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A back boiler works by being installed in a recess behind the fireplace and using the heat from the fire to heat the water needed by your taps and central heating system.  They also need a cold-water storage tank to draw the water from, and they can use the heat from gas, coal, electric or oil fed fires to generate their heat.

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Honest Knowledge

What is a Back Boiler?

A back boiler is an old style of conventional boiler system, popular since its inception in 1966 with the Baxi Bermuda.  Back boilers are used as a central heating and hot water system for the whole house, and often behind the fireplace – hence the name.

Throughout the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s they were the most commonly used boiler, but their use has fallen significantly since the advent of the combi boiler, and the move towards more energy efficient, cleaner, greener heating and hot water systems.

In 2005 legislation was introduced by the government that stated all new build properties, and all replacement boilers must be condensing boilers, the cleanest and most efficient boiler type available on the market.  This means back boilers have slowly been phased out of homes in the UK, and although some back boilers may still be in homes, the life cycle of a boiler means that even these are starting to come to the point where they need to be replaced.  Whilst it isn’t illegal to have a back boiler in your home if it was installed and has been regularly checked by a gas safe registered engineer, you can no longer install a new back boiler in your home.

Why Should You Replace A Back Boiler?

Back boilers are not illegal; however, they are no longer being installed as new in the UK.  So, if you have one installed currently then your next boiler will be a different type.

There are a number of reasons to replace or remove your existing back boiler on top of the legislative ones too.  The main reason being that without adequate ventilation you can run the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning in your home.

There are also dangers from unused back boilers if they have been left for a length of time without being removed.  For example, if the old boiler was not drained completely before being discontinued then the remaining water in the system could create pressure when heated, eventually causing the boiler to explode.

Additionally, there can be practical problems with attempting to keep and safely maintain an old back boiler because they have been discontinued.  This makes replacement parts harder and more expensive to find, in turn making it harder to maintain your boiler properly and safely.

Finally, back boilers are put simply much less efficient.  Any type of condensing boiler should be more energy efficient than a back boiler.  If you opt for a combi boiler, the most common type in the UK, then your boiler will run at 90% efficiency, compared to the 70% that most back boilers run at.  This means that you will get 20p more energy for every £1 spent running your boiler.

What Are Your Options?

Broadly speaking, the options you will have available to choose from will be:

Combi Boilers

The most common type of boiler in the UK. Combi boilers take their water directly from the mains water supply, and heat it as required by your taps/showers and heating system, meaning there is no need for large water tanks in the home

System Boilers

Work in a similar way to combi boilers as they take their water from the mains storage system, but then store their hot water in a separate storage tank in order to provide instant hot water.  They are the ideal option for larger homes with a high hot water demand.

Regular Boilers

A regular boiler is the oldest type of boiler system available and works by drawing its hot water from a large cold water tank in the loft or attic, heating that in the boiler, and then delivering that hot water to a hot water storage tank.

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