Home heating boilers are, for most of us, an essential item unless you’re lucky enough to live in a passive house which doesn’t need one.
Due to our fabulous climate (not) the UK isn’t exactly the warmest of places in the world and as a result we’re all very familiar with home heating boilers.
These take many forms and depending on where you live in the UK, chances are you’ll either use an oil fired boiler or a mains gas boiler. There are of course other options including liquid petroleum gas (LPG), wood pellet boilers and even heat pumps.
When considering “traditional” boilers, the biggest technological step forward in recent years was the introduction of condensing technology. This redistributes heat from the exhaust gases back into the system to avoid wasting heat. So throughout this section I'll cover the following aspects of condensing boilers:
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Many homes in the UK are using old boilers and people simply don’t stop to think how inefficient they actually are. Most of us just accept that we will get gas or oil bills and don’t really question it. But by replacing your old boiler with a modern alternative you could end up with a condensing boiler that’s over 90% efficient.
That is, if you consider that an inefficient boiler (say 65% efficient) would burn approximately 25% more gas than an efficient boiler it’s not hard to calculate the potential savings.
I recently worked with a guy who owns a large house that had a 10-year-old oil-fired boiler and an oil burning AGA cooker to provide his hot water and a background heat. The house was also 10 years old and was insulated to the standards of the time. During a typical winter his oil bill is around £400 per month or £0.09/sq.ft per month.
Compare that with my house which last winter worked out at £0.04/sq.ft. per month. Now I appreciate that there are a lot of differences between our two houses (my house is smaller and has additional benefits like triple glazing, excellent draft proofing, 400mm insulation in the roof and 150mm in the walls) so the huge difference isn’t just down to my condensing boiler.
My point is, that while a modern condensing boiler will be more efficient than an older boiler and will save you money, you also need to look at the bigger picture and consider how well insulated your house is. Without good insulation, the heat that is produced by your new efficient condensing boiler will just escape into the atmosphere. That means it will have to fire more often to replace that lost heat.
None of the green technologies or eco technologies should be considered in isolation. They’re all interconnected and need to be thought about together.
So in conclusion, modern condensing home heating boilers will be more efficient and will save you money, even if you don’t change anything else in your home.
But, if you were to carry out a few relatively simple tasks (e.g. increasing the insulation in your roof void to 300mm, installing cavity wall insulation, and reducing the amount of unnecessary drafts in your home) as well, your house will stay warmer for longer and you’ll save even more money. In turn that would mean your boiler would have to fire even less and you would use less gas or heating oil, meaning lower heating bills.