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My plumber has refused to service my old boiler. Do I need to replace it?

My boiler is 28 years-old and works fine, so I was surprised when the plumber who usually services it refused this year because it is too ancient.

It's a Potterton boiler, which I have had serviced every year since 1992, and my gas bill for the past 11 months was around £1,300. I live in a four-bedroom detached house. 

Do I really need to replace a working boiler, or is he just trying to get more money out of me to install a costly new one?

Having a boiler replaced can be very costly, especially if there are currently no issues with it

Grace Gausden, This is Money, replies: It is good to hear you have had your boiler serviced every year.

This is important as a plumber can tell you if there are any impending issues and will also ensure it continues to run smoothly.

As you have been consistently on top of this, you were surprised when your plumber decided this year he would not service your boiler as he believed it to be too old.

The average boiler usually lasts around 15 years, while you have had yours for almost double that.

However, as you have noticed no issues with it, you're not keen to replace it – at great expense – as you don't see the need to.

Your plumber may not have wished to service it as it can often be difficult to find the parts for an older boiler should anything go wrong.

In some cases trying to repair a boiler of that age would be the same cost, if not more expensive, than installing a new one altogether.  

Another important thing to consider is that your gas bills are incredibly high.

In fact they are nearly double what they should be, even though you are in a large, detached home. 

Many households will be watching their energy bills as people continue to work from home

To rectify this, it is worth using price comparison sites to see if you can save money by switching supplier.

It would also be advisable to contact your energy supplier to see if you can negotiate lower bills, explaining that you believe you are paying over the odds.

You have said that you are 'liberal' with the heating but not excessive, suggesting that the bills are still much higher than they could be.

Victoria Arrington of Energy Helpline replies: There are many potential reasons why an older boiler may not be as easy to service. For instance, parts may be costly or even completely unavailable.

What stood out to me was your gas bill, which at £1,300 for 11 months seems quite high, based on average usage and the size of your property.

Even for costly standard variable tariffs, the average gas bill in a typical home is £455. And on a bargain tariff, the average gas bill is £363 – around £1,000 less than your annual bill.

If your 28-year-old boiler is inefficient compared to more modern models, it may be part of the reason why you have a much higher bill than average.

A newer boiler may be an investment up front, but over time the savings on bills may make up for that cost many times over.

Customers are likely to have limited choices if their boiler is more than 15 years old

Andy Kerr, co-founder of smart home systems installer, BOXT, replies: Many companies now refuse to work on older boilers as the law places a burden on the last gas engineer working on the appliance to ensure it is safe to use.

In addition to this, when servicing a gas boiler an engineer is only allowed to only use new or suitably refurbished parts. With old boilers it is now very difficult, if not impossible, to get new or even refurbished parts. 

For the last 15 years or so all new domestic boilers installed in the UK have been high efficiency condensing boilers and these use very different parts to the old non-condensing designs.

It's not just older boilers that some engineers refuse to work on because of the inherent risk of them being unsafe, engineers will often refuse to attend newer models with inherent risks.

If at the point of service it is found that your boiler is immediately dangerous, if parts cannot be sourced immediately the boiler will be turned off immediately.

A proactive replacement is often a very sensible choice with an old boiler as, if your old boiler does fail during winter and the parts are unavailable, it could be weeks before a replacement boiler can be fitted. A proactive replacement allows you to keep the continuity of a working system.

As new condensing boilers are much more efficient than old non-condensing ones, even with a gas bill of £1,300 for 11 months you are likely to save upwards of 25 per cent off you heating bills by fitting a new boiler. 

A typical new boiler costs between £1,500 to £3,000 depending on your circumstances and which new boiler you select. 

So in the worst case your new boiler will have likely paid for itself within ten years and with significantly reduced carbon emissions. 

Will Owen, energy expert at Uswitch, replies: You will have limited choices if your boiler is more than 15 years old as some insurers won't extend boiler cover to older models that are more likely to develop problems.

Typically it's recommended to change your boiler every 15 years as an older boiler has to work harder to heat your home.

A new boiler will also be running on maximum efficiency which means it will be using less fuel to heat your home - which will help keep heating costs down.

Grace Gausden, This is Money, adds: You could of course try a different plumber, but you may still face the same problem.

To avoid costly call out fees and repairs, many households are encouraged to pay for boiler cover.

However, recent research has revealed that paying out monthly for the cover may not be worth it.

In fact, consumers are usually better off paying for repairs and services as and when they are needed, according to Which?.

It said that even if customers needed a typical boiler repair every year for 10 years, they could still end up around £2,000 better off typically than if they took out annual boiler cover. 

However, households should decide whether they would be able to afford repairs upfront should something happen to their boiler and they don't have cover.  

'My boiler has broken': All your questions answered 

Many boilers invariably breakdown in the period when we rely on it most - and when we are likely to have less funds thanks to Christmas spending.

Households will want to get the issue sorted as quickly as possible, whether that be through their boiler cover or getting a plumber out.

To help you decide what to do next, This is Money put together a guide answering all your most commonly asked questions about getting it fixed or replaced - from how much it should cost to which model is best.

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