Beat the cold snap, but don’t get a rip-off boiler

The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - Fame & Fortune - Sam Meadows

As the tem­per­a­ture drops and home­own­ers start to fire up the cen­tral heat­ing, many will find that their boiler has given up the ghost. Though boil­ers are cru­cial in any home, they are not some­thing most peo­ple think much about. Yet in an av­er­age year around 1.2mil­lion house­holds will re­place a boiler, ac­cord­ing to Home­tree, an in­staller.

Mod­ern boil­ers are much more ef­fi­cient than their older coun­ter­parts, so the sav­ings on en­ergy bills can be huge, but so can the costs. Ac­cord­ing to the En­ergy Sav­ing Trust, the av­er­age three-bed­room house could save £230 a year with a new boiler, but in­stalling one typ­i­cally costs £2,300.

How much will it cost?

The up­front cost of a boiler can vary dra­mat­i­cally. A mystery shop­ping ex­er­cise con­ducted by Home­tree that looked at the cost of a stan­dard boiler made by Worces­ter Bosch or Vail­lant, two of the lead­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers, found prices rang­ing from £1,800 to £3,323.

Lon­don’s Pim­lico Plum­bers was the most ex­pen­sive, ac­cord­ing to the re­search, while a south Lon­don firm, Garvey Plumb­ing & Heat­ing, was the cheap­est. Bri­tish Gas, the mar­ket leader, had an av­er­age cost of £3,111, although the com­pany it­self said the fig­ure was less than £3,000.

The cost also de­pends on the model you choose. Si­mon Phe­lan of Home­tree said: “Worces­ter Bosch and Vail­lant are likely to be more ex­pen­sive than oth­ers, but they are the BMW and Mercedes of the boiler game. Ul­ti­mately, you are buy­ing this to last 12 or 13 years.”

How long will I have to wait?

A frus­trat­ing part of buy­ing a new boiler can be wait­ing for the in­stal­la­tion. Bri­tish Gas and some of its tra­di­tional ri­vals still op­er­ate on a faceto-face ba­sis, mean­ing a sales­man will visit for an in­spec­tion be­fore another wait for the in­stal­la­tion.

A grow­ing num­ber of firms do the ini­tial as­sess­ment on­line, short­en­ing the over­all wait. The mystery shop­ping ex­er­cise found the long­est av­er­age wait to be 27 days with Bri­tish Gas – 16 for a visit and a fur­ther 11 for the in­stal­la­tion – while the short­est was two days with on­line re­tailer Soto. Bri­tish Gas said its wait was more likely to be 15 days.

There are other on­line re­tail­ers, not in­cluded in the re­search, that will pro­vide an in­stal­la­tion more quickly. For ex­am­ple, Boxt guar­an­tees a next­day ser­vice.

Do I need in­sur­ance?

The cost of in­sur­ance can be high. Ini­tial quotes for “boiler-only cover” range from £4.90 a month with EDF En­ergy, for a pol­icy with an ex­cess and lim­ited call-outs, to £21.50 a month with Home­serve for a pol­icy with no ex­cess, un­lim­ited call-outs, an an­nual ser­vice and other perks.

Cover for an en­tire cen­tral heat­ing sys­tem can cost as much as £42 a month – a hefty £500 a year.

But Mr Phe­lan said cus­tomers who bought a new boiler should con­sider whether they needed sep­a­rate in­sur­ance at all.

“When we in­stall, we of­fer a oneyear work­man­ship war­ranty,” he said. “Many man­u­fac­tur­ers also of­fer war­ranties for up to 10 years now.”

Those who do forgo in­sur­ance need to be aware that dif­fer­ent man­u­fac­tur­ers will of­fer war­ranties of vary­ing lengths for dif­fer­ent mod­els. There could also be hid­den terms and ex­clu­sions.

Vail­lant’s stan­dard war­ranty, for ex­am­ple, does not cover the boiler’s clock timer or the flue seals af­ter the first year. Fer­roli, the Ital­ian man­u­fac­turer, does not of­fer stan­dard call-outs on bank hol­i­days or week­ends, whereas an in­sur­ance pol­icy would typ­i­cally in­clude emergency call-outs within 24 hours.

Nick Mount­field of Corgi Home­heat, a boiler provider, said: “A war­ranty will cover faults, so if a part fails you’re covered. But in­sur­ance poli­cies will cover more than just a man­u­fac­turer’s de­fect. It gives you broader peace of mind: if some­thing goes wrong, you’re pro­tected.”

Should I bor­row to buy?

Con­sumers should also be care­ful not to pay over the odds if they buy a boiler on fi­nance. Home­tree said the rate on a stan­dard fi­nance deal of­fered by sev­eral mak­ers and in­stall­ers was 9.9pc. Many firms of­fer an in­ter­est­free pe­riod on fi­nance deals and it could also be worth look­ing at the cost of a com­mer­cial loan.

No joke: un­like West Bromwich Al­bion’s mas­cot, boil­ers are a se­ri­ous busi­ness

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