Heating bills account for over half the money spent on energy in the average UK household. An efficient central heating system will save money annually and is one way to combat rising energy prices.
Upgrading a ‘G’ rated boiler to an ‘A’ rated boiler could save up to £300 per year according to the energy saving trust, while the savings will be even greater if you are fitting central heating into a property for the first time.
The cost of installing central heating ranges from £2,500 to £5,000 for an average sized house and is not an insignificant investment. You would expect a good central heating system to last for many years, so it is important to find a good installer to make sure the job is done properly, and the system lasts for the long-term.
Central heating design
Central heating design is an essential part of the process of installing a new system.
A heating engineer should calculate the amount of power needed to provide heat and hot water and the size of the radiators required for
each room, to ensure they supply ample heat.
There should be a certain level of thermal comfort provided by a central heating system, it can be measured by a set of conditions. The air temperature at foot level should not be more than three degrees different to that at head height.
The room surface temperatures should not be higher than the room air temperature. There should be a relative humidity level of between 40% and 60%; air temperature should be between 16 and 22 degrees.
The property’s exposure to the elements also needs to be taken into account when designing the system. Adverse weather conditions on the coast, at the top of a hill, or by a river could have a severe effect on heat loss, as a rough guide, 10% can be added for the purpose of design calculations.
Installing the system yourself
Much of a central heating system can be installed as a DIY project, but there are some things which must be done by registered professionals. You can hang radiators, fit valves and pipe work and also hang the boiler; which will save you several hundred pounds in labour costs.
The connection of the boiler to the gas supply, however, must be made by a gas safe registered technician. Connection to the mains supply also includes safety checks on the pipe work supplying the boiler, and the boiler itself; as well as checks on the safe location of boiler and flue.
If a hot water cylinder is being installed with the system, the fitting of it must be undertaken by an installer with an unvented hot water storage system (UHWSS) certificate; even if it is an open-vented system. For oil-fired systems, it is recommended to use an installer who is registered to OFTEC (the Oil Firing Technical Association).
Finding an installer
It is advisable to get quotes from at least three local installers and compare what is on offer. Before hiring a company you should do some background checks on them, just to make sure they are legitimate and have a good reputation.
Make sure they have offices local to you and have been in business in the local area for several years. Check customer testimonials and reviews to get an idea of the service the firm provides.
You can contact the energy saving trust on 0800 512 012 to get details of installers in your local area, while you can also check various websites for a list of registered central heating engineers:
To make sure the installer you are going to use has a current gas safe registration, you can search for their details online at:
Anyone carrying out work on a gas boiler or the pipe work from the mains supply, must be gas safe registered. It is vital that you check your installer is fully registered, to make sure your property is completely safe.
Although not a legal requirement of installing an oil central heating system, registration to OFTEC is a sign that an installer is competent with oil-fired systems. You can look for registered installers at:
Questions to ask an installer
Ask your installer about the power rating of the boiler, and whether it is going to be adequate for the house.
If he has properly calculated how much heat the house will require, he should be confident in answering the question.
An older three bedroom house may need an 80,000 BTU/hour boiler, where a modern three bedroom house may only require a boiler producing 60,000 BTU/hour.
Ask about radiators. The installer should have a good idea of the sizes needed for each room and you are likely to have your own ideas on the style and the design.
Make sure that he can source the type of radiators you want in the right sizes and if not start to consider different styles, or the use of more than one radiator per room.
Make sure that he is going to insulate the pipe work that he lays under the floorboards. Heat loss to the ground can reduce the efficiency of your central heating, and is entirely unnecessary.
It is not the easiest of jobs, but a good installer should do it as a matter of course. Only the pipes underneath downstairs rooms need be insulated, heat lost from pipes underneath upstairs rooms will naturally find its way into the house.
Finding a good installer is very important if you are going to have a central heating system fitted into your home. It is a sizeable investment, and one which should last several years; so it is essential to make sure it is fitted correctly.
If you are having a gas system installed it is a legal requirement that it is carried out by a gas safe registered technician; for oil systems it is recommended that you use an OFTEC registered engineer.
By using installers who have a current registration to these trade bodies, you lessen the chance of a bad installation.