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Old boiler maintenance: How to save on energy bills without buying a new one

Changes: A few changes to your boiler can make a huge difference to your annual energy bills

Old gas boilers can waste up to £500 a year in energy bills, and now experts have revealed how to make yours more efficient, save money and make your home greener too.

Gas boilers are the main type of boiler in the UK, with 23 million homes owning one, according to comparison firm Uswitch. But many of them are old and don’t work as well as they should, cost money and burn unnecessary fossil fuels for no gain.

Boilers rated at the highest energy-saving level, A, are more than 90% efficient, while models with the lowest G ratings can waste 40% of the money you spend on gas, said Uswitch.

Changes: A few changes to your boiler can make a huge difference to your annual energy bills

Changes: A few changes to your boiler can make a huge difference to your annual energy bills

Running a boiler normally accounts for more than 50% of a home’s annual energy bill, according to the charity Energy Saving Trust.

The energy bill for a household with average usage levels is now capped at £2,500 a year due to the Government Energy Price Guarantee.

Assuming a household bill is capped at this level, it means running a boiler costs around half that (£1,250) and the least efficient boilers waste 40%, or £500, of that money – as a very rough estimate.

“Modern boiler systems that have had regular maintenance burn their fuel more efficiently than older models that have been neglected,” Uswitch’s Ben Galilizzi said.

“Regular maintenance of your boiler will also reduce the risk of gas leaks and improve your home’s protection, including carbon monoxide safety.”

How to makeover your boiler for free

Uswitch said there are several ways to get the most out of an old boiler – for free.

Cost of life

  • Set a timer for your boiler. This way the heater is only on when there is someone in the house to use it, reducing unnecessary hours of heating your home when you don’t need it.
  • Reduce the output of your boiler. If you live in one of the 80% of homes with a combi boiler, reducing its flow temperature to 60C can save £112 a year on energy bills, according to figures from charity Nesta . Most households heat it more than this, to around 80°C, but this temperature can be safely lowered with little impact on usable hot water in most cases.
  • Drain your radiators. It frees all the air that has become trapped inside and allows the entire surface of a radiator to produce heat, which means lower energy bills for the same level of home heat.
  • Check your boiler pressure. Your boiler will be equipped with a manometer. Most boilers work best at pressures between 1 and 1.5 bar. Lower than that, your heating system costs more because it becomes inefficient – and that could be a sign of a leak somewhere. If the pressure is too high, it can lead to malfunctions in your heating system.

It is also advisable to have your boiler checked regularly by a professional. This ensures that it is smooth, safe and efficient operation to heat your home and save money.

The benefits of paying for a new boiler

If you need a new boiler, how much you’ll pay depends on the type you need, the make and model you choose, and the size. On average, you can expect to spend around £2,500, according to the Energy Saving Trust.

But this expense will be recouped in the long run, provided you continue to live in the property. For example, replacing an old G-rated boiler in a semi-detached house with an A-rated condensing boiler will cost around £4,000, but it should save you around £540 a year.

There are several government programs that can help you with the cost of replacing your boiler if you meet the criteria.

Replacement: You will eventually need to install a new boiler, but the high initial costs can soon be recouped by lower energy bills in the future.

Replacement: You will eventually need to install a new boiler, but the high initial costs can soon be recouped by lower energy bills in the future.

The Energy Company Obligation Boiler Replacement Program replaces old, inefficient failed boilers free of charge. To be eligible, you must be receiving at least one benefit, such as income support or a disability living allowance. You must also be an owner.

Alternatively, in Wales, the Nest scheme provides free boilers to landlords and tenants who receive certain benefits or suffer from a chronic illness.

In Scotland, the Warmer Homes Scheme provides free boilers and insulation to homeowners and tenants who are struggling to pay their energy bills and have lived in their homes for at least 12 months.

If you are not eligible for a government program, you can still split the cost of your new boiler. Energy providers including British Gas, EDF and Eon are all offering interest-free deals. For example, British Gas offers five years of interest-free credit on new boilers.

Some boiler manufacturers also offer interest-free deals, including Worcester Bosch.

Go green: heat pumps are an alternative to boilers, but installation costs are much higher

Go green: heat pumps are an alternative to boilers, but installation costs are much higher

Heat pumps are an alternative to boilers and can provide cheaper, greener energy, although the initial cost is higher.

To install a heat pump system, your home must have either underfloor heating or radiators two and a half times larger than regular models. This is because heat pumps do not produce as much heat as a boiler, so they need a larger area to achieve the same level of heat.

You will also need space for a hot water tank if you don’t already have one. Indeed, a heat pump cannot provide hot water on demand like a “combi” boiler.

The initial costs of an air-source heat pump are higher than those of a traditional boiler. This will cost between £7,000 and £13,000, according to the Energy Savings Trust.

Households are eligible for a grant of £5,000 to help cover government costs. The grant is available to anyone living in England and Wales.

You must hire an MCS certified installer and agree a quote with them. He can then apply for the grant.

This week British Gas announced it would reduce the starting cost of a heat pump to £2,999 for those using the scheme.

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