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19 July 2021

How to get a free boiler or grant

Find out whether you’re eligible for a boiler grant from the government, or even a free boiler.
Sam Morris
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 are claimed 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. 

Whatever you decide, make sure you get the best and most reliable boiler for your home – don’t forget to check our expert boiler reviews.

Grants for free 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 is a way to ensure that bigger energy suppliers help struggling families to reduce their carbon footprint and make their homes more efficient, whether by improving insulation or installing a new boiler. 

Government funding is limited for this scheme, and the benefits-related criteria are quite stringent. You’ll also need to own your own home or have permission from your landlord. 

Use Simple Energy Advice's grant eligibility checker to see if you're likely to qualify for support under the ECO scheme.

If you meet the criteria, and your boiler is more than eight years old, then you should qualify for new one. 

Your energy supplier should advise you if 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 ECO phase, which is due to end in March 2022.

If you live in England or Wales, we recommend going to Simple Energy Advice to find out if you qualify and how to get assistance, or contact the Energy Saving Advice Service (0300 123 1234). 

If you live in Scotland, you should call Home Energy Scotland (0808 808 2282) or fill out its contact form.

The energy companies involved in the ECO scheme are:

  • Avro Energy
  • British Gas
  • Bulb
  • E
  • Eon
  • Ecotricity
  • EDF Energy
  • Octopus Energy
  • Ovo Energy
  • Pure Planet
  • Scottish Power
  • Shell Energy
  • SO Energy
  • Utility Warehouse
  • Utilita
  • Utility Point

List last updated 13 July 2021

To find out more, visit our guide to the Energy Companies Obligation 

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.

Again, you’ll need to be receiving certain benefits to qualify, and either own your home or be renting privately. If you live in social housing, you might 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). 

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 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 now gone, but some suppliers still offer discounts using a similar scheme.

As this is not a government scheme, 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 getting a new boiler installed.

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 known as pay-monthly boilers. 

Some companies will install a boiler in your home for no upfront cost – you make monthly payments that cover the cost of the new boiler and installation, as well as potential repairs, maintenance and annual servicing. 

However, renting a boiler is a long-term commitment. The amount you pay each month depends on the size of your deposit and your chosen repayment period. You could be tied in for as long as 12 years, for example. 

Once you've paid off the boiler, your monthly payments will keep covering repair, maintenance and annual servicing. 

If you go down this route, be aware that you might be charged interest on missed payments, and this could potentially accrue on a daily basis until you pay it off. So falling behind on payments could suddenly become very costly. 

If you can't afford the upfront cost of installing a new boiler, or want a peace-of-mind scheme so you know your boiler is covered, then renting could be a good option. Just be aware that you'll be in a long contract, and you might not save any money in the long term compared with having a new boiler installed upfront and taking out boiler cover for the same length of time. 

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. Respondents in our August 2020 survey of Which? members paid, on average, £288 a year for a boiler cover package so, over the 12-year lifetime of a boiler, that would be £3,456.

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, plus any extra repairs that might be needed on an ad-hoc basis. 

If you assume that the boiler will never need to be repaired, then with an annual boiler service it will cost around £1,200 over 12 years* – a staggering £2,256 difference.

The average cost of a boiler repair is currently £161.50, so you’d need to have a lot of problems with your boiler to justify the extra cost of getting boiler cover. Choosing a reliable boiler will help to minimise the likelihood of you having to pay out.

Based on an estimate of £100 for a one-off annual service. See our boiler servicing guide for more information

Boiler reliability

There's 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 six in 10 of those from the least reliable brand have developed a fault.

The graph below shows the percentage of boilers that have broken down when bought new in every year from 2013 to 2019. 

Using all this information, we’ve been able to rate big-name boiler brands, including Alpha, Baxi, Glow-worm and Worcester Bosch. 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.

Find out the best gas and oil boiler brands rated including which boilers stand the test of time and remain fault-free for longest.

Which? Trusted Traders

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