Written by Neil Marsh MCIPHE RP RHP EngTech
In the first of our new series of articles, we will be writing to inform you of our views and thoughts about boiler models. We will be discussing the design strengths and weaknesses based on what we can see….
As we will be discussing mostly new models, we will be unable to talk about common problems. Each model at the time we write these articles will not have been on the market long enough to show any common faults, or hidden component weaknesses and design errors.
Ideal Vogue System Boiler (Gen 2)
In this article, we will be discussing the latest Ideal Vogue System Boiler version, known as the “Gen2”. We wish to note that Ideal also produces an Ideal Vogue Max System boiler, which internally appears to be no different in its design. The only difference we can see is that the Max pack comes with the Ideal System Filter as standard and has a 12-Year Warranty when installed by a “Max Accredited Installer”.
Our Thoughts On The Overall Design
Overall, this appears to currently be one of the better-built system boilers on the marketplace. Its price and the market-leading warranties of both Vogue versions (Max & Gen2), when compared to what else available, makes it a hard product to beat at present.
The layout of the boiler is very well thought out and it is easy to work on. This will help keep repair costs outside of the warranty lower due to reduced labour requirements where work is conducted on an hourly basis, or by an honest Gas Safe registered engineer who quotes fairly.
The boiler has a stainless steel heat exchanger, of which we would strongly advise in all instances over aluminium for the reasons specified here.
The gasket used to seal the heat exchanger door is of a silicone variety. There is no problem with this so long as the heat exchanger front face has a low enough surface temperature as not to cause the seal to deteriorate. Some boilers, from brands we will not mention, have been prone to seal failure due to heat it was exposed to and the lack of adequate and correctly undertaken servicing, leading to a number of boilers catching fire internally or being heat damaged. Only time will tell with this issue, but this appears to be a Giannoni manufactured heat exchanger, of which other boilers from other brands that use the same heat engine do not have this issue.
As the Ideal Vogue System boiler has only been on the market a few years, it does not have the history to show where its flaws are. Almost every boiler has common faults/weaknesses, of which some can take years to show. For now, we can only look at the design and build quality of the appliance, of which this certainly appears to be one of the better ones at present.
Our Main Criticism: The Front Case
Ideal has used a plastic front case, it looks nice as it is moulded, but our issue is with the hinges.
The hinges, of which there are three, can be seen in the photograph above. In our opinion, once these have been exposed to UV and varying temperatures over the years, they will likely become brittle as most plastics do. What we expect is that these will eventually break off during routine maintenance, resulting in what is likely to be an expensive part to replace. Call us sceptical, but we cannot help but think this may have been done on purpose, as without a working case to seal the boiler, it would lead to the boiler being “Immediately Dangerous” (ID) and resulting in it being capped off and made safe until the part was replaced. Not a bad way to drum up extra money for the manufacturer over the boilers life.
Other Concerns: The Plastic Manifold
The first generation of the Vogue combi boiler used brass manifolds, which have now been replaced by plastic versions. How the first version of the system boiler varied in comparison, to be fair we do not recollect. Admittedly, these appear to be Grundfos manufactured water blocks (behind the pump), which seem to be good quality. These feel robust and have thick plastic walls, which is good, but only time will tell if these plastics prove to be as durable as the brass versions that were on the original Vogue boilers. We have never known of a brass body section to fracture/split and leak, hence why we prefer brass. However, plastics do come in varying types and qualities, so it could prove to be adequately durable in time. Most of the water containing components other than the pipework are made from plastics.
Other Concerns: Boiler Location
The stainless steel heat exchanger is not fully stainless steel. The outer part that encases the heat exchanger (like above) is plastic. The issue here is if the heat exchanger were to overheat, due to the difference in expansion of the coil and the outer plastic encasing, the plastic could split. As a result, there is a thermal fuse fitted to the heat exchanger to stop the boiler working should this fuse be triggered. Once the thermal fuse has been triggered, there is no choice but to replace the main heat exchanger (the fuse is non-replaceable as result), of which it is a costly component on the boiler. Depending on the age of the boiler, it can often be more economical to replace the boiler than replace such an expensive part.
We would recommend not to install a boiler with a thermal fuse fitted in any locations where radiators or other water containing equipment/pipework in sufficient quantities are not present above the height of the boiler, such as lofts or the top floors where the boiler is above the height of the radiators and the majority, if not all of the pipework or any cylinders/stores installed.
With thermally fused heat exchangers, should the water pressure go low and there be no body of water above the boiler, then it is possible to overheat this component with air being present in the heating system. This can even occur with a low water pressure sensor fitted, of which the boiler is fitted with.
The thermal fuse is not unique to this boiler, many of which go without fault even when running at low pressure. However, given how the failure occurs (usually low pressure – usually a user related fault), if it did happen, it may be deemed to be outside of the warranties terms and conditions even if it was still within its warranty period.
Installer Dislikes: Power Flushing
The pressure sensor on this boiler senses the pump before it allows the boiler to fire. Due to how it works, it is not possible to run the boiler with a power flush machine attached through the pump via an adaptor, as it looks for a rise in pressure from the integral pump, which is not present during this process and is not possible to bypass. This means installing a Vogue System boiler onto a heavily soiled/sludged existing central heating system can present a problem, as utilising hot water produced from the boiler to aid power flushing is not possible.
In most instances, power flushing cold or with an initial preheat from the Vogue following will suffice. In some cases where the boiler being replaced is working, the power flush could be done before the Vogue was installed. However, where the Vogue is already installed, or where the pre-existing boiler does not work, and there is a heavily clogged system, it can drastically reduce the power flushing processes effectiveness.
Some power flushing machine have built in heaters to heat the water, which are okay for smaller systems without a working boiler However, with larger systems they can struggle to work effectively.
Being brutally honest, in our experience, most boilers installed to existing installations are not power flushed anyway, and as a result, many boilers under warranty end up being excluded.
Further information about power flushing can be found here
The Boilers Life Expectancy
So long as the heat exchanger is kept free from overheating, sludge and limescale and is serviced periodically, there is no reason in our opinion why this boiler could not last 18+ years with some modest part replacements.
How good the printed circuit board (PCB) is, only time will tell. The pump used has also yet to be proven, although we would say this pump is used on many other boilers also. So long as Ideal do not go crazy on spare part prices for such items, especially as the boiler ages, then the boiler should be financially viable to repair for some time.
In our opinion, this is currently one of the best value for money system boiler products on the market to date so long as Ideal honour the warranties, give a fair service and treat people fairly.