Written by Neil Marsh MCIPHE RP RHP EngTech
A lot of home owners money gets wasted when it comes to the installation and running costs of central heating systems and the boilers that heat them… A home owner can save themselves a huge amount of money by using a logical approach towards their heating system and its use over the course of its life. We have put together a no- nonsense guide to help home owners understand where the main areas are in which money gets wasted when it comes to a typical central heating systems installation and operation. By following this guide you will be well informed and able to save yourself a lot of money in the years to come when compared to the average home owner.
The main areas in which home owners lose/waste money with their central heating systems and boilers are:
- Over paying for central heating and boiler installations
- Taking advice from the wrong people
- The quality of the equipment they have installed in their property
- Failing to maintain their heating system adequately
- Buying into gimmicks
- Fuel wastage
1. Over paying for central heating and boiler installations
This may sound very simple, but many people are getting this wrong time and time again. There are two main areas where people are often paying way over the odds for a boiler or central heating installation/replacement and are losing hundreds, or even thousands of pounds at a time, and that is by using large national companies (especially energy providers) to replace/install their central heating systems and boilers and by using credit to pay for such work.
In most instances you are getting nothing extra or special by using a large company to undertake installation work at your property. Large companies have large divisions of installers (either employed and/or contractors) that do the work on their behalf and these people need large networks of staff to support the work that they do. When you receive a quotation from a company, most of the costs that make up that quote outside of the materials are paying for the companies overheads. Large companies often have large overheads, of which is often what is driving your quotation price up (sales staff, support staff, management, offices etc). Granted, the quality of equipment and the time it takes to do the job right will have an increased cost over using inferior equipment and cutting corners on the work, but just because you are paying more does not mean that you are getting the best equipment and/or the installation person/team is being given the right amount of time and/or money to do that job properly. More often than not a streamlined local/regional company can put in better quality equipment and give the job more time and still charge you less than what larger companies can. In addition, with most big companies you are just a number on a screen and a profit margin, so do not expect anything special from them or any personal touch once the salesman has made the sale.
We would advise that you use a variation of local and regional companies to provide you quotations for any boiler or central heating installation work that you require. For any of you that may require a central heating or boiler installation in Hereford, Worcester or the areas surrounding, we would be ideal to contact.
When using local and regional companies you will still get variations in quoted prices due to changes in how they operate and the equipment they fit. Make sure you exam all quotations/agreements carefully and see what the differences are to make sure you are getting the best value for your money.
You will see a multitude of companies offering credit lines for boiler and central heating installations, however with typical APR rates of 10-20%, many people are often paying a fortune in interest each year unnecessarily. Where possible we would advise that you always pay for such work without using credit/loans, as the savings can be huge. Where this is not possible, we would advise you to take a look at personal loans and other similar options first. Personal loans APR can be as low as 4% at present, which would be a large saving over the typical amounts that heating companies are typically charging. Should your means allow it, interest free periods on credit cards, so long as you can repay the loan in full within the free interest period given, could mean an interest free loan to help pay towards your boiler/heating system installation.
2. Taking advice from the wrong people
Although an experienced and honest installation company/installer is hard to come by nowadays, finding such people/companies are your best bet to ensure that you get the best solution for your situation at a competitive price. Under no circumstance should you be allowing a sales person to advise you on and sell you boiler and central heating systems, unless they are also an engineer themselves and have extensive experience in the field.
Heating systems and boilers need to be installed carefully to the needs of the property and the people occupying within. Getting the design aspect wrong, which often is done, can result in huge losses in fuel efficiency over the course of the systems life and also lead to equipment being installed that is not adequate for your needs effecting the durability and performance of aspects of your system. It takes years of training, experience and a high level of intelligence to be able to design a heating and hot water system to work well and efficiently. A salesman or anyone else who does not have these traits are guessing at best what is right for you, of which they rarely get it right, and more than often they are fitting what is best for them, not you.
We are a highly-versed, honest and professional company that has a huge wealth of experience and knowledge. We use these traits to make sure that our clients who have central heating and boiler installations in Worcester, Hereford and the other areas we cover, undertaken by ourselves, get the right system and design for their situation whilst keeping total costs very competitive.
It also worth to note that many larger companies are ‘in bed’ with manufacturers so they receive better kick-back deals/incentives and discounts to increase their profits. An example of this would be with boiler manufacturers, there are many “approved installers” out there for varying brands, however in most instances this means nothing more than the installer fits a certain number of their products a year and maybe has been on a training (sales) course. The best boiler solution for everyone can not come from one brand or even a limited number of brands. Not only is it exceptionally rare for one particular brand to have the best products for just the three main boiler groups (combi, system, conventional), no one brand provides solutions for all situations.
3. The quality of equipment they have installed in their property
The quality of equipment, such as boilers, fittings and fixtures varies greatly. In the marketplace there is a lot of substandard or even out right horrible quality equipment, and just because you are paying more for this equipment does not mean that you are getting the best and most durable product. With boilers for example, the more robust and better built equipment is often middle of the deck when it comes to price, whereas the most expensive equipment is often mediocre in its quality. For the home owner this can be the difference between a boiler lasting 12 or 18 years, and the longer the boiler lasts without expensive repairs, the less frequently you will need to pay an installer to replace your boiler. With a typical boiler installation costing between £2000-£4000, every year that your boiler lasts longer, the less in total you will spend on replacing such equipment.
We advise that you use a boiler with a stainless steel heat exchanger where ever possible and one that minimises the use of plastic components and o-ring, good examples of such boilers would be the Baxi Platinum, Baxi Duo-Tec, Ideal Vogue, Baxi Mega-Flo and Baxi 600 series.
With regard to pipework, we strongly advise that you use fully soldered copper pipework wherever possible. Push fit and crimp pipework all rely on o-rings to create a seal and the seal is far less robust than a soldered joint. Such materials are usually opted for to reduce installation time (to increase profits) as the cost to use these types of systems are either similar to soldered copper or cost more. All of our new replacement boilers in Hereford, Worcester, and the areas we provide our services to, are installed with high quality solder ring fittings and high grade copper tube. Plastic pipework and o-ring based fittings have their uses, such as running in screed or through places where it is not possible to do hot/solder work, however in most instances it is best avoided if you wish to ensure that you have the most robust and durable system possible. Soldered copper systems can last many decades and have a track record of doing so.
4. Failing to maintain their heating system adequately
There are three low cost areas where the average home owner regularly fails to monitor and/or maintain, which often results in them having to pay out for additional and often substantial repairs as a result, these are:
- Failing to ensure inhibitor levels are maintained within their heating system
- Failing to open up/turn to max thermostatic radiator valves (TRV’s) in the summer months
- Failing to regularly service their boiler
When ever somebody does work on your heating system and drains water from it, they will dilute or remove completely (if present) the preservative chemicals, known as inhibitors, from the central heating system if they do not replace them. Also, over time dilution will occur from re-pressuring systems and evaporation from conventional system. Heating system Inhibitors should be added to a clean heating system following a chemical flush for a complete new installation or a power flush for most boiler replacements where the existing heating system is still being utilised. When they are added to a dirty system (containing central heating sludge/sediment) they will not be as effective, how less effective will depend on how much sludge is present within the heating system. We would advise a home owner to obtain a water sample from the bleed vent of a radiator or drain point where possible once a year. This should be done when the heating system is in operation (is hot) and can be collected into a small cup. The water should be inspected for discoloration (brown/black) and any visible sediment and a simple inhibitor test kit from the manufacture of inhibitor used in your system can be used to check the levels to make sure there are sufficient levels. Where levels are low and/or discoloured water/sediment is present, we would advise you contact you heating engineer/company to deal with such issues. Where sludge levels are enough to be problematic, a power flush may be required.
We undertake power flushing in Hereford, Worcester and the surrounding areas for a competitive price, which is fixed, or we can also be contacted to top-up system inhibitor levels when required. Up-to-date prices can be found on our website for both power flushing and hourly rates.
Thermostatic radiator valves, due to how they work, will commonly stick closed and prevent the radiator from getting hot when they have been turned to off, or on a low setting, throughout the summer months. We advise that when you turn you heating off in the spring/summer, that you open all valves fully to the highest setting. This will drastically reduce the likelihood of sticking occurring and reduce the need for engineer call-outs/visits.
Boilers that go un-serviced for sustained periods often require expensive repairs when they fail. A simple fault/defect can turn into a major issue over months/years if unnoticed, hence why a regular boiler service is advised. For most, if not all boiler manufacture warranties, an annual boiler service is required to prevent any boiler guarantees/warranties from being invalidated. If you have not had your boiler serviced in a while or need an annual boiler service in Worcester, Hereford and the areas that surround them, then contact us today. Our competitive and fixed rate service prices can be found on our website.
5. Buying into gimmicks
The two main gimmicks we are asked about currently are magnetic filtration and ‘smart’ heating controls that can be operated from mobile devices and computers. In our opinion both of these for most people are a complete waste of money and the latter will increase the complexity of your system and increase the likelihood of the system going down/failing and you being required to pay for call-outs/repairs.
Magnetic filtration, although some can leak after being serviced, generally will not increase the likelihood of your system having additional problems, they may do the opposite, however to the extent of which they do this, in our opinion, is grossly over-rated. Due to the costs that installers often charge to install such equipment, we rarely find it to be cost effective and give a reliable return to the home owner. If you system has been flushed and treated properly, then a magnetic filter is not required, more information about this can be found by clicking here.
Remote heating controls, often touted as “smart controls” for most people are not required. Smart controls also include controls that are not operated by devices such as phones and computers, of which these devices we are not debating here. In some situations remote heating controls can work well, however what is not often explained or considered by potential buyers are the varying additional ways these can cause your system to stop working. As these controls rely on a varying number of systems, they increase your heating systems complexity as a whole, and therefore the likelihood that your system will fail to operate correctly/at all increases. In comparison to standard/normal heating controls, which will only fault where a fault exists with the device itself, these systems can also cause failures due to:
- Internet service issues
- Router issues
- Modem issues
- Wi-Fi issues
- App/Software issues
Unless you have premises that requires remote heating operation, or you work away for long periods and are forgetful at turning off your heating system when you go away, then these controls are nothing more than a gimmick that will not only cost you more than a standard controller in most instances to install, but will have more faults and may cost you more money to run. The savings these may make in fuel in compared to a good quality standard heating control for a normal home situation will be negligible at best in our opinion.
6. Fuel Wastage
Outside of a central heating system not being designed for the use it is intended to do or installed correctly, which is very common, the next major loss in fuel normally comes from the user. The common areas where the user wastes fuel whilst using heating systems are:
- Leaving windows and doors open when the heating system is running
- Leaving the heating running when no one is at home for long periods
- Not setting stats, such as room stats or thermostatic radiator valves to provide a comfortable temperature and overheating spaces
- Heating spaces that nobody is using on a regular basis
- Failing to address poor insulation aspects about their property
- Having the radiator operating temperature set to high on the boiler
By setting the boilers and heating systems controls correctly and dealing with poor user habits, the user can save a significant amount of money each year on fuel costs. Consulting your service engineer for advice whilst having your boiler serviced is recommended should you need advice with your heating system and its controls.
Contact Forthright Bromyard today for all your central heating system and boiler requirements. We cover most of the Herefordshire and Worcestershire regions and offer a high quality and professional, but affordable service.