Sunday, 24 January 2010

Tempted by the boiler scrappage scheme?

Homeowners considering signing up to the government's £400 boiler scrappage grant have been warned it could prove "financial madness" by Britain's best-known plumber, who also says many modern condensing boilers simply aren't up to the job.

Charlie Mullins, managing director of Pimlico Plumbers, says most people would be far better off avoiding the scheme if it involves ripping out an inefficient, but functioning boiler. He warns that new models can be problematic, expensive to repair and often don't last.

Mullins, known as the plumber to the stars with his company's vans usually found in London's wealthiest areas, also questions whether the £50m scrappage scheme will help the people who most need it. He argues that it gives the well-off an unnecessary grant.

Under the terms of the scheme, households in England can get a £400 grant towards the cost of installing a new A-rated condensing boiler. To be eligible, most households have to be prepared to spend the typical £2,000 cost of replacing their old but working boiler. Only the over-60s can trade in a defunct model.

To get the cash voucher your existing oil or gas model has to be one of the 4m G-rated boilers. If it has a pilot light it's probably eligible.

When the scheme was launched earlier this month, the government said it would help 125,000 homes, and save as much carbon as taking 45,000 cars off the roads. It quoted Energy Savings Trust figures showing that those taking it up would see their gas bills fall 30%, cutting the average household's energy bill by £234 a year.

So far around 16,000 households have received a £400 voucher. However, there are growing concerns that thousands of functioning boilers will be replaced with more efficient, but less reliable or durable models, that in some cases will last just a few years before they have to be replaced.

Mullins says consumers should know what they are getting into before they sign up. "Boilers of old would typically last 10 to 15 years, if not longer. But some of the new condensing models just don't last, and when they go wrong they are complicated and expensive to repair. We have been ripping out boilers that have done just three to six years' service, and have become uneconomic to repair," he says.

"Clearly condensing boilers are much more energy efficient, use much less gas and are better for the environment, but if you look at the scheme purely in economic terms, it is madness to spend around £2,000 to scrap a boiler that's working perfectly well."

He wonders who the scheme, which is not means tested, is designed to benefit. "Labour's £400 subsidy is only going to help people who could have afforded a new boiler in the first place. They say it will help poor families cut their heating bills by £200 a year, but where are they going to get the other £1,600 from?"
A glance at the various plumbing and DIY websites shows that many buyers are unhappy with their condensing boilers. It also bears out a recent Guardian Money report that found reliability levels vary enormously according to the manufacturer.

Some postings claim poor installation is responsible for a large share of breakdowns. However, some models appear to have known weaknesses. The recent spate of cold weather call outs to the owners of condensing models because of frozen outlet pipes, hasn't helped.

Clearly, there is little point in spending £1,600 on a boiler that is only going to last six years – even if it does reduce your annual gas bill by more than £200. Also, to get that saving you've got to be spending at least £780 a year on gas. Many people living in small homes are unlikely to get anywhere near the promised savings.
Choice to be limited to A-grade models

Pimlico Plumbers says that for anyone needing to replace a broken boiler, two brands – Worcester Bosch and Vokera – stand out as the most reliable. Its views mirror a recent Which? report, which named Worcester Bosch, Vaillant and Vokera boilers as the most reliable, although 26%-29% of the consumer group's members with those brands had reported some kind of problem during the previous four years.
Carl Arntzen, director of the Worcester Bosch Group, says that from October, UK consumers' choice of boilers will be limited to A-rated condensing models following a change to building regulations.

"Condensing boilers got a bad reputation for reliability when they first appeared in the late 80s and early 90s, but they have dramatically improved in recent years and we think the models we produce today are more reliable and longer lasting than the models we were selling a decade ago." He says the claimed 30% efficiency savings are based on trials by the Energy Saving Trust.

If you are going ahead, it will pay to research the reliability of any boilers on your short-list. Installers tend to have favourites and you should check them with a Google search, which should show up known weak spots.

In the long run it may pay to choose a more expensive boiler. The brands above do cost more, but who wants to spend weeks without heating in the middle of a cold snap?
Thousands of condensing boilers stopped working during the spell of sub-zero temperatures, but in many cases, the fix was just a kettle-full of hot water away.

In most cases, the problem was caused by condensate (moisture from the flue) that had gradually frozen and was blocking the outlet pipe. Boilers are designed to shut down if the pipe becomes blocked, to prevent damage.

The problem caused thousands of call-outs to British Gas. The company responded by putting a page on its website advising customers what to do, complete with a YouTube video clip showing viewers how to defrost their pipes.

Once the ice plug was removed, the boilers would have restarted.
When disabled pensioner Heather Campbell had a new condensing boiler installed, organised by her local authority, she was delighted.

However, just three and half years later, the housebound 65-year-old, who lives in south-west London with the help of a carer, has been presented with a bill of £573 to get her Glow Worm 30cxi working again.

It broke down on 27 December and she called out British Gas. Despite two attempts, the engineer could not fix it.

Local plumbers, ThermoServ, then came to her rescue and got it working but only after replacing the motherboard and the display – at a total cost, including labour, of £573.

Campbell says: "I was only able to pay the bill because I had recently received a tax rebate – although British Gas has since agreed to pay almost half the bill as its staff appear to have made matters worse.

"If it happens again, I simply won't be able to pay to repair it – I've lost confidence in it and have since bought a fan heater just in case."

Her story raises the question of whether vulnerable consumers, who have a boiler given to them, also need free backup for the lifespan of the unit. A spokesman for Coldbusters,­ part of CEN, the body which installed her boiler, said customers­ are now given two years aftercare, although this was not the case when she took delivery.

After that, it is down to the householder to pay for servicing and any repairs that are required.

Warm Front, the national scheme which similarly provides boilers to those in need does the same.

For full details of the boiler scrappage scheme go to or call 0800 512 012.

full article

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Warm Front heating scheme 'needs more funds'

More funding should be made available for Warm Front, the government's scheme to help vulnerable people with their heating, according to Paddy Tipping MP.

Mr Tipping, who sits on the commons Energy and Climate Change Committee, told the BBC that the scheme needs to provide a better aftercare service.

During the recent cold weather, some people endured prolonged periods without heating or hot water.

Mr Tipping says the way the funding is allocated needs to be examined.

"I think one of the things that we need to do is look at the balance of funding between insulation, the initial work and the aftercare," he says.

full article

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Call for motorbike scrappage scheme

The motorcycle industry is to press the Government for a bike-scrappage scheme following a dip in sales in 2009.

The "cash for bangers" car-scrappage scheme has had a very positive effect on car sales since it was introduced in May last year.

Now the Motor Cycle Industry Association (MCI) wants something similar to boost bike purchases.

Toyota Introduces "Swappage"

As the UK scrappage scheme draws to a close, Toyota has come up with a scheme of its own, which it is calling "swappage". Under swappage, any car registered between 1 March 2000 and 28 February 2003 can be traded in (by someone who has owned it for at least 12 months) for a new Yaris, Auris or Avensis, as long as it is still registered with the DVLA, is insured and has a current MOT certificate.
Customers taking advantage of swappage get £2000 off the list price of a Yaris or Auris, £2500 off an Avensis T2 and £2750 off an Avensis TR or T4. And, unlike scrappage, the swappage scheme does not necessarily mean that the traded-in vehicle will be carted off to the slaughterhouse for recycling unless it really needs to be, so you can take a classic to your local Toyota dealer with a clear conscience.
full article

Saturday, 16 January 2010

'Save money' when buying new boiler

Many homeowners may be welcoming the announcement by the government of its new boiler scrappage scheme which sees properties with a G-rated boiler powering their central heating systems eligible for £400 towards the cost of an upgrade.

However, even people who do not qualify for the scheme can save money when they choose a new boiler, the Daily Mail has claimed.

It cites the Energy Saving Trust, which notes Britons could see their new boiler pay for itself as a condensing boiler and heating controls can reduce annual energy bills by over £200.

"Get at least three quotes and buy the boiler direct when you can, which can save thousands of pounds in some cases," the news source advises.

It adds a combi condensing boiler may be a good option for smaller properties as it provides instant hot water and can be a space-saver, while heating controls installed on the boiler and radiators can see people saving even more money.

Furthermore, such thermostatic controls can reduce heating bills by some 17 per cent.

When having a new boiler fitted, Britons should ensure the boiler engineer they contact is a member of the Gas Safe Register.

Written by Jasper Cullen

full article

Sunday, 10 January 2010

What is a high efficiency condensing boiler?

A condensing boiler captures much more usable heat from its fuel than a non-condensing boiler. Its high operating efficiency is made possible by the design of the condensing boiler's larger - or sometimes dual - heat exchanger.

The heat exchanger makes sure that as much heat as possible is transferred from the boiler's burner - and as little as possible lost in gases through the flue.

There are two types of condensing boiler: regular and combination. Regular condensing boilers heat your hot water through a hot water cylinder. Combination condensing boilers give you instant hot water without the need for a cylinder.

Please bear in mind that not all home heating systems will be compatible with a combination boiler. A qualified installer will tell you which type of condensing boiler, regular or combination, is most suitable for your home.

If your boiler is 15 years old or more then it could be a G rated boiler. You can find out if your boiler is G rated by checking the list here. Replacing an old G rated boiler with a new A rated condensing boiler and a full set of heating controls can save up to a quarter on your heating bills straight away and up to 1,300kg of CO2 year. If your boiler is younger than 15 years then it is likely to be more efficient so will save you less if you replace it.

If your boiler is newer then it may well be in a higher energy efficiency band. Below are typical savings which can be achieved by replacing boilers with new A-rated condensing models and installing a full set of heating controls:

full article

What kind of boilers does the scrappage scheme cover?

Before applying for the scrappage scheme it is important to find the best deal on a new boiler, including installation costs.

Some energy companies, such as British Gas and npower, are offering similar cash incentives that match the Government's £400, to give a total £800.

British Gas also offers some equally generous discounts under its own unsubsidised schemes, but consumers who apply for boiler scrappage would not be eligible.

People aged over 60 may get bigger discounts through Warm Front, another Governmentfunded scheme to improve energy efficiency (

Gareth Kloet, energy expert at comparison website confused. com, says: 'Many suppliers will follow-British Gas and npower in offering cashbacks and they may also offer discounts for households in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But customers must be aware these may not be the best option.
A cheaper route may to buy a new boiler independently and get a local plumber to install it.'
FOR more information on the scheme and to register, go to the EST website at or call the advice line on 0800 512012.

full article

G Rated Boilers

The first vouchers in the Government's £50 million boiler scrappage scheme will be sent out this week, enabling 125,000 households in England to trade in old, inefficient boilers and get £400 towards the cost of a new, eco-friendly replacement.

But not every household is eligible and with energy companies offering their own incentives to buy new boilers, consumers should shop around to get the best deal.

What type of boiler can I trade in?

G-rated boilers are the least efficient type and these are the ones the Government is looking to remove. More than three million homes in England have a G-rated gas, oil or liquefied-petroleum (LPG) boiler. You are likely to have a G-rated boiler if yours is gas-fired, more than 15 years old and it has a permanent pilot light.

Do not try to dismantle your boiler to find out if it is G-rated. If you are unsure, call the Energy Savings Trust (EST) helpline on 0800 512 012.

Only homeowners and landlords who let properties privately are eligible to apply for the scrappage scheme and the boiler must be the main one in the home. If you are aged under 60 the

boiler must be in working order. People who are 60 and over can apply for the scheme regardless of whether the boiler is working.

How does the scrappage scheme work?

Homeowners must first get a quote for the new boiler, including installation. They can then apply to the EST, which is administering the scheme, and a voucher will be posted about ten days later. Vouchers are valid for 12 weeks from the date of issue.

If a voucher is not used, it will be cancelled. Do not install a new boiler and then apply for the voucher. Installations made before receipt of a voucher will not be eligible. Installations must be done by engineers registered with trade bodies Gas Safe or Oftec.

You must pay for the new boiler and installation upfront and then claim back the £400 by sending the voucher and invoice to the EST. The payments will be sent within 25 days.

full list of G RATED BOILERS

full article

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Wind farms: Generating power and jobs?

Prime Minister Gordon Brown is launching a £100bn programme to build more offshore wind farms.

Bids for tenders for nine zones around territorial waters and the Continental Shelf were submitted to the Crown Estate, which owns the seabed to a distance of 22.2km off the UK coast.
According to the British Wind Energy Association, the UK has potentially the largest offshore wind resource in the world, with relatively shallow waters and a strong wind resource extending far into the North Sea.
The UK has been estimated to have more than 33% of the total European potential offshore wind resource, which is enough to power the country nearly three times over.

Each of the new zones will each have a range of energy-producing capacity.

According to figures released by the winning licence bidders, the smallest will be able to produce around 600 megawatts and one, based at the Dogger Bank zone, will have a capacity of 9,000 megawatts.

To put this into context, an average coal or gas powered station produces between 1,000 and 1,500 megawatts.

Offshore farms are more expensive to build.

Per megawatt of stored energy capacity, a gas powered station costs £1m to build, a nuclear power station costs £3m and a wind farm costs £3m.

Offshore farms are weather dependent. Whereas a nuclear power station operates all the time, a wind farm only operates when the wind is blowing.

However, there are no expensive fuel costs involved in wind farming.
full article

Friday, 8 January 2010

Pensioners could lose £3,500 if they apply for boiler scrappage

Pensioners looking to take advantage of the scheme have been urged to check first if they are eligible for a Warm Front grant – or risk missing out on £3,500.
Pensioners and low-income households receiving benefits can apply for help purchasing and installing a new boiler under the Warm Front scheme, which could cover the cost in full.

If they apply for the scrappage scheme instead, they will forfeit their right to the Warm Front funding.
The maximum available under the Warm Front scheme is £3,500, which can help pay for loft insulation, draught-proofing and repairs to an existing heating system, as well as a new boiler.

If you receive income support, council tax benefit, housing benefit or pension credit you are advised to apply to the Warm Front scheme.

Grants are tiered according to needs and income and more information is available at If your application to the Warm Front scheme is unsuccessful, you can still apply for the boiler scrappage scheme.

The £400 scrappage vouchers will be sent out from January 18 and applications can be made by calling 0800 512012 or emailing with your contact details and current boiler make and model.

full article

Thursday, 7 January 2010

The cost of boiler breakdown cover

Research from consumer organisation Which? found that nearly one in three of all new boilers will break down within their first six years of operation, with repair costs often running into hundreds of pounds.

For example, according to website , to sort out a problem with a heat exchanger, which transfers the heat from the hot gases to the circulating water and is one of the most common breakdown problems, would cost around £325.
You should also bear in mind that if you have a new boiler, this sort of cover may not be necessary at all, as you may already be covered for breakdowns by a warranty.
You should also check with your household insurer that emergency breakdown isn't already covered by your home policy, although often even when it is, cover limits tend to be relatively low.

Some insurers include it as standard in their buildings cover. For example, Legal & General includes home emergency cover of up to £150 to cover call-out fees, labour costs and materials.

Prudential also automatically includes home emergency cover in its home insurance policies. This covers call out fees, parts, labour and materials up to £250 per call-out for emergencies relating to the main source of heating in the home.

It also covers emergencies relating to electricity supply, internal plumbing and drainage, as well as locks, doors and windows.

If you are claiming benefits, then paying for cover could again be unnecessary, as you may be eligible for a Warm Front grant of up to £3,500 to cover you for boiler repairs or replacement.

People aged over 60 who don't qualify for a grant may still be able to get a £300 rebate on work carried out on a system that is inoperable. For more information, visit the website , or telephone 0800 316 2808.
full article

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Does my boiler need replacing?

If you have a G-rated boiler or below, the chances are it's less than efficient. That's why British Gas is ready to help you replace it now with our £400 boiler scrappage discount. Combined with the government's new £400 boiler scrappage allowance, you will be able to claim £800* towards the cost of getting a new energy-efficient boiler installed.

You can use our guide below to establish your boiler's rating and to see how much money you could save by replacing your boiler.
What do I do next?

* 1 - Do a check on our tool below to see if you have a G or X rated boiler with an efficiency rating of less than 70%.
* 2 - Call us now to arrange a free consultation with one of our experienced heating advisers.
* 3 - Contact the Energy Savings Trust on 0800 512 012 to claim your £400 allowance from the government.

Please note that the Energy Savings Trust will not issue a voucher without confirmation that you have a quote for a new boiler.


Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Is my boiler G-rated?

A government scrappage scheme that gives people £400 off on the price of a new boiler has been launched today.

Up to 125,000 households in England could benefit from the £50million scheme, which was announced in the pre-budget report as an incentive to install greener heating.

Energy firms including British Gas and NPower have already pledged to match the payment, creating households a £800 discount on new boilers.

According to the government, a new boiler could cut a family's heating bills by about £235 a year.

In total, the scheme would cut as much carbon as taking 45,000 cars off the road and would help secure about 250,000 jobs of boiler makers and installers, the government said.

To qualify, a household must have a working boiler of the lowest efficiency G rating.

There are about 3.5million homes in England with such boilers, although the scheme is only open to the first 125,000 who apply.

The old devices must be replaced with top efficiency A-rated boilers or renewable heating systems like biomass boilers or heat pumps.
The price of a new boiler is about £2,500, most of which would still be paid by the householder.

Only home owners and landlords who privately rent out homes qualify.

The scheme does not apply to Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales, as their devolved authorities have to decide whether to run it.
Is my boiler G-rated?

The Energy Saving Trust said a boiler is likely to be G rated if:

* If it has a permanent pilot light;
* If it is gas fired and over 15 years old; or
* If it is oil fired and over 25 years old.

Householders can also check the Energy Saving Trust's scrappage scheme guide for more information.
How do I apply?

Once you have established that you qualify:

1. Get several quotes for the installation of a new boiler. Suppliers must visit your home for this and give a proper quote on paper.
2. Apply to the Energy Saving Trust (EST) with your name, address, details of your old boiler, the type of new boiler you want, quote prices, supplier details and confirmation that the installer visited your home.
3. You will then recieve a cashback voucher from the EST. Wait until you get this voucher before you start the installation, or you will lose the money.
4. Pay the installer in full.
5. Send the invoice and voucher to the EST, who will then refund you £400.

full article

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Precious metals that could save the planet

Baotou was of little interest to the outside world for millennia. When one of the first visitors reached its walls in 1925, it was described as "a little husk of a town in a great hollow shell of mud ramparts". Some 84 years later, this once barren outpost of Inner Mongolia has been transformed into the powerhouse of China's dominance of the market in some of the globe's most sought-after minerals.
As a result, Baotou has rapidly become of great interest to the outside world. China, which by accident of geography holds about 50 per of the world's rare earth deposits and currently produces 97 per of global supplies, has made no secret of the nature or scale of its ambitions, summarised by former premier Deng Xiaoping when he said: "The Middle East has oil. China has rare earths."
In 1999, President Jiang Zemin went further on a visit to Baotou when he summed up Beijing's strategy as being "to improve the development and applications of rare earth, and change the resource advantage into economic superiority".

In the intervening decade, demand for rare earth elements (REEs) has ballooned from 40,000 tonnes to a predicted 200,000 tonnes by 2014. The reason is that the particular properties of luminescence, magnetism and conductivity of rare earths have been increasingly harnessed by scientists to create a vast gamut of technologies from fibre-optic cables to advanced X-ray machines; flat television screens to the movable fins on guided missiles; and filters for viruses to navigation systems.

Above all, they are an integral part of the technologies that politicians are relying on to try to avert the worst effects of global warming. From the generators of wind turbines to catalytic converters, and the batteries on hybrid cars to alloys that dramatically reduce leakage from overhead power cables, rare earths are at the heart of the green revolution.

As one senior delegate at a recent international conference on REEs put it: "There is hardly a day that goes by that a new application for rare earths isn't found in Baotou; they are almost entirely related to low-carbon tech. Ironic isn't it? The world's greatest polluter by volume is in pole position when it comes to the raw materials to save us from global warming."

The result is that the rare earth industry in China is rapidly moving from a role as a provider of rare earth extracts for export, worth a few hundred million dollars a year to Chinese GDP, to a producer of finished REE components worth billions. In response to Chinese reductions in exports, global manufacturers are forced to move factories making rare-earth rich components to China to ensure continued production.
*Cerium (Ce) – catalytic converters for diesel engines

*Praseodymium (Pr) – an alloying agent for aircraft engines

*Neodymium (Nd) – a key component of high-efficiency magnets and hard disc drives

*Lanthanum (La) – a major ingredient for hybrid car batteries

*Samarium (Sm) – lasers and nuclear reactor safety

*Promethium (Pm) – portable X-rays and a nuclear battery

*Gadolinium (Gd) – shielding for nuclear reactors, compact discs

*Dysprosium (Dy) – improves the efficiency of hybrid vehicle motors

*Terbium (Tb) – a component in low-energy light bulbs

*Erbium (Er) – fibre optics

*Europium (Eu) – used in flat screen displays and lasers

*Holmium (Ho) – nuclear control rods, ultra-powerful magnets

*Thulium (Tm) – lasers, portable X-rays

*Ytterbium (Yb) – monitoring equipment for earthquakes

*Lutetium (Lu) – oil refining
full article

Concern as China clamps down on rare earth exports

Neodymium is one of 17 metals crucial to green technology. There’s only one snag – China produces 97% of the world’s supply. And they’re not selling
Britain and other Western countries risk running out of supplies of certain highly sought-after rare metals that are vital to a host of green technologies, amid growing evidence that China, which has a monopoly on global production, is set to choke off exports of valuable compounds.

Failure to secure alternative long-term sources of rare earth elements (REEs) would affect the manufacturing and development of low-carbon technology, which relies on the unique properties of the 17 metals to mass-produce eco-friendly innovations such as wind turbines and low-energy lightbulbs.

China, whose mines account for 97 per cent of global supplies, is trying to ensure that all raw REE materials are processed within its borders. During the past seven years it has reduced by 40 per cent the amount of rare earths available for export.
Once extracted and refined, the rare earth metals can be put to a dizzying range of hi-tech uses. Neodymium, one of the most common rare earths, is a key part of neodymium-iron-boron magnets used in hyper-efficient motors and generators. Around two tonnes of neodymium are needed for each wind turbine. Lanthanum, another REE, is a major ingredient for hybrid car batteries (each Prius uses up to 15kg), while terbium is vital for low-energy light bulbs and cerium is used in catalytic converters.

full article