Boiler replacement guide

A boiler breakdown will often only require a simple repair, but sometimes a new boiler will be needed

Should I replace my boiler?

With the current economic slump, more homeowners are looking to save money in all areas of the household budget, and in most cases it’s cheaper to repair a boiler rather than replace it. However, there comes a time when any boiler simply needs to be replaced and patching it up will cost more in the long run. But what are the tell-tale signs? Three experts share their insights.

Graham Collins, trainer, Baxi

“The decision to repair or replace is very dependent on the age and condition of the boiler type in question. If the boiler is safe to repair, for instance, but is more than 10 years old and non-condensing, it is usually worthwhile to replace. As a boiler gets older, breakdowns become more likely. While a repair might be cheaper in the short term, it is always wise to balance any cost with the expected return on investment over time. If a fault is experienced with an efficient and relatively new model, then a repair is generally going to be the best option. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, however. Heating engineers, with the support of manufacturers, will need to use their knowledge and expertise to advise on the appropriate course of boiler repair/replacement action on a case-by-case basis.”

Ryan Mills, plumber @Rdmills88

“The age of the boiler and the breakdown history are key, but cost of repair is a big factor. Quite often a boiler becomes uneconomical to repair. Boilers now come with 10-year warranties, so if a boiler is more than 10 years old and facing a large repair price, it makes sense to replace it. Efficiency is also a big factor. There are quite a few boilers out there that simply don’t offer value for money, and in this case a replacement is the best solution.”

Martyn Bridges, director of technical communication and product management, Worcester Bosch

“Typically, a boiler lasts between 12 and 15 years. After this time, parts for repair may be expensive and hard to acquire, so it might be more cost-effective and worthwhile to replace the boiler instead of getting it fixed. If the customer has only had a boiler for up to 10 years, it is worth looking to repair instead of replace – unless there is something seriously faulty with the system. For example, if the boiler is full of sludge or scale, or an abnormal number of repairs are needed, it is worth speaking to an installer or service engineer to see if they believe a replacement is needed. Finally, if the customer has a non-condensing boiler, they should consider upgrading to a condensing boiler once the cold spell is over. These types haven’t been on the market since 2005, so parts will be hard to come by.”

If you’re worried about the efficiency or reliability of your current boiler, you may be considering replacing it with a more up-to-date model. There’s no doubt that modern condensing boilers are far more efficient than their predecessors, but – if you’re thinking about an upgrade – there are still certain key considerations to take into account:

Boiler replacement costs

  • The cost of your boiler installation may differ depending on which energy supplier or private installer you choose to carry out your upgrade, and will also be dependent on the amount of work involved.
  • Replacing an existing boiler with a new model can result in substantial savings on your energy bills every year – quickly negating the boiler installation costs. Just bear in mind that any additional work such as installing new piping or removing an old hot water cylinder is likely to incur more significant charges.
  • If you’re in the UK, it’s also worth checking to see if you’re eligible for a boiler replacement scheme. You can find more details about government boiler schemes at Boiler Grants.

How much could I save?

  • The amount of money you’ll save by replacing your old boiler is dependent upon the efficiency of both your old boiler and your new model. However, given that the energy used by your boiler to generate space heating and hot water can account for over 80 per cent of annual energy use – there are certainly some major savings to be made.
  • According to the Energy Saving Trust, the installation of a new, A-rated boiler could result in a potential saving of up to £340 per year – although it’s important to stress that this figure will vary depending on your individual circumstances. Under the ErP rating system, which is based upon EU guidelines for energy-related products, an A-rated boiler will have an efficiency rating of over 90%.
  • Trade installers can find out more about ErP ratings and labelling by using our Label Generator.

What type of boiler do I need?

There are various types of boiler that may suit your needs, and which is right for your home will be dependent on a number of factors.

Provided your home is hooked up to a mains gas supply, a gas boiler is traditionally the most affordable heating system, and even if you’re not on the network it may worth investigating the cost of getting your home connected.

Don’t panic if a gas boiler isn’t an option though, as there are other solutions available. In fact, ranging from LPG or electric boilers to solid fuel or renewable energy alternatives, there’s never been more variety when it comes to heating.

At Wolseley, the majority of our boilers can be separated into three different categories:

Combi boilers

Possibly the most cost-effective way to heat a home, combi boilers work without needing an external hot water tank or cylinder, making them a spatially efficient option for small households. Unlike other boilers, a combi heats water directly from the mains supply (hence no need for a hot water cylinder), making it both an energy-efficient central heating system and a great way of increasing your living space. As combi boilers usually require less pipework than other models, they are also often cheaper to install.

It’s worth noting however that due to the combi’s compact size, larger households – particularly those that use a lot of hot water – may be better off with a more traditional boiler model.

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System boilers

System boilers are also designed to save space within the home, but do require a cylinder for storing hot water.

However, as the majority of the heating systems components are built into the boiler, installation is simple and the need for a large water tank is usually avoided.

What’s more, system boilers are often built for use alongside solar hot water systems, an advantage not enjoyed by many of their combi rivals.

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Heat only boilers

Heat only boilers are among the most traditional in Wolseley’s range, and are best suited to installations where the current heating system is linked to a separate hot water cylinder. Unlike system and combi boilers, heat only models also rely on separate additional tanks – usually stored in a loft or attic – to feed both the hot water system and the central heating.

Although systems that utilise a heat only boiler will inevitably take up more space in the home than many alternatives, they remain ideal for older houses where the central heating may not be able to handle the high pressures generated by a modern boiler.

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Boiler & central heating efficiency tips

If you can’t afford to replace your old boiler right now, don’t despair – as at Wolseley we have a range of handy tips for getting the most out of your current heating system. Here are a few of our favourites:

  • New thermostats and heating controls: If replacing your entire boiler is beyond your budget, it may still be worth thinking about installing a new set of heating controls. Modern thermostats and programmers are far more accurate than their ageing counterparts, and can be well worth the investment. Thermostatic radiator valves, in particular, provide a high level of control over individual radiators, allowing you to better regulate the temperature of each room and cut down on wasted energy.
  • Smart controls: If you really want to take charge of your central heating, smart controls are the way to go. These handy new innovations allow you to moderate the temperature of your home and hot water via an app on your mobile – so you can stay on top of your energy no matter where you are.
  • Draught excluders: It might seem like a low-tech solution, but draught excluders still exist for a reason – they work. Every home will lose a percentage of its heat through the gaps around doors and windows, and a draught excluder can go a long way to keeping the heat in and the cold out.