Your Questions Answered

Here are some of the topical and most frequently asked questions that our team of experts at the Heating Helpline are asked.

Click on the question to go straight to the answer or scroll down:

Are we eligible for an energy grant?

What is the Green Deal? Is it something we could benefit from?

How can I tell if my gas appliances are safe?

What is renewable energy – is it something we can benefit from?

Where can I find a reliable, reputable heating engineer?

What are smart meters and energy monitors?

Are condensing boilers prone to failure in cold weather?

How can I avoid being ripped off by rogue traders?

How do we go about replacing our old boiler?

How much should I expect to pay to replace our old boiler?

How much should I expect to pay to renew our central heating system?

We’re selling our house – do we need an energy performance certificate (EPC)?

The heating engineer I called for a quotation wants a survey fee/call out charge – is this right?

 

Are we eligible for an energy grant?

In the past the main help available was through the Warm Front Scheme but this closed to new applications in January 2013. For households seeking help and support now that Warm Front has ended the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) is available. The Energy Companies Obligation (ECO) is a government scheme designed to reduce the UK’s energy consumption and support those living in fuel poverty by funding energy efficiency improvements worth around £1.3 billion every year. Part of the ECO is specifically targeted at a wider group of low income households than Warm Front, helping them to keep warm and save money on energy bills.

ECO will run from January 2012 until March 2015, supporting the installation of energy efficiency measures in low-income households and properties that are harder to treat. It will work alongside the Green Deal to give consumers new ways of funding energy efficiency improvements in their homes. For more information about ECO and how to apply, please contact the Energy Saving Advice Service on 0300 123 1234.

The Energy Saving Advice Service can also provide information on the Green Deal and the type of help that might be available from your local authority and your energy (utility) provider.

For more advice click here to download our leaflet: ‘Energy Grants – What help is available’ (PDF 142KB)

You can also request a printed version of this leaflet by calling 0800 810 8303.

What is the Green Deal? Is it something we could benefit from?

The Green Deal came into force from January 2013. Homeowners and tenants will be able to make energy saving improvements such as installing solar panels and new boilers through the Green Deal. From 1st October 2012 accredited advisers including energy companies, retailers and leading contractors / installers have been able to survey homes and assess the most effective improvements for that property. The cost of the loan can be spread over periods up 25 years and collected via energy bills. To qualify for this Green Deal Finance any potential improvement will have to be matched by savings on energy bills – this is the so called ‘Golden Rule” for example if you want to install solar panels at a cost of £7000 over 10 years then the savings on bills over 10 years must be at least £7000 for the finance to be approved. This new innovative Green Deal financial mechanism eliminates the need to pay upfront for energy efficiency measures and instead provides reassurances that the cost of the measures should be covered by savings on energy bills.

Only authorised installers will be able to identify themselves as ‘Green Deal Installers’ and use the Green Deal Quality Mark. Authorised installers will be certified under the relevant certification scheme for their trade. It is envisaged that the standard of installation will be appropriately guaranteed.

For more information about the Green Deal download our information leaflet: ‘The Green Deal – Is it for you’ (PDF 248KB)

You can also request a printed version of this leaflet by calling 0800 810 8303.

How can I tell if my gas appliances are safe?

Gas is the most commonly used fuel for home heating systems across the country and although in principle it is completely safe, lack of routine maintenance means too many people still needlessly die every year from preventable gas-related carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide is a silent killer and failure to properly maintain gas appliances can put you and your family at risk, so it is essential that gas appliances are maintained in good condition and subjected to annual maintenance and safety checks by a qualified Gas Safe registered engineer.

If your boiler is more than ten years old or has been infrequently serviced in the past, you really should contact a Gas Safe Registered engineer to have your heating system and gas fired appliances inspected.

Even though you cannot see or smell carbon monoxide there are vital signs to look out for such as:

• Sooting and staining on or around your gas boiler or appliance

• Excessive condensation in the room where an appliance is installed

• A lazy, yellow-orange gas flame instead of blue

Fitting a European Standard certified audible carbon monoxide alarm is a vital second line of defence after having your appliances safety checked.

For more information visit the Carbon Monoxide Helpline: www.cohelpline.org or call 0800 810 8464.

What is renewable energy – is it something we can benefit from?

The term “renewable energy” can be a little confusing: what does it actually mean? In simple terms, renewable energy is energy generated from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides and geothermal heat (from the air or ground). They are naturally replenished or replaced, hence “renewable”. Generating your own heat and power could help you save energy and money – and now could be the perfect time to invest for the future.

There are many different types of renewable energy sources, each offering different ‘paybacks’. The best way to learn more about each one is to download our leaflet: ‘Renewable energy – All you need to know’ (PDF 278KB)

You can also request a printed version of this leaflet by calling 0800 810 8303.

Where can I find a reliable, reputable heating engineer?

To find a reputable, qualified heating engineer use the search facility on this website (‘Find a Trusted Heating Engineer’) or call the Heating Helpline on: 0800 810 8303.

All the companies in the directory are members of B&ES, the Building & Engineering Services Association. B&ES members all undergo inspection and assessment of their technical competence and commercial capability every three years. This process is carried out by an independent certification body with an established industry reputation.

All B&ES members that undertake gas installations or work on gas-fired appliances in the home are registered with Gas Safe – the gas safety watchdog body.

B&ES members are also members of TrustMark, the Government-endorsed scheme designed to direct consumers towards reliable tradespeople.

What are smart meters and energy montors?

Energy monitors and smart meters are designed to help you save money on your energy bills but there is a difference:

  • Energy monitors are small gadgets that estimates in real time how much energy you’re using, so you can see where to cut back. It clips on to your mains cables by your meter and you can install it yourself.
  • Smart meters also provide information about how much energy you’re using but they also communicate with your gas or electricity supplier to tell them how much energy you are using. This means no more estimated bills. A smart meter will replace your old style standard meter and usually come with a separate display monitor that looks like an energy monitor. It needs to be installed by your gas or electricity supplier.

By showing you how much energy you use at different times and for different tasks, both energy monitors and smart meters can make you more aware of your energy consumption. This may help you see opportunities to use less energy and save money.

If you want a smart meter, you should contact your energy supplier to make your request.

Are condensing boilers prone to failure in cold weather?

One unforeseen development of the very low winter temperatures experienced in the UK in last few years has been the widespread breakdown of modern condensing boilers.

Condensing boilers recover a great deal more of the heat produced when gas is burned, to the point where some of the by-products of combustion – water vapour – condense inside the boiler and have to be disposed of. This involves an extra pipe to take the condensed water away to the property’s waste water drainage system. In some cases the routing of the pipe will involve running the pipework on the outside wall of the property and positioning the outlet over an adjacent household drain. What has happened during these sub zero temperatures is that the condensed water has frozen in the external pipework, stopping the flow and the safety systems within the appliance have then shut the boiler down.

To prevent this happening take advice from a local Gas Safe Registered installer. The favoured options to overcome the problem are likely to be:-

  • Where possible, have the condensate pipework re-routed inside the property and connected to the property’s internal drainage system.
  • Have “trace heating” fitted to the external pipework to keep it warm.
  • Change the external pipework to one with a larger diameter – some research suggests this can reduce the risk of freezing and pipe blockage.

How can I avoid being ripped off by rogue traders?

It’s all too easy to get ripped-off by a rogue trader – to find a reputable, qualified heating engineer use the search facility (Find a Trusted Heating Engineer) on this website. For other trades the easiest way to locate reputable, reliable tradespeople is to use a TrustMark registered company. By doing so you can be confident that the firm operates according to the very best industry standards set out by the government. TrustMark covers most of the trades householders look for such as builders, plumbers, electricians, glaziers, roofers, landscape gardeners and damp-proof specialists.

Visit the TrustMark website at: www.trustmark.org.uk

For more advice download our leaflet: ‘How to avoid rogue traders’ (PDF 206KB)

You can also request a printed version of this leaflet by calling 0800 810 8303.

How do we go about replacing our old boiler?

The starting point is to ask advice and obtain quotes from reliable, reputable, registered heating engineer. The easiest way to find reputable heating engineers is to use the search facility on this website (‘Find a Trusted Heating Engineer’).

Your local registered heating engineer will offer professional advice on what type and perhaps make of boiler suits your requirements and your budget. But there is no harm in knowing a little about the types of boilers and systems available – it could help you get the best heating system for your home. For more information about new boilers including the various types of boilers available download our leaftet: ‘What Boiler’ (PDF 220KB)

You can also request a printed version of this leaflet by calling 0800 810 8303.

How much should I expect to pay to replace our old boiler?

Without knowing your exact heating requirements it would be impossible to say. A reputable heating engineer should carry out a survey of your property and discuss your requirements in terms of heating and hot water. From this the heating engineer will be able to recommend the right boiler / system that would meet your needs. As a rough guide for a family of four (two adults and two children below twelve) in a three bedroom terrace property you would expect to pay between £1800 – £2500 for a new boiler.

How much should I expect to pay to renew our central heating system?

Without knowing your exact heating requirements it would be impossible to say. A reputable heating engineer should carry out a survey of your property and be informed how many independent water users are resident in the home. From this the engineer will be able to recommend the right system to meet your needs. As a rough guide for a family of four (two adults and two children below twelve) in a three bedroom terrace property you would expect to pay around £5,000 for a new central heating system.

We’re selling our house – do we need an energy performance certificate (EPC)?

An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) is compulsory whenever a flat, house or building is built, sold or rented out. They are designed to help residents and occupants improve the energy efficiency of the property, saving energy and therefore money as well as cutting the property’s carbon footprint.

The certificate provides ‘A’ to ‘G’ ratings for the building, with ‘A’ being the most energy efficient and ‘G’ being the least, with the average up to now being ‘D’. The EPC will also list energy saving recommendations to demonstrate how much more efficient the house could be and how you could save on your bills.

EPCs can only be provided by accredited energy assessors. As 90% of people in England use an estate agent to sell their property, it’s likely that most will leave it to the agent to arrange the EPC.

For a list of approved accreditation schemes in England and Wales visit http://www.directgov.uk or contact your local authority.

For more advice download our leaflet: ‘Energy Performance Certificates – What You Need To Know’ (PDF 365KB)

You can also request a printed version of this leaflet by calling 0800 810 8303.

The heating engineer I called for a quotation wants a survey fee/call out charge – is this right?

There are no laws that govern the charges tradespeople demand. Each installer will apply charges as they see fit. What is important is that they make you aware of their charges before you agree to employ to them. This should include making you aware of any call out charge just for visiting you. Most reputable heating engineers are happy to make an initial visit to discuss your requirements at no charge, following up with a free quotation.