Martyn Bridges of Worcester Bosch outlines the future of safety and sustainability in the boiler market.
Over the last 20 to 30 years, boilers have become extremely safe appliances to have in your home, particularly since the advent of Condensing boilers, which have eliminated open flue boilers from the market.
All boilers in the UK today, with a few exceptions, are room-sealed. This means that the combustion products are sealed from the room and have no chance of re-entering, which of course wasn’t the case with old style open flue appliances. The only chance of any recycling or re-entering of flue gases into a property is if the flue terminal is too close to a window or air vent, or if the flue attached to the boiler has not been connected correctly, or has been damaged.
In the first instance, it is important to state that UK appliances are very safe. We know this because there are 24 million homes with a boiler installed and evidence of problems are extremely rare.
Notwithstanding, there is still a requirement from the Health and Safety Executive that every landlord’s tenant property has a gas safety check undertaken on an annual basis. This echoes some countries in Europe which require this across the board, but in the UK, it is only the landlord-tenant situation where this is a legal requirement. And unfortunately, as much as the industry has campaigned, it is still not a necessity in an owner-occupier situation, which is quite bizarre as the owner-occupier uses exactly the same appliance as a landlord-tenant property. So why is one stricter than the other
in terms of requirements? Logically, both property tenures should be subjected to a gas safety check annually. The gas safety check would normally entail a boiler service, although it is not a necessity, just a recommendation. However, where an engineer is available and conducts the gas safety check, it would make sense to service the boiler following manufacturer’s instructions, while taking a flue analysis of the appliance products of combustion to make sure all is running smoothly.
It is a requirement to check the flue termination position, to check nothing has changed since the last service. From time to time things like extensions built to a property without extending the flue appear. In addition to this, checking that no trees or foliage are growing around the flue terminal is important. While not a safety requirement, it is a sensible precaution to check the quality of the system water running through the radiators. To make this easier, nowadays there are some digital tools which enable you to check the strength and efficacy of system water.
Not only is safety a principle and prime concern when it comes to boilers, but these kinds of tests will also help to avoid disruption to the heating operation. The last thing you want is to have a tenant contact you with no heating and hot water when it is possible this could be prevented by a proactive service and replacement of consumable parts which manufacturer’s instructions may request even though the boiler is working.
Some manufacturers suggest changing certain SEALs or components, which would mean it is incumbent upon the landlord to have the appliances serviced annually.
When it comes down to boilers, reliability and safety is paramount, with another consideration being that continuity of use is paramount to reliability.
There are things that can be done to prevent frozen condensate pipes, for example, if there are externally run condensate discharge pipes from any of the installations, it would make more sense to either reroute them, if possible, into an internal termination or at the very least insulate or use another type of anti-freeze product to avoid this from happening.
It makes sense that if anyone still has standard efficiency boilers installed within any of their properties then they would be at least sixteen years old by now. Now is the time, from an environmental and performance perspective, to replace them with new condensing boilers which can be anything up to 15-20% more efficient, as well as kinder to the environment.
Martyn Bridges is director of technical communication and product management at Worcester Bosch