Five years ago, they were heralded as the modern, clean and green way to heat your house. As a result, today there are already eight million 'condensing boilers' in homes across Britain.
At the time, the Government claimed they would massively reduce your carbon footprint and slash your fuel bills. As a result, every year some 1.2m old-style 'dirty' boilers are scrapped in Britain and replaced by this wondrous new variety.
However, the cold snap of 2010/2011 has revealed a major problem with them. Tens of thousands of people found themselves shivering as their shiny new boilers cut out without warning. British Gas is understood to have had 60,000 call-outs in Yorkshire alone. And the cost to call out a plumber? It can be between £200 to £300 on a bank holiday. And don't forget about VAT.
'We've had double the number of call-outs as in the same period last year,' says Charlie Mullins, MD of Pimlico Plumbers in London, the country's largest independent plumbing company. 'It is a massive problem. Some customers were ready to move out because their condensing boilers broke. If I had a choice, I'd put in a non-condensing boiler every time.'
It's all the more infuriating because the problem causing these breakdowns is so simple. In cold weather, the pipe that takes waste water from the back of the condensing boiler - which isn't there in a normal boiler - freezes solid, shutting down the system and in many cases causing permanent damage.
To solve the problem this year British Gas is charging home owners £150 to fix the problem.
But this problem can be easy fixed yorself for under 5 uk pounds and 10 minuets of your time. But there are two problems, is British Gas responsible for the fault in the condensing boilers? Or should people be chasing the boiler manufacture for re-imbursement if the boiler has a fault.
British gas has a duty of care to ensure that the equipment they are selling to their clients is fit for purpose. Condensing boilers are great and reduce your heating bills so from a green point this is a good thing. But if it breaks down due to cold weather (which is ironic as they are heating systems) and you have to pay £200 pounds to call out a boiler engineer to fix it any saving you have made is lost, so this is bad. Not just the money if you have small children or elderly people in the home during a cold snap you need the heating.
Secondly the boiler manufactures need to look at the problem and maybe look at the installation of the drain from the back of the boiler and suggest something as simple as lagging the pipes, very cheap to do during the installation (and even now by the home owner) and could be suggested to the clients as an alternative to the £150 British gas are looking for. Lagging pipes is standard practice in the construction industry so it is not like I am suggesting something new.
But giving free advice to your clients when you can charge them money is not what some businesses are about and what they see is some easy profit.
If you purchased a new car from you local garage and the breaks were faulty, they would fix them and they would go to Ford/Toyota etc themselves to get the money back. Or in the case of some car manufactures do a general mass recall and ask clients to bring back the car and get the problem (breaks, seat belts etc) check and corrected free of charge.
So what British Gas should be doing is trying to think on their feet and say offer free lagging to their clients which will cost them next to nothing but would get them some good press for a change instead of all the bad press they have been getting this year.
So my advice is, measure the pipes outside your home (which connect to the boiler) that were freezing in the winter, go to B&Q or any DIY store and ask for some lagging for pipes (looks like black foam that will wrap around you pipe), 3 to 4 meters should cost 2 to 3 pounds and some tape and ties to hold it in position. Go home and fit it.
Please pass this on to friends and family and save them some money today
Or you can pay British gas£150 pounds for the same service.
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