Updated on 28th April, 2023 by Martin Astley
Are you searching for a back boiler replacement due to inconsistent heating and an inadequate hot water supply? If so, you’ve come to the right place! This article will explain a back boiler, compare it to modern technologies, discuss the replacement cost, and more. Let’s get started!
Introduction: What is a Back Boiler?
A back boiler, first invented in the 1960s, is a heating device fitted to a heating stove or open fireplace in homes to provide hot water and heating. Back-boiler installation took only about 2–3 days at a time. Back boilers are the oldest traditional method of obtaining heat and hot water and can even replace a central heating and boiler system.
They were highly popular in the UK from the 1960s to the 1980s. But with the introduction of more efficient boilers, they have since been overshadowed.
How Does the Back Boiler Work?
Back boilers are hidden behind a chimney or fireplace. Their operation involves using the heat generated by the open fire in the fireplace to heat the water and provide warm air for our central heating system.
The diagram shows that the back boiler system takes its water supply from the mains, fed through a cold-water tank, usually in the loft. The water is then heated by the back boiler and stored in the hot water cylinder, from where it is transferred to your radiators, providing you with a comfortable and cosy home.
Back Boiler vs Modern Technology Boilers
Back boilers have been losing popularity as modern boilers such as system, heat-only, and combi boilers offer up to 20–30% more efficiency than back boilers. Condensing boilers have gained popularity since 2005 due to their high efficiency ratings, low fuel waste, and lower energy consumption, which results in lower energy bills.
This is why many homeowners, particularly in the UK, are looking for alternatives to back boilers, as they are becoming increasingly difficult to maintain. If you are also looking for a back boiler replacement and are unsure of the possible options, we have provided suitable alternatives below:
Upgrade Back Boiler with a Regular Boiler
Regular or heat-only boilers are an excellent choice for replacing your back boiler. Regular boilers require both a hot water storage tank and a cold water storage tank to provide your home with heating and hot water in multiple bathrooms.
To gain a better understanding of regular boilers, be sure to check out our blog post, “What are Heat-Only Boilers?” for more information.
Upgrade Back Boiler with a System Boiler
Another boiler option like a regular boiler in some ways is a system boiler. Ideal for larger households, the system boiler takes its water supply directly from the mains and requires only a hot water storage cylinder, making it a space-efficient choice.
If you have two or more bathrooms in your home and five to six people who require hot water, replacing your back boiler with a system boiler is an ideal choice to help you save money and electricity in the long run.
To learn more about the system boiler, check out our blog post on “What is a system boiler?” for more information.
Upgrade Back Boiler with a Combi Boiler
If you have a smaller household with one or two bathrooms, you could consider replacing your back boiler with a combi boiler. Combis boast an impressive efficiency rating of 90%+, and their compact design makes them easy to install. Plus, they come with various options, such as different wattage output sizes and fuel types.
To learn more about combi boilers’ advantages, check out our blog post, “All About Combi Boilers.”
Advantages and disadvantages to consider:
There are several factors to consider when considering the advantages and disadvantages of a back boiler.
- The ability to provide hot water to radiators and warm air for central heating systems.
- Compatibility with other systems to maximise efficiency and performance.
- Low running costs, as they can be attached to a central heating system and use their energy to generate heat without relying heavily on immersion heaters.
- The ability to be hidden behind a chimney, making the home space efficient. Plus, they can be reliable and long-lasting with regular maintenance.
- Back boilers are less energy efficient than modern boilers, with an efficiency rating of up to 70%. In contrast, boilers with condensing technology have an efficiency rating of 90% or higher.
- Additionally, back boilers are highly dependent on the chimney flue, meaning that if something goes wrong, toxic fumes can build up in the home, making them dangerous.
- Furthermore, the reliance on the chimney for boiler ventilation limits the ability to redesign or renovate the fireplace.
- Finally, the boiler’s ventilation system can be noisy, disruptive, and irritating.
What Are the Reasons For Replacing Your Back Boiler?
- Replacing your old back boiler with a new, efficient one can help reduce your carbon footprint and contribute to the environment.
- Back boilers have an efficiency rating of up to 70%, which wastes energy and increases your energy bills by up to 30%.
- Finding replacement parts for back boilers is challenging, as they are no longer manufactured, meaning their parts are also unavailable. If something goes wrong with your boiler, you may struggle to find the part or wait weeks until someone can arrange it.
- Furthermore, if parts are unavailable, some engineers may try to solve the problem by fitting non-genuine parts, which can cause the boiler to malfunction and put your safety at risk.
Are Back boilers Now Illegal In the UK?
Yes, all new boilers installed must have an efficiency rating of at least 86%, as mandated by the Government Building Regulations of 2005. Generally, these boilers are condensing, but in some rare cases, an engineer may install a system or regular boiler if instructed. Unfortunately, back boilers are no longer allowed.
How Much Does it Cost to Replace a Back Boiler?
Now let’s get to the price. If you only want to move the back boiler without changing the central heating system fully, the removal cost will range from £950 to £1,600. However, if you are looking for a full replacement of a back boiler, including the pipework and central heating system, the cost you must pay will range between £2,800 and £4,700.
These prices are just estimates, and the cost may increase depending on the type of boiler you choose in kilowatts (kW) and the number of rooms and radiators.
Replacing a Back Boiler Creates a Lot of Mess!
If you’re wondering about the mess a back boiler replacement will create, let us assure you that there will be some untidiness. Removing the back boiler involves the removal of its flue and gas fire, which can result in dust and dirty water. Additionally, you must remember to remove and dispose of the waste pipework, which may damage your floor.
Back boilers have been serving for years, but nowadays they are illegal to install due to UK government regulations and the associated accidents. Furthermore, their efficiency lags far behind that of modern boiler technology. Therefore, the best choice you can make is to remove your back boiler and replace it with a more efficient one.
The condensing technology will not only save you money on your energy bills, but it will also reduce your carbon footprint. If you want to replace your old boiler, visit our new boiler page. If you have a budget issue, you can also get a new boiler on finance.
Back boilers are dangerous or not?
Back boilers can pose a greater safety risk if they are not maintained and serviced according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Carelessness towards its maintenance can lead to the formation of carbon monoxide emissions, which can be hazardous when inhaled. To ensure safety, it is essential to ensure that the back boiler is installed correctly with adequate ventilation.
Homeowners should also be aware of the potential for scalding from hot water stored in back boilers, particularly when connected to a bath or shower valve assembly, as without proper precaution, extremely hot water can be released suddenly. Additionally, it is important to ensure that the back boiler system has correctly working thermostats and safety valves installed as part of its design.
These safety precautions are essential to minimize the dangers associated with back boilers and ensure that they run effectively and efficiently without compromising safety of your homes.
Who can replace my back boiler?
How long does it take to replace a back boiler?
Can you still buy back boilers?
Can you sell a house with a back boiler?
When thinking of selling a house with a back boiler, the homeowner should conduct a home inspection to determine the efficiency of the system. A reliable back boiler can be a great heating solution in chilly climates. However, when past its prime, it can lead to large energy losses and increased utility expenses for buyers. In addition, homeowners need to consider local regulations for the repair and replacement of this older technology.
Saleability may ultimately depend on the opinion of an expert, who should evaluate whether these inspections reveal underlying issues and advise if the existing back boiler is still deemed feasible.
It is highly recommended that sellers investigate further into their model before attempting to put their home on the market with an active back boiler.