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Home & garden.

14 September 2021

How to get a free boiler or grant

Find out more about grants and schemes for free and subsidised boilers, and whether you’re eligible
SM
Sam Morris
How to get a free boiler or grant

Forking out for a new or replacement boiler will typically cost anywhere from £1,000 to £5,000 (Which? November 2020) – a lot of money to be spending all at once.

However, you might be able to save money by claiming a grant from the government towards the cost of a new boiler installation. In some cases you may even be entitled to a free boiler.

Boiler grants, the Energy Companies Obligations scheme (ECO) and rental schemes can all help you to avoid that initial outlay. 

But not everyone is eligible for these schemes and, sometimes, choosing an option that takes care of the upfront cost can leave you out of pocket in the long run.

Here, we take a detailed look at the various options to help you decide which is best for you and your budget. 

Check our expert boiler reviews to make sure you get a reliable new boiler.

Energy Companies Obligations scheme

The government’s Energy Companies Obligation (ECO) scheme, launched in 2013, was set up to ensure that bigger energy suppliers help struggling families, help reduce carbon emissions and tackle fuel poverty. 

It's available in England, Scotland and Wales and obliges energy companies to install energy-saving measures in homes where it's needed the most.

There is a big list of improvements that energy companies can supply. Often companies focus on installing cavity wall insulation and loft insulation to make homes more energy efficient, but you can get support replacing an old, inefficient boiler or heating system. Your replacement boiler could potentially be subsidised or even free. 

ECO3 scheme

The current stage of the scheme, ECO3, started in December 2018 and runs until 31 March 2022. In this stage, large energy companies (more than 150,000 customers) are obligated to contribute a certain amount of energy efficient home improvements. 

Your energy supplier should be able to tell you whether you're eligible for an ECO grant. 

However, even if you're eligible, a supplier doesn't have to install an energy efficient measure in your home; some suppliers don't seem to offer any further help once they've fulfilled their obligations for the current phase. You can get ECO support from any obligated supplier, though, not just the energy company you are with.

Below are the energy companies involved with the ECO3 scheme (Simple Energy Advice, August 2021). Click on a company's name to read our expert guide and find out how customers rate them.

Last updated September 2021

The next stage (ECO4) is due to start in April 2022 and run until 2026.

Am I eligible for ECO funding?

Funding is limited for this scheme, and the criteria are quite stringent. It can therefore be complicated to work out if and what you're eligible for under ECO funding, but your energy supplier should be able to tell you. Or you can use Simple Energy Advice's grant eligibility checker. You’ll also need to own your home or have permission from your landlord. 

As a general rule of thumb, you are likely to be eligible for help under ECO if you receive the Warm Home Discount, or certain other types of benefits (in ECO3 this includes Child Benefit and disability benefit)

For further information on the scheme, we recommend contacting the scheme operator in your part of the UK:

For more information on the scheme as a whole, visit our in-depth guide on the Energy Companies Obligation Scheme.

Affordable Warmth Obligation

Woman on laptop sat with man holding papers

The Affordable Warmth Obligation is part of the ECO scheme and is where you can get help with the cost of replacing or repairing your boiler, as well as other energy-saving improvements. In Wales the scheme is called Nest and is managed by British Gas.

Again, it can be difficult to know whether you're eligible, and you will need your landlord's permission if you're renting. But you're likely to be eligible if:

  • you live in private housing (for example, you own your home or rent from a private landlord) and receive a benefit such as Universal Credit, Disability Living Allowance or Child Benefit 
  • you live in social housing that has an energy efficiency rating of E, F or G (use the energy performance certificate register to find your home's rating).

The full list of eligibility criteria can be found on the UK government's Affordable Warmth Obligation page. 

For further information on the scheme, we recommend contacting the scheme operator in your part of the UK:

For more information on getting financial help to make your home more energy efficient, visit our guide to free loft insulation from energy suppliers.

Boiler Scrappage Scheme

This government scheme was introduced in 2009 to encourage households to upgrade to more efficient boilers, but it has now been discontinued.

Some suppliers may still offer discounts on new boiler installations for scrapping an older efficient boiler but, as these are not a government schemes, we'd recommend getting a few quotes. This is because, in some cases, a new boiler might be more expensive than it should be, even with discounts. 

Take a look at our guide to the cost of installing a new boiler.

Renting a boiler or getting a pay-monthly boiler

If you’re not eligible for any boiler grants or a free replacement, you could consider renting a boiler (aka getting a pay-monthly boilers). There are several companies that offer this service and is a way to spread out the cost of a new boiler installation. 

There is no obligation to pay an upfront cost. Instead you make monthly payment, which pays off the cost of the boiler, the installation and – depending on your contract – any repair, maintenance and servicing costs for the duration of your contract. When you've finished paying, the boiler is yours. 

Renting a boiler is a long-term commitment. Contracts can last as long as 12 years. However, most boiler-rental companies offer different contract lengths. The shorter your contract the higher your monthly payments, but the sooner you will own your boiler. Most companies also give you an option to pay a deposit upfront, which will further reduce your monthly payments.

It's also worth checking the small print to see if your monthly payments are set to increase each year or if they are fixed. Also check what you're charged for missed payments. Sometimes penalties can accrue on a daily basis, so falling behind on payments could suddenly become very costly. 

Finally, if you're planning to move house before your contract would be finished, renting might not be the best option. If you move house you often have to pay off any remaining balance in one go.

If you can't afford the upfront cost of a new boiler, or want an all-in-one payment to cover everything to do with your boiler for some peace of mind, renting could be a good option.

Just be aware that you'll be in a long contract, and you're unlikely to save any money in the long term compared wite. paying upfront for a new boiler.

Read our expert guide on home & energy grants to see if there is money you could save on heating your home.

Which? tips for getting the best-value boiler

Our research shows that if you get a reliable boiler, paying for boiler cover tends to be a false economy. 

Below is a table showing the cost over a typical boiler's lifetime of 12 years. 

Scenario
Average cost per year
Cost over 12 years
Pay for boiler cover
£288
£3,456
Pay for an annual boiler service
£86
£1,032
Pay for an annual boiler service, plus six repairs over the 12 years
£184
£2,208
Lasted updated September 2021

Pay for boiler cover Average cost per year based on the average price paid per year for a boiler cover package according to 2020 Which? survey of 1,123 members Pay for an annual boiler service Average cost per year based on the average price charged for a one-off service according to our 2021 survey of 153 Which? Trusted Traders Pay for an annual boiler service, plus six repairs over the 12 years Based on an average number of boiler repairs of three, according to our 2021 Which? survey of 8,001 people who bought a boiler within the last six years. Average cost per year based on the average price paid for a boiler repair of £196 according to our 2021 Which? survey of 8,001 people who bought a boiler in the last six years: £86 + (6 x£196)/12 = £184

As you can see from the table, if you just paid for an annual service, and your boiler never needed repairing (a best-case scenario) it would cost you around £1,032, saving you a staggering £2,424 over 12 years.

Even if you needed a repair every other year, on average this would cost you £2,208 over 12 years – £1,248 less than if you paid for boiler cover. 

In fact, by our calculations, your boiler would need a repair every year for boiler cover to be the better financial option. And if your boiler is breaking down every year it is probably best to look at replacing it with a more reliable model/brand. 

There is a big difference between the most and least reliable boilers. In 2021, we surveyed 8,001 people who bought a boiler in the past six years and asked what year their boiler first developed a fault (if at all). From this we calculate how many boilers remain fault-free over the first six years.

As you can see, nearly eight in 10 owners with a boiler from the most reliable brand haven't experienced a fault in the first six years, compared with less than half for the least reliable brand. 

Read our boiler servicing guide to find out more about getting the best service for your boiler

Cheap boiler brands

Our 2021 Which? survey found several brands that received five stars for reliability, are well liked by customers and engineers, but are typically easier on the wallet than other brands. These boiler brands typically have smaller-sized boilers starting from around £550 upwards. 

Head to our guide on how to buy the best boiler for more advice on how to get the best boiler for your home. Or use the links in the table below to head straight to the reviews for these high-scoring cheaper boiler brands.

Brand
Overall score
Reliability score
Brand customer score
Brand engineer score
Typical price for a 30kW Combi
76%
£880 - £1,000
74%
£590 - £1,320
71%
£700 - £990
Last updated September 2021

Typical price Range based on low and high prices for a standard 30kW combi boiler across the brand's range. A 30kW boiler is suitable for most medium-sized homes. Price doesn't include installation costs.

Compare how all the boiler brands performed in our best gas and oil brands guide

Which? Trusted Trader boiler installers

When you've decided on the best and most reliable boiler for your home, check out Which? Trusted Traders for a stress-free and reliable boiler installation. 

All Which? Trusted Trader heating engineers are vetted and on the Gas Safe Register, so you know you'll get an expert installation. 

You can use our free search tool below to find an accredited local trader.