How to get a free boiler or grant?
If your boiler breaks down and you need to fork out for a replacement, you might be able to save money by claiming a grant towards the cost, or even a free boiler, from the government.
Boiler grants, eco-schemes, rental schemes and even boilers that claim to pay you back in savings 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.
Grants for free boilers and subsidised boilers
Energy Companies Obligations scheme
Under the government’s Energy Companies Obligation (ECO) scheme, some homeowners and private tenants can get their old, inefficient boilers replaced completely free of charge or have the cost of a replacement heavily subsidised.
The scheme was set up to help low-income families reduce their carbon footprint and improve the efficiency of their homes, whether that be by improving insulation or installing a new boiler. If you meet the criteria and your boiler is more than eight years old, you should qualify.
However, government funding is limited for this scheme and the benefits-related criteria are quite stringent. You need to receive at least one benefit, such as income support or pension credit guarantee credit, from its list of eligible benefits. Additionally, you must be earning less than £20,000 a year as a household. You’ll also need to own your own home or have permission from your landlord.
The ECO grant acts as a way to ensure that the bigger energy suppliers fulfil an obligation to help struggling families. The energy companies involved are:
- British Gas
- Co-operative Energy
- EDF Energy
- Shell Energy
- Scottish Power
- Utility Warehouse
If you’re with one of these suppliers, they should contact you to let you know that you’re eligible. If you aren’t, but meet the criteria, you can still get help from one of these companies under the ECO scheme.
You can apply by contacting one of the energy suppliers or the Energy Saving Advice Service (0300 123 1234), or Home Energy Scotland (0808 808 2282) if you live in Scotland.
Affordable Warmth Obligation
The Affordable Warmth Obligation (which replaced the Warm Front ) is part of the ECO scheme. You can get help with the cost of replacing or repairing your boiler, as well as other energy-saving improvements. It’s also possible to get hints on other upgrades to your heating.
Again, you’ll need to be receiving certain benefits to qualify, and either own your own home or be renting privately. If you live in social housing, you may still be able to get help with insulation or a new heating system if it’s being installed for the first time. Your home would also need to have an energy rating of E, F or G – you can find your home's rating on your Energy Performance Certificate.
The Affordable Warmth Obligation is available in England (0300 123 1234), Scotland (0808 808 2282) and Northern Ireland (0300 200 7874). In Wales, the scheme is called Nest and is managed by British Gas (0808 808 2244).
Boiler Scrappage Scheme
This scheme provided money-off vouchers to eligible homeowners, enabling them to upgrade their G-rated boiler to a more efficient one. All the money used for this is is now gone, but some suppliers still offer discounts using a similar scheme.
As this is not a government scheme, we would 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.
Rent a boiler
If you’re not eligible for any boiler grants or a free replacement, then you could consider renting a boiler. These are also referred to as pay-monthly boilers.
Hassle Free Boilers, for example, will install a , or for you with no upfront cost. But you’ll be tied into a lengthy 12-year contract with payments of £39.99 a month, which covers the boiler payment and an ongoing servicing contract. Hassle Free Boilers’ terms and conditions also guarantee an increase in payments of 3% each year.
After 12 years, this adds up to £6,810, which is far in excess of the initial cost of the boiler and installation.
For example, even if you added the cost of a boiler servicing contract from a specialist boiler insurance company to the cost of one of the more expensive boilers on the market – say £1,200 – this would still only add up to around £5,040 over 12 years.
That’s more than £1,770 cheaper than renting a boiler, based on a £1,440 installation fee for upgrading a heat-only boiler to a condensing one, and £200 a year for boiler cover.
You could reduce the monthly payments to £19.99, which would make the total cost considerably lower, but doing so requires a deposit of £1,999.
Which? tips for getting the best-value boiler
Our research shows that if you get a reliable boiler, a servicing contract tends to be a false economy. Servicing contracts can cost more than £200 a year so, over the 12-year lifetime of a boiler, that would be £2,400.
The most cost-effective option in the long run is to buy and install a reliable boiler, and then pay for a service each year and any extra repairs that might be needed on an ad-hoc basis.
If you assume that the boiler will never need to be repaired, this will cost around £864 over 12 years (based on an annual service costing £72) – a staggering £1,536 difference.
The average cost of a boiler repair is currently £145, so you’d need to have a lot of problems with your boiler to justify the extra cost of a servicing contract. Getting a reliable boiler will help to minimise the likelihood of you having to pay out.
There is a big difference between the most and least reliable boilers. We’ve surveyed more than 11,000 Which? members to find out about the problems they’ve experienced with their main gas or oil central heating boiler.
Of the boilers from our survey that are six years old, more than 6 in 10 of the least reliable brand’s boilers have developed a fault.
The graph below shows the percentage of boilers that have broken down when purchased new in every year from 2013 to 2019.
Using all this information, we’ve been able to rate big-name boiler brands, including , , and . The ratings are based on whether people who own up to six-year-old boilers have ever had to have their main boiler repaired since they bought or acquired it.
You can use our research to find out which boiler brands are the most and least reliable.