Solar Power the Answer for Condensing Boiler Upgrades

by Solar Selections on March 28, 2012

A cut through image of a condensing boiler A Condensing Boiler

With the April 1st 2012 deadline upon us, solar power installations in the UK must now abide by the EPC requirements to access the full solar feed-in tariff rates. One of the pivotal aspects with domestic homes reaching the ‘D’ banded EPC rating is the presence of a condensing boiler. This is because in combination with a solar power system the condensing boiler lifts the majority of properties into the required EPC band. However, as a mandatory replacement for all ageing boilers in the UK, should those without condensing boilers be using this solar opportunity to reduce the costs of an upgrade before its too late? This article will discuss this matter, as well as the relative costs, benefits, savings and contribution to the energy efficiency assessment a condensing boiler provides.

Boilers are present in the majority of properties across the UK so this is an issue that affects everyone. Heating the water and radiators of our homes and businesses is a costly, constant and important job and as such the type of boiler being used is paramount.

Standard Boiler

Typical boilers work by burning a methane fuel and producing a hot gas. The heat from this gas is transferred to the water circulating throughout the home and into the radiators; heating the property and its water respectively. Within this process 25% of the heat is removed from the system through exhaust vents and lost to the atmosphere. This is where the condensing boiler is revolutionary in its design.

Condensing Boiler

A condensing boiler captures the waste heat and re-distributes it throughout the system. It does this by condensing the heated waste vapour into water, using it to pre-heat the cold water entering the boiler. Whilst it is impossible due to transmission losses to harness all of this 25%, most condensing boilers claim to increase the efficiency by 10-12% over a standard boiler. This amount should therefore equal the savings on the bills, or £230 to the average home. So effective a concept; Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott rallied the UK Government in 2005 to ensure that all replacement boilers would need to be of the condensing variety.

Properties with a Condensing Boiler

The good news is if you’ve had your boiler replaced after 2005 it is going to be a condensing boiler automatically. These boilers contribute massively to the prejudged efficiency of the property. Our article on the EPC requirements for solar PV explains this in greater detail. In combination with the solar PV’s contribution this clears the majority of homes into the required ‘D’ band for the solar tariff automatically.

Properties without a Condensing Boiler

Those without the boiler upgrade are left with the choice of upgrading or waiting for their boiler to fail. The trouble is that condensing boilers are not cheap; a new condensing boiler will cost from £1,500 to £2,500 parts and installation. Hardly a very attractive investment in itself considering the savings. They typically come with a 2-5 year warranty and most breakdowns are expected to occur from the 6-10 year mark. How much use the boiler is going through, the temperature disparity between outside and in and the heat settings will have the largest impact on the wear and tear. Condensing boilers are expensive to repair, given their system price is already quite high.

So here’s the point for all those without a condensing boiler:

  • You are going to need to replace your existing boiler when it breaks down in the coming few years;
  • Without question it will need to be replaced with a condensing boiler;
  • This will cost you £1,500 to £2,500 and will save you around 10%-12% off your heating bills a year.
So you can either factor this loss into your books, sit back and wait for the heating to fail or do something about it. Let’s not forget that when the UK government made condensing boiler upgrades mandatory they introduced grants for households to convert their existing systems. During this time the people that switched saved considerable amounts by taking advantage of the initial uptake. Nowadays however, there is no flag parade arranged for those whose boiler breaks down. All they are left with is the expensive cost of installing a renewable upgrade the government have endorsed. The questions then become:
  • Do any other such upgrades exists currently that may help to combat this situation?
  • Do any such upgrades enjoy generous incentives lowering payback lengths and savings households hundreds of pounds per year?
  • Are these incentives being reduced in the near future, lengthening payback and lowering the effective savings?
The answer is solar power and it’s feed-in tariffs are being reduced on July the 1st 2012.

The Solar Solution

Installing a solar system before July 1st 2012 will save a household hundreds of pounds a year. Current pricing carries a return on investment of over 15% (from Solar Selections). Considering a 4kWp solar system can earn over £1,100 in it’s first year for most properties in Britain and Wales this could effectively reduce the overall costs and ensure significant savings in the short term outlook for your home and family. Solar is the perfect supplement for the mandatory condensing boiler upgrade.

If you don’t install solar power you will purchase the £1,500 to £2,500 condensing boiler upgrade soon enough and are simply left with the £230 odd savings to recoup your losses. If you do choose solar, your system pays itself and the boiler off in less time and you’re significantly better off from that point onward.

Written by Jarrah Harburn

jarrah@solarselections.co.uk

T: 020 7205 2267

© 2012 Solar Selections Ltd

Picture reference: Go to ‘energysavingwarehouse.co.uk’ and look for the high efficiency boilers article. 

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