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Heating repairs could burn a hole in household budgets this winter



Heating repairs could burn a hole in household budgets this winter

Brits face wasting over 64 million this winter on unnecessary boiler and heating system repair bills, according to uSwitch.com, the independent switching and price comparison service. The news comes as Britons get set to switch their heating back on last year 5 million householders (21%) switched their heating on at the beginning of October and, by the beginning of November, only 4% were still yet to be switched on.

And yet the great winter switch comes at a risk of nearly one in three boilers break down within six years of being installed while repair bills could set people back by as much as 470. Despite this, only a quarter (28%) of householders have emergency heating cover in place. And, not only are people seemingly prepared to take a chance on their boiler breaking down, but they also seem prepared to gamble with their safety - 43% do not get their boiler serviced annually, while one in five have never had their boiler serviced.

The cost of repairing a broken boiler can vary greatly and can depend as much on where you live as on the extent of the actual problem. The average hourly rate for a plumber in London is approximately 76.47 - twice as much as the average for the South West (37.83) and more than three times the rate for the North West (22.70). Plumbers in Yorkshire are the most competitively priced, charging a mere 17.70 per hour.

The average callout charge and repair costs for the ten most common domestic gas heating faults are:

Potential Faults - Average Repair cost

Main Heat exchanger 468.55
Cylinder 405.69
Main PCB (Printed Circuit Board - Electronics) 223.49
Fan 214.76
Radiator 201.44
Gas Valve 192.34
Motorised Valve 161.46
Circulating Pump 143.26
Programmer 128.64
Room Thermostat 88.99

Table provided by Domestic & General based on the total repair costs, which includes labour and materials. Costs are an average across quotes from 12 local plumbers.

So, while a plumber in London paying a two hour visit will cost around 153, having heating cover in place could cost as little as 9 a month, or 108 per year. Heating cover typically covers a range of services including boiler and controls, radiators and thermostats. Some even include an annual service or inspection. Price and level of cover varies from provider to provider which is why it is important that customers compare on level of service as well as cost to ensure that the cover fully meets their needs.

Levels of cover do not just differ between providers, but also between different products offered by the same provider. For example Powergen has two types of cover one costing 9 a month, or 108 a year, while the other costs 13 per month (156 per year.)

Ann Robinson, Director of Consumer Policy at uSwitch.com, comments: a Household budgets are stretched so tight that it's very tempting to try to make a quick saving by not bothering to cover things like your boiler. Unfortunately this small saving can end up costing you dear if your boiler packs up this winter you are likely to be facing a 500 bill, plus the misery of trying to get somebody out quickly to sort it out for you not much fun in the middle of winter.

Many consumers may be put off because they believe that they have to take cover through their energy provider. This is not the case it can be arranged separately so you are free to find the best level of cover and price for you. But, at the very least, consumers should consider the old saying that prevention is better than cure even if you cannot afford cover it is still important to have your boiler inspected once a year to try and avoid problems before they occur. Failure to do this could damage your health and your wealth.

uSwitch.com tips

Didyou know...

You don't have to sign up for heating cover with your standard gas supplier, choose the most appropriate cover to suit your needs

An annual service and safety inspection helps reduce the chance of fatal carbon monoxide leaks and improves energy efficiency

Boilers that are not regularly serviced will produce less heat from the energy consumed which in turn means they cost more to run

Often, a boiler will break down without warning. Sometimes when one part starts to go wrong other problems rapidly follow. Here are a few tell-tale signs to watch out for:

The radiators don't get as hot as they should

It takes a long time to get hot water from the taps

Strange banging noises could mean trouble, so call for help straight away

To help prevent boiler bother, you should:

Make sure that you keep the whole area around the boiler clean

Have regular maintenance checks

Don't overheat your house

Turning your central heating thermostat down by 1 degree celsius could save you up to 10% on bills

Carbon Monoxide is the silent killer - poisoning can be avoided by ensuring that fuel-burning appliances have the correct level of ventilation. Never allow chimneys or air vents to become blocked. Have your appliances checked by a CORGI registered engineer once a year.

If your boiler is more than 10 to 15 years old then it is worth replacing it with anew, energy efficient condensing model. This could save the average family household up to 120 on annual fuel bills or 190 to 240 if in conjunction with full heating controls.

New boilers cost anything from 1,500 to buy and install. If this is too expensive, a 10 British Standard lagging jacket will make your existing boiler more energy-efficient and save about 20 a year.

Sent: 24/09/2007


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