Help and advice

Boilers: The burning questions

When the time comes to replace the boiler, it’s easy to fall into the trap of choosing the cheapest option that works - or the first one you come across - just to keep the heating and hot water flowing.
However, with a little thought you can reap the benefits of choosing the right boiler; from lower energy bills to maintaining the potential for future home improvements.

Regulations for boilers in the UK introduced in 2010 and 2005 mean that all new or replacement boilers must be high-efficiency condensing models, except in exceptional circumstances. All boilers must have at least an A rating for energy efficiency, which means that they will be at least 88 per cent energy efficient. To put this in context, older boilers tend to be about 55 per cent energy efficient, so this can represent a significant saving on energy bills.

The benefits of condenser boilers include up to a 25 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and lower energy bills. However, they are generally more expensive than traditional boilers, although the energy savings will eventually offset this upfront cost.

The main consideration is what kind of boiler will suit your home. Since they don’t need an additional tank or cylinder, combi boilers are compact, but can struggle to maintain water pressure if more than one tap at a time is being used. They also provide instant hot water whenever a tap is turned on, but can be awkward and time-consuming to install.

Sealed system boilers are another option that don’t require a loft tank, but do need a cylinder in the airing cupboard or a similar location. System boilers are good if you need hot water in multiple places at once, but they don’t provide it immediately like a combi boiler. They are also relatively easy to install, which minimises inconvenience for the household. An added convenience is that they provide hot water at mains pressure, avoiding the need for power showers and other pressurising devices.

A traditional boiler system involves a cylinder and a tank, generally kept in the loft or attic. It’s another good option for using hot water in multiple places at once, but once the tank is empty, it needs time to refill and reheat before you can have heated water again. It can also pose problems if you hope to develop or repurpose your roof space in the future, and requires good loft insulation to make sure energy waste is kept to a minimum.

There is also the potential to cut energy bills further by opting for a solar-powered water-heating system. It’s often cheaper to install solar panels with a new boiler than to buy them separately, so this could present a serious saving to anyone considering the technology.

This is particularly true when the low rate of VAT for these systems (five per cent) and the availability of government grants are taken into account. Once installed, up to a third of your hot water can be generated by solar power.


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