Disadvantages

  • You can run out of hot water, requiring the boiler to heat up the hot water cylinder from scratch.
  • You will require a cold water storage cistern and a feed and expansion cistern in the loft. This makes a heat-only system more complicated and more expensive. It may also make a future loft conversion trickier.
  • A bulky hot water cylinder is also necessary, taking up living space in the home.
  • Energy is wasted by heating up and storing hot water in advance.

System boiler

System boilers also require a hot water cylinder, but they do not need a feed and expansion tank. This is because they draw their water supply for the central heating directly from the mains, and they contain a built-in expansion vessel. The pump for the central heating is also integrated into the boiler itself.

System boiler advantages

  • Their self-contained design allows for an easier installation, and there is no need for a feed and expansion cistern in the loft.
  • The use of a cylinder can accommodate multiple demands for hot water at the same time.
  • If the mains flow rate allows, they can be used with an unvented hot water cylinder, delivering hot water at mains pressure. This removes the need for a cold water storage cistern, freeing up even more loft space.

System boiler disadvantages

  • Once again, hot water must be heated in advance. If you run out, you must wait for the hot water cylinder to heat up again.
  • The hot water cylinder takes up living space in the home.
  • Storing hot water in advance is less energy efficient than heating it on demand.
  • Unvented cylinders are more expensive and cost more to install.

Combi boiler

As mentioned, the combination or combi boiler is the most common of the three boiler types found in British homes. Most use gas as their fuel, although oil-fed combi boilers do exist.

Combi boiler advantages

  • Combi boilers heat the water for the central heating and the water for the hot taps. They heat the domestic water instantaneously on demand, providing hot water at mains pressure.
  • Consequently, they do not “run out” of hot water. There is no need for a bulky hot water cylinder and no waiting for a cylinder of water to heat up again.
  • Depending on the mains pressure and the type of shower, there is no need for a shower pump.
  • There is no need for the complication and bulk of cisterns in the loft, such as a cold water storage cistern and a feed and expansion cistern. This makes them ideal for properties with a prospective loft conversion, or properties without any loft space, such as flats. The absence of cisterns also makes them cheaper to install.
  • Combi boilers are themselves space-saving – they are usually small, compact, and wall-mountable.

Combi boiler disadvantages

  • The main disadvantage of combi boilers is that they are entirely dependent on the flow of the mains. Combi boilers often struggle to provide water to more than one hot water outlet at a time. This makes them unsuited to larger properties and properties with more than one bathroom.

Condensing boiler

A condensing boiler is not actually a type of boiler. It actually refers to a type of boiler technology that makes them more energy efficient. One of the by-products of burning a fuel is water vapour. This water vapour contains heat energy. A non-condensing boiler would simply expel this water vapour out of the flue, wasting the heat energy it contains.

In a condensing boiler, the boiler draws so much heat out of the water vapour, it condenses back into a liquid – water. The boiler then discharges this water into the sewer via the condensate pipe.

For this reason, condensing boilers are always more energy efficient than non-condensing boilers. UK energy efficiency regulations stipulate that all gas boilers installed after 1st April 2005 and all oil boilers installed after 1st April 2007 must be condensing boilers. Non-condensing boilers may only be installed in exceptional circumstances.

Posted in Guides | Tagged | Comments Off on Boiler Types: The 3 different boiler types explained

Direct & indirect hot water cylinders: what’s the difference?

Direct cylinders, indirect cylinders, unvented cylinders…the list goes on. There are many different of types of hot water cylinder available, but what is the difference between direct and indirect hot water cylinders, and what do these terms actually mean?

The difference between direct and indirect hot water cylinders explained

The answer to this question relates primarily to how the water in the cylinder is heated. In an indirect cylinder, the water is heated by the boiler. In a direct cylinder, the water is heated by an electric element

Indirect cylinders

In a household with a cold water storage cistern and a feed and expansion cistern in the loft, and a gas or oil fed heat-only/regular boiler, the hot water cylinder contains a coil of copper pipe, which functions as a heat exchanger. A thermostat is strapped to the side of the cylinder.

When requested by the thermostat, the boiler fires up and hot water is pumped through the coil, heating the rest of the water inside the cylinder to around 55-60 degrees celsius. The two bodies of water – the water from the boiler and the domestic hot water – never mix. (If they do, this is the result of a broken coil.)

Note that the heat exchanger is not always a coil. In plumbing systems with a primatic hot water cylinder, the cold water storage cistern supplies the water for both the hot water cylinder and the central heating. The heat exchanger in a primatic cylinder is shaped in such a way which allows an air bubble to form. It is this air lock which prevents the two bodies of water from merging. Due to their fundamental design, primatic cylinders are always indirect.

Most indirect cylinders are fitted with one electric immersion heater so that even if the boiler isn’t working, the household still won’t be without hot water.

Direct cylinders

In a direct hot water cylinder, there is no heat exchanger – the water is heated directly by two electric immersion heaters only. Direct hot water cylinders go hand in hand with Economy 7 electricity tariffs. The lower immersion heater heats the bulk of the water on the cheaper night tariff, and on the standard rate, the top heater keeps the water up to temperature as it is drawn off throughout the day.

Fortic cylinders

Fortic cylinders are hot water cylinders which have their own integrated cold water storage cistern, instead of requiring a separate cistern that is usually in the loft. Fortic cylinders can be both direct and indirect.

Finally…

Don’t confuse direct/indirect hot water cylinders with direct/indirect plumbing systems. The latter is a reference to a whole household’s plumbing system, namely as to whether the water outlets are supplied entirely by the mains, or from a cold water storage cistern. See this page for more information on that topic.

Posted in Questions | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Direct & indirect hot water cylinders: what’s the difference?

Electric shower stops working: why does it stop & how can it be fixed?

Does your electric shower suddenly stop working? Does it suddenly cut out and leave you with no way to rinse yourself off? This situation is perhaps more irritating than a shower which doesn’t work at all. In this article, we’ll explain why your electric shower stops working, and what you can do about it.

Electric showers are basically instantaneous water heaters. They have a single supply of cold water which is heated on demand via an electric element. Over time, calcium deposits form on the element, just like in your kettle – particularly if you live in an area with hard water.

Eventually, there is so much limescale on the element that the heat doesn’t transfer to the water properly. A sensor inside the shower detects that the element is getting too hot – and consequently turns the shower off. This is a safety mechanism which prevents the shower from overheating. You may also find that you cannot turn it back on for a few minutes. Once again, this is the shower’s safety mechanism preventing the shower from operating until the excess heat has dissipated.

In some cases, you may also detect a burning smell. Even if the safety cut-out is working, that’s not to say the excess heat isn’t damaging the shower somehow. If you do smell burning, it’s probably a bad idea to use the shower again.

Electric shower stops working – how can it be fixed?

There are several things you can try in order to get your shower going again. Take the shower head off, and run the shower on cold on its highest water flow setting for a couple of minutes. Doing this 3-4 times per year may may help to dislodge any limescale inside.  You should also make sure that the shower head is thoroughly free from limescale.

Unfortunately, this won’t be a permanent fix – the shower will still eventually scale up again. In hard water areas, electric showers may only last 1 – 2 years. The only guaranteed way to solve this issue is to replace the electric shower with a shower which doesn’t heat the water itself – i.e., a mixer shower which is supplied by a combi boiler or from a hot water cylinder.

Posted in Questions | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Electric shower stops working: why does it stop & how can it be fixed?

Boiler

The boiler is the key component of a central heating system. Its main purpose is to transfer heat energy to water. The heat energy is produced by the combustion of a fuel, such as natural gas, oil, or a solid fuel such as coal or wood. Hot water is then distributed to the radiators in the household, which then heat the home. As well as for central heating, boilers are also used to heat the water for the taps – either directly on demand, or indirectly, usually by heating a body of water in a hot water cylinder.

There are several different types of boiler available. The most common type found in UK households is the combination or combi boiler. These are so called because they directly provide hot water for both the central heating and the hot taps. Other types of boiler include heat-only boilers and system boilers. Depending on the type, boilers can be supplied with water directly from the mains, or they may draw their water supply from a feed and expansion cistern in the loft. Despite the name, household boilers do not actually bring water to boiling point as part of their general operation.

Boiler history

The history of boilers in British homes goes hand in hand with the history of central heating. Early installations featured a back boiler, which consisted of a device fitted to the rear of an open fireplace. Cold water from the feed and expansion tank would enter the boiler at the bottom, before rising to the top of the circuit via gravity. This hot water would flow through the radiators and through a coil of pipe in the hot water cylinder, heating the hot water for the taps. Even so, only 30% of households in Britain had central heating. The main way of keeping warm was an open fireplace in the living room, and electric heaters, blankets and hot water bottles everywhere else.

Fifty years later, of course, and things are drastically different. As of 2017, 95% of British households now have a central heating system. Not only has the average household temperature risen by four degrees from 18 to 22, but it’s fair to say that boilers have radically changed how we live our lives. Richard Sober, a lecturer in interior design at the University of Teesside, explained to the BBC that families tend not to huddle around the fireplace any more. When it gets cold, we turn the heating up, instead of putting on more clothes and eventually going to bed when it’s cold. We don’t need to change our lifestyle or sleeping pattern. People can stay up all night – in any room, instead of congregating around the fireplace. Dr. Sober remarks that it can be argued that “…central heating played a part in the disintegration of the family.”

Boiler fuel types

Natural gas

Boilers are available in several different fuel types. By far the most common is natural gas – this accounts for the heating fuel in approximately 85% of homes in the UK. According to the Energy Networks Association, gas offers up to 90% energy efficiency, and the UK gas grid is almost entirely underground, protecting it from cold weather. Gas itself offers the homeowner a number of advantages – it is piped directly into the home and one cannot run out of it, unlike other fuel types. However, getting a household connected to the gas grid can be very expensive, and any work on a gas appliance can only legally be carried out by a Gas Safe-registered engineer.

Oil

Oil is the second most common type of boiler fuel in the UK, and is used in approximately 1.5 million of the 4 million British households which aren’t connected to the gas network. The oil is usually stored on the property itself. This generally requires a large unsightly plastic tank, which can take up a fair amount of room in the garden. It is possible for the tank to go underground, although this makes installing it more complicated and more expensive.

Oil-fuelled boilers are larger than the average boiler in the UK (the gas-fuelled combi). They are usually free-standing and are approximately the size of a large washing machine. In other words, they take up more space because they cannot be mounted on a wall. However, they do have their own advantages. Some oil-fuelled boilers can actually be installed outside, freeing up space in the home and making the sounds of a boiler much less of an annoyance. Another significant advantage is that there is no risk of a potentially deadly carbon monoxide leak inside the home. If the boiler is installed in a garage or outbuilding, then any ambient heat from the boiler may actually useful, helping to keep mould away.

The main disadvantage surrounding oil-fuelled boilers is the cost – they can be several hundred pounds more expensive than equivalent gas boilers. The annual cost of the oil may also be a few hundred pounds more expensive than the same amount of gas. Like most things, it is better to buy heating oil in bulk in order to obtain better prices. In small villages and parishes, it is quite common to find an oil buying club, where residents all pitch in together to get the best possible price per litre.

There are actually two different types of heating oil: 28sec and 35sec. The measurement of seconds is actually a measurement of viscosity or thickness, i.e., how many seconds it takes for ball bearing to sink through a column of the oil. 28sec is raw kerosene and is the most popular type of heating oil. It burns much more cleanly than 35sec and creates less smoke and soot. 28sec is also used in oil-fuelled cookers, such as Agas and Rayburns. It is easily possible to distinguish one oil from the other visually: 28sec oil is yellow, 35sec oil is red.

Electricity

Electric boilers do exist, although they are few and far between. They should not be confused with storage heaters, like those typically found in flats. These are individually controlled and do not constitute ‘central’ heating.

However, some electric boilers do work on a storage principle and offer wet central heating. A classic example is the old range of GEC Nightstor boilers. These used cheap Economy 7 night electricity to heat up a core which consisted of dozens of feolite bricks. Air heated by these bricks would then be fanned onto a heat exchanger, heating the water for the radiators.

Electric boilers have a number of advantages – the main one being that they are extremely energy efficient. Since the combustion of a fuel is not required, absolutely no heat energy is expelled out of the building via a flue. Every penny of electricity is used as heat for the home. The absence of a flue also means that electric boilers are generally cheaper to install, and their simplicity means cheaper maintenance and servicing costs. However, the main disadvantage is that, as a fuel, electricity costs more than gas. Even if the boiler is more energy efficient, it may not necessarily be cheaper to run.

Types of boiler

There are several different types of boiler available. Getting the right boiler depends on several factors, including the size of the home and the source of fuel.

Condensing boiler

This term is frequently mentioned, and is more akin to a boiler attribute rather than a boiler type. A condensing boiler is a boiler with extra energy efficiency.

How do condensing boilers work?

One of the products of the combustion process is water vapour. Instead of simply expelling this hot vapour out of the flue and wasting the latent heat energy it carries, a condensing boiler draws so much heat out of it, that it cools down and turns into water. This water – condensate, as it is known – is collected in a trap inside the boiler before then being discharged into the sewer via the condensate pipe.

Due to environmental regulations, all boilers installed in the UK after April 2005 must be condensing boilers.

Combi boiler

As mentioned, the most popular type of boiler in the UK is the combination or combi boiler. These are so called because they combine both domestic hot water services and a central heating system in one unit. Combi boilers are supplied directly from the mains. Hot water for the taps is heated on demand, and water for the radiators is provided by a temporary connection to the mains. An internal expansion vessel accommodates the expansion of the central heating water when it is heated.

As a result, there is no need for a cold water storage cistern and a feed and expansion cistern in the loft – an ideal solution for a loft conversion, or in households where there is little to no loft space. There is also no need for a bulky hot water cylinder, exchanging an airing cupboard for extra living space.

However, the main disadvantage of combi boilers that they are unsuitable for larger properties, such as those with two bathrooms or indeed any household where there may be simultaneous demands for hot water at different outlets.

System boiler

Like combi boilers, system boilers integrate all of the central heating components – such as the pump and the expansion vessel – into one system, hence the name. They do, however require a separate hot water cylinder, as the hot water for the taps is not heated on demand. The hot water cylinder can be a standard open vented cylinder supplied from a cold water storage cistern, or it can be an unvented cylinder fed directly from the mains.

The main advantage of a system boiler is that it has the main advantage of a combi boiler while also compensating for its disadvantage. There is no need for tanks and pipework in the loft, and having a hot water cylinder means water means there is plenty of hot water immediately available, even if requested by multiple outlets at once. Of course, this does mean that extra space is required for the hot water cylinder.

Other disadvantages of a system boiler include the energy wastage from heating the water and then storing it – the hot water cylinder must be insulated to protect it from heat loss. A heating system with a system boiler will also be more expensive due to the extra expense of installing the cylinder.

Conventional boiler

Conventional boilers, also known as regular boilers or heat-only boilers, are typically found on older, family-size properties. As the name heat-only implies, such boilers do nothing other than heat water – there are no additional central heating components fitted. The central heating pump is typically located in the airing cupboard, and the expansion of the water is accommodated by a feed and expansion cistern in the loft. Hot water for the taps is stored in a hot water cylinder, which is fed by a cold water storage cistern.

Conventional boilers are the tried and tested solution for homes in which there may be a high demand for water which would outstrip the capacity of the mains alone. The presence of a feed and expansion cistern also means there is no need to top up the boiler – the system does this itself automatically. Plumbing systems with a conventional boiler are the most expensive and the most complicated, due to the cisterns, the extra pipework, and the hot water cylinder. However, they can be complimented with solar energy systems, helping to cut fuel bills.

How do boilers work?

While boilers may operate in slightly different ways, they all operate on the same principle with roughly the same key components. A fuel is burned in a combustion chamber. The heat from this process is transferred to water in a heat exchanger. However, what happens next depends on the type of boiler.

In a system boiler and a conventional boiler, the boiler heats water for what is known as the primary circuit. The primary circuit is essentially the central heating system – this hot water is pumped through the radiators, emitting its heat and warming the home.

As for the water for the taps in the hot water cylinder, this is heated indirectly by the boiler. As well as through the radiators, water in the primary circuit also flows through a coil of copper pipe inside the hot water cylinder. Heat is then transferred from the boiler to the water in the cylinder, ready for the taps. The two bodies of water, the primary circuit and the domestic hot water (DHW), should never come into contact with each other. (In some cylinders, there is no coil – the water is heated by two electric immersion heaters, one of them usually being on an Economy 7 tariff.)

A motorised valve, usually located on the pipework close to the hot water cylinder, controls whether or not water flows through the radiators or through the cylinder coil.

Boiler sizes

Boiler size or to be more accurate, boiler output, is generally measured in kW or kilowatts. Watts are a measurement of power because they are a measurement of how much energy is transferred per second – one watt equals one joule of energy per second. A kilowatt – one thousand watts – therefore equates to one thousand joules of energy per second. A 24 kW boiler therefore delivers 24,000 joules of energy every second. (Note that energy “used” is a bit of a misnomer – energy cannot be used, but simply converted from one form into another.)

Another important measurement is the kilowatt-hour or kW/h. This is not a reference to power, but refers to the total sum of energy delivered, expressed as kilowatt hours. There are 3600 seconds in one hour, and so per the above example, if the boiler delivers 24,000 joules of energy per second, then it delivers 86,400,000 joules of energy per hour. (3,600 x 24,000 = 86,400,000.) Instead of writing 86,400,000 joules, this figure can simply be expressed as 24 kW/h.

  • The same 24 kW boiler operating for 2 hours would therefore deliver 48 kW/h of energy or 172,800,000 joules.
  • The same 24 kW boiler operating for half an hour would therefore deliver 12 kW/h of energy or 43,200,000 joules.

BTU

Boiler and radiator output was previously – and sometimes still is – given in BTUs. This stands for British Thermal Unit. As implied by the name, this measurement was ubiquitous in Britain and is also used in many other countries. It is also used in other engineering industries, even to this day.

However, the use of BTU within the field of plumbing and heating is slightly different. This is because a BTU is a measurement of energy (like kW/h) rather than power – one BTU does not refer to the rate of energy consumption, i.e. one joule per second, but refers to the amount of heat energy needed to raise the temperature of one pound (0.454 kg) of water by one degree Fahrenheit (1055.06 joules.) Consequently, it cannot be converted directly into watts, and must instead be expressed as a quantity over time – BTU per hour or BTU/h. To clarify:

  • BTU/h and kW are measurements of power – the rate at which energy can be used.
  • BTU and kW/h are measurements of energy – the amount of energy available or expended.

1 BTU/h is equivalent to 0.000293 kW or 0.293 watts, and 1 kW is equivalent to 3,413 BTU/h.

  • In order to convert BTU/h to kW, multiply by 0.000293
  • In order to convert kW to BTU/h, multiply by 3412

These terms may sound confusing, but all they are is two different ways of quantifying the same thing: the rate at which heat can be produced (power), and how much of it can be produced over time (energy).

Heat input

This refers to the power required. For example, a 24 kW boiler may take 27 kW of heat input. What happens to that 3 kW for every 24 kW of heat produced? Energy can’t be destroyed or consumed, rather simply converted from one form into another, so where did it go? The answer is simple – it is lost through the flue, or from heating up the boiler casing and internal components, and so on.

By dividing the heat output by the heat input, we can calculate the energy efficiency of the boiler. 24 divided by 27 equals 0.88888888888. Thus, we can round this figure up to say that in the above example, the boiler has an energy efficiency of 89%.

What size boiler do I need?

In order to decide the appropriate size of boiler for a household, a competent heating engineer will need to calculate the appropriate heat output needed in every room in the home. There are numerous factors which affect how much energy is required to heat a room to the suitable temperature. These include – but are not limited to – the dimensions of the room, whether or not the windows are double glazed, whether or not the room faces north, and if the room is upstairs or on the ground floor. (A room on the first floor will benefit from heat rising from the room below it). The purpose of the room must also be taken into consideration – bedrooms may be one or two degrees cooler than the living room; bathrooms may be one or two degrees higher.

If the necessary heat output is not calculated correctly and a boiler with insufficient power is selected, the home won’t be warm enough and won’t have enough hot water to keep up with demand. A boiler with excessive power will waste energy, resulting in unnecessarily expensive heating bills and damage to the environment.

While the necessary boiler capacity must be calculated on a case-by-case basis, most properties fall into one of three ranges. A 24-27 kW boiler should be suitable for small to medium-sized properties such as flats and terraced houses with 1-2 bedrooms, one bathroom or up to 10 radiators. For medium to large properties with 3-4 bedrooms, one bathroom, or up to 15 radiators, a 28-34 kW boiler should be suitable. For large houses with 4+ bedrooms, two bathrooms and up to 20 radiators, a 35-42 kW will be necessary.

However, these ranges are a guideline rather than a rule, and assume average-sized rooms and therefore average-sized radiators. A 3 bedroom property with a one bathroom may still require 35 kW or 38 kW boiler if the room calculations deem it necessary.

Flow rates

As well as boiler power, the size of the property will also dictate the type of boiler required. Combi boilers should always be avoided on properties with more than one bathroom. This is because they can only provide a single stream of hot water, heated on demand from the mains. There is no reserve of hot water in a tank or cylinder. This may not be a problem in households occupied by a single person, but dividing a single mains supply between two outlets will result in two equally disappointing showers.

It is therefore important to take flow rates into consideration, which are measured in litres per minute. For example, a 24 kW boiler will typically deliver 9.5 – 10 litres of hot water per minute. While it may be possible to connect a shower to a combi boiler, the required flow rate for some mixer showers and digital showers may exceed the maximum flow rate of the boiler. In such cases, a hot water cylinder would be necessary – and consequently a system boiler or a heat-only boiler.

Arguably the most important flow rate to consider is the mains. Upgrading a 24 kW to a 34 kW boiler with a flow rate of 15 litres per minute still won’t fill the bath any quicker or be suitable for a certain type of mixer shower, if the mains flow rate is e.g. 9.5 litres per minute.

How much does a new boiler cost?

This not only depends on the type of boiler, the fuel type, and the capacity of boiler required, but also the cost of any additional labour required and who is actually completing the job. Independent contractors tend to be substantially cheaper than the big energy firms.

Boilers themselves can range from £500 to up to £5,000, without including installation costs. Generally speaking, the more powerful the boiler, the more expensive it will be. As a rough guideline, replacing a gas combi boiler in the same location as the previous one is likely to cost around £2,000, including parts and labour. This job can usually be completed within a day. Installing the boiler in a new location will probably cost about £500-£600 extra, and take twice as much time.

Replacing a regular or heat-only boiler in the same location will cost slightly less: around £1,750. Installing a the boiler in a new location will probably tip the balance over the £2,000 mark.

Replacing a gas heat-only boiler for a combi boiler will cost £2,500 – £3,000. The extra expense is due to the additional work required: the removal of the hot water cylinder and the cisterns in the loft, and the installation of a condensate pipe. Such a project will take 2-3 days to complete.

Where installing central heating, systems using heat-only boilers and system boilers will always be more expensive than those using combi boilers. This is due to the requirement of a hot water cylinder and its associated fittings, such as the thermostat and motorised valves. Loft cisterns may also be required.

Other costs to consider when replacing or installing a new boiler include pipework changes – the gas supply pipe may need widening – and structural work on a property, e.g. an old flue may need to be bricked up. A powerflush may also be required.

Powerflushing

Over time, water in the central heating reacts with the metal components of the system, causing the formation of rust and other oxides. The most common oxide is magnetite, and it tends to form a black sludge-like substance which can solidify. These unwanted substances will not only reduce the efficiency of the central heating, but can cause serious damage to the boiler and other parts of the system if left unchecked.

That’s where powerflushing comes in. Powerflushing works by pumping water through the central heating system, dislodging the sludge and debris. The sludge is then collected in the powerflush unit before being disposed of.

A powerflush is often advisable when installing and commissioning a new boiler in order to protect the appliance from debris for as long as possible. In fact, some boiler manufacturers may actually require that a powerflush is carried out, in order for any guarantees or extended warranties to be valid.

Signs that the central heating may benefit from powerflushing include:

  • Grey, metallic-coloured water when bleeding the radiators
  • Radiators do not get warm at the bottom
  • Unusual sounds from the boiler or the pump
  • The central heating is slow to warm up in general

A powerflush generally costs between £250 and £500, and takes a full day to complete, assuming no extra unanticipated work is required during the process. Once it has been completed, a chemical inhibitor is put in the central heating circuit to prevent rust and oxides from forming.

Boiler energy efficiency

Calculating the energy efficiency of a boiler in terms of heat input vs heat output has already been discussed in the above section. The last few years have seen several different scales used to grade boiler energy efficiency.

The main system used in Britain is the SEDBUK rating – this stands for Seasonal Efficiency of Domestic Boilers in the UK. There are actually two different classes of SEDBUK rating.

  • SEDBUK 2005 – This system used the letters A-G to rate boiler efficiency, with G being the worst performing, and A being the highest. An ‘A’ rated appliance would have an energy efficiency of at least 90%.
  • SEDBUK 2009 – In order to prevent confusion with European energy efficiency ratings, this newer system does away with the A-G rating and simply expresses the figure as a percentage.

In September 2015, the European Union introduced the ErP (Energy-related products) rating. This system uses a letter grading system from A++ to G. Out of these three systems, the SEDBUK 2009 scale therefore gives the most precise figure as to a boiler’s efficiency.

As well as the requirement that all boilers installed after April 2005 must be condensing boilers, as of April 2018 under the new Boiler Plus legislation, all gas boilers must have an energy efficiency of no less than 92%. All gas and oil boilers must have electronic time and temperature controls, and all combi boilers must have at least one of a range of different energy saving features.

Common boiler problems

It is easy to take hot water and central heating for granted, but their absences are sorely felt. Needless to say, boiler breakdowns and call outs for emergency plumbers are extremely common during the winter months.

Low boiler pressure

On a system with a combi boiler, the system is supplied with water via a temporary connection to the mains. The system must have a water pressure of at least 1 bar, otherwise the boiler will not operate at all. Low combi boiler pressure is easy to verify by checking the gauge on the front of the boiler.

Low pressure does not necessarily indicate a fault with the boiler itself. Bleeding the radiators may cause enough of a drop in pressure to create this problem, and it is easily remedied by topping up the system via the filling loop. However, if this does not solve the issue, and the boiler must be frequently topped up, then the only other possible explanation is a leak. The leak may be on a central heating fitting (radiator, pipe, joint), or it may be one of the boiler’s components. The usual suspects are a faulty pressure release valve (PRV) or a broken expansion vessel. Click here to read more about this fault.

Frozen condensate pipe

A frozen condensate pipe is the quintessential winter boiler breakdown. As previously mentioned, condensing boilers draw so much heat out from steam in the flue gases, it condenses and turns into water. This slightly acidic water is then expelled into the sewer via the condensate pipe. The condensate pipe is made out of plastic and often runs outside the house towards the drain, much like the kitchen sink drainpipe.

A 24 kW boiler produces around 1.5 – 2 litres of condensate for every hour of operation. The constant dripping of water down this pipe is vulnerable to freezing in a cold snap and blocking the pipe, especially if it is exposed to an icy wind. Some boilers try to mitigate this problem by only releasing water in spurts, however this is not guaranteed to prevent it.

If the condensate pipe is frozen, pouring hot water on it, or wrapping a hot water bottle on it will shift the blockage and get the boiler up and running again. To prevent this problem from happening, the pipe should be insulated with water-proof insulation, and can be widened or re-fitted so that the water cannot settle inside.

Kettling

While boilers do not operate in silence, a faulty, noisy boiler may produce banging, gurgling or rumbling sounds. This problem is known as “kettling”, and it may be due to a number of reasons – a frozen condensate pipe can be one of them. However, the most common reason is a build of up limescale within the heat exchanger. Mechanical causes are also possible, causing the boiler to overheat.

Pilot light keeps going out

Older boilers feature a pilot light, a small flame which must be constantly lit in order for the boiler to operate normally. When heat from the boiler is demanded, the pilot light is responsible for igniting the burner.

The most common reason for a pilot light which won’t stay lit is a faulty thermocouple. If the pilot light is extinguished, this component turns off the boiler’s internal gas supply as a safety precaution.

Regulation

In the UK, any work on a gas boiler or indeed any gas appliance may only legally be carried out by an engineer who is registered with Gas Safe. Previously known as CORGI registration, this is the Health & Safety Executive’s official registration body for gas engineers.

The equivalent organisation for oil heating is OFTEC, or the Oil Firing Technical Association. Unlike Gas Safe, it is not a legal requirement to be registered with OFTEC in order to work on oil-fuelled appliances. Registering with an organisation such as Gas Safe or OFTEC as a ‘competent individual’ means that the engineer can self-certify their work, and does not need to arrange an expensive Building Control Notice and inspection from the local authority to certify that the work is safe and satisfies Building Regulations. For peace of mind, you should always use a Gas Safe or OFTEC-registered engineer.

Warranty

Most boilers come with a 1-2 year guarantee as standard. Many boiler manufacturers, however, offer an engineer accreditation scheme. As an example, this means that a consumer who pays for a new Worcester-Bosch can enjoy an extended warranty of anywhere from 5-10 years, as long as the plumber is certified by Worcester-Bosch. If the boiler develops a fault, then the manufacturer will send one of its own engineers to fix the problem free of charge. For boiler manufacturers, this strategy encourages brand loyalty among engineers, and the benefits for consumers speak for themselves. As an added bonus for consumers, these extended warranties make boiler breakdown insurance – typically offered by energy firms – a completely unnecessary expense.

However, there are a number of conditions which must be met in order for the manufacturer to honour the warranty, and the manufacturer will not hesitate to wiggle out of the agreement if it believes that its terms and conditions have not been met by either the consumer or the engineer who installed the boiler. Common requirements include:

  • The boiler must be installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • The engineer must register the boiler with the manufacturer within 30 days of installation. Once this is done, the homeowner or landlord will usually receive a letter confirming this.
  • The system must be powerflushed when the boiler is installed and commissioned.
  • The homeowner or landlord must have the boiler serviced annually by one of the manufacturer’s accredited installers.

Boiler grants

The UK government offers a boiler grant scheme under the Energy Company Obligation’s ‘Affordable Warmth scheme. The ECO was introduced in January 2013. Its purpose is to reduce fuel poverty by helping people on lower incomes to heat their home efficiently, and to reduce the country’s carbon emissions. The ECO also offers grants for wall cavity and loft insulation.

Only homeowners and landlords may apply for the scheme; private tenants must ask their landlord to apply on their behalf. The scheme is not open to everyone – only those receiving certain state benefits are eligible. If the applicant does meet the eligibility criteria, then the boiler will be replaced like-for-like, e.g. a heat-only boiler with a heat-only boiler, a combi for a combi, and so on. Upgrading to an A-rated, modern condensing combi boiler from e.g. a G-rated, non-condensing appliance will typically cut fuel bills by £200 – £300 per year.

Due to government cuts, the ECO may not be able to cover 100% of the costs, and may instead subsidise a boiler with the applicant expected to contribute the rest. The current ECO scheme will come to an end on 30 September 2018, and a new one will subsequently introduced under the same name.

Posted in Encyclopaedia | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Boiler
Copyright © 2018 DIY Plumbing. All rights reserved. Privacy & Cookies.