Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Features

Don't get into hot water when it comes to boilers

Time to find a replacement model? It can be a daunting prospect, ripping out your central heating, but sometimes it just has to be done. So how do you go about picking a new one?

By Julia Gray

1. A boiler that's 15 years old or older is only around 60-70% efficient, meaning that as much as 30-40p of every pound spent on heating and hot water is wasted. Many older boilers also have a standing pilot light, which can cost around £50-£60 a year to keep alight. That's a lot of cash spiralling down the drain. Investing in a brand new A-rated condensing boiler could mean a jump to 90% efficiency, and a heavier purse to boot.

2. The size of your home, especially the number of bathrooms/shower rooms you have, as well as how much heating and hot water your household uses, will largely determine your choice of boiler. There are three main types of boiler: system, regular, and combination (or combi). Regular boilers have a cylinder (to store hot water) and often an expansion tank too. System boilers also use stored water, which allows them to feed several hot water outlets, such as taps, at the same time.

3. "Regular boilers require more space than combi or system boilers, as they often need an expansion tank in the loft, and are suitable for homes with more than two bathrooms and where hot water usage is high but water pressure is low," says Martyn Bridges of boiler manufacturer Worcester, Bosch Group.

"System boilers have most of the major components of the heating and hot water system built in, making them more efficient and less space consuming, as there is no need for a tank in the loft. They are connected to either a mains-pressure hot water-storage cylinder or a more traditional low-pressure, tank-fed cylinder."

4. Combis are a popular choice, but they're often not suitable for larger homes. With a combi, you only have to find room for the boiler itself - there's no hot water cylinder or expansion tank, although some combis have built-in tanks, which can give the higher flow rates needed in bigger properties. Combis heat water on demand, so you only pay for what you use, and deliver it at mains pressure. While combis are most suitable for homes with one bathroom/shower room, they can work well in homes with two, providing they're powerful enough. More than that and a system or regular boiler might be a better fit.

5. It's a good idea to ask a reputable heating engineer (find a Worcester-accredited one at for advice about boilers, as more than one type may be suitable for your home. And remember to factor in future changes you may make, such as adding bathrooms/shower rooms, or expanding your household - the more people there are, the more hot water you'll be using.

Product of the week

Looking for a good, reliable white paint that covers brilliantly? Ronseal Stays White One Coat Paint in Pure Brilliant White for Wood & Metal (£12 for 750ml, B&Q), is a new water-based paint available in a matt, satin or gloss finish. I only used water-based white wood and metal paints because the oil-based ones I’ve tried have discoloured, whereas water-based ones stay white, which is what you need. The problem with water-based ones is they often don’t cover well and require several coats. This Ronseal paint is different — it doesn’t always cover in one go, but it does cover much better than any other water-based white wood and metal paint I’ve used, and it dries quickly, saving time and effort. It gets my vote.

How-to tip

If your home’s radiators are cold at the top but hot lower down when the heating’s on, there’s probably air trapped inside and they need to be bled. This Worcester video — — explains how to bleed a radiator safely and with little mess (make sure you’ve got a top notch radiator key), including a reminder that you may have to top up the system pressure afterwards, depending on your type of boiler.

Belfast Telegraph


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