Installing a new boiler is one of the largest single expenses homeowners and landlords ever have to face. It's also one of the trickiest purchases to get right - and if you get it wrong, it could prove a very expensive mistake indeed.
I recently went through the process myself and was taken aback by the range of different quotes I was offered and the huge costs involved. I needed to install a new boiler in a new location in my flat and I wanted it to be done right - I didn't want to face any further boiler-related expenses for a good few years afterwards. And, of course, I wanted to pay as little as possible.
In the end I managed to get what I hope is a fantastic new boiler, guaranteed for parts and labour for the next six years. And I saved £1,200!
Here's how I did it:
1) I started with British Gas
As British Gas is the market-leading boiler installer in the UK, I decided to get a quote from them as a starting point. I didn't particularly expect the quote to be competitive - but I wasn't prepared for just how expensive it proved to be.
I was advised I would need around three metres of new pipes to change the location of my boiler, despite the fact that there were existing pipes much closer to the new location (which my builder did point out to the British Gas 'heating sales adviser' who came round). This extra pipework also meant I needed to pay a materials delivery charge, a waste collection and disposal charge, and spend around £400 on some very minor electrical and building work. All of which, I was assured, was absolutely necessary. In total, this came to £900.
On top of this, I was told I needed to spend a further £350 on a system water treatment and powerflush.
Connecting the boiler and testing it would cost a further £1,625, while the boiler itself (a Worcester Bosch Combi) would cost £1,000.
So, in total, I was quoted £3,770 to get a £1,000 new boiler installed in my flat.
The British Gas salesman stressed several times that I would get one year's 'complimentary' Homecare cover (Homecare is a British Gas insurance policy that protects you from any boiler-related problems). But he cannily failed to mention the boiler is covered by the manufacturer's warranty for the first year anyway.
What angered me the most was how much pressure I was put under to make a decision that day. The salesman offered me a discount of extra £150, but only if I signed on the dotted line immediately.
Shame on you, British Gas!
2) I shopped around on the internet
I decided to shop around for a few more quotes to see whether £3,770 was competitive.
First on my list: Pimlico Plumbers, which had been recommended by a friend. But when I called up, I was told that a quote for a boiler installation would cost £100+VAT! OK, so the money would be taken off the price of the installation if I went ahead, but I still put down the phone pretty sharp-ish.
Looking around on the internet, I could also see that nPower offers boiler installations. But bad experiences with this company as an energy customer meant I didn't want to touch them with a barge pole!
Instead, I opted to get a quote from Northern Gas Heating. Despite the name, this is a nationwide boiler installation company. I liked the look of it because it has won some industry awards. It also offers £100 cashback if it can't beat a quote from British Gas, E.ON or nPower.
So far, so good. But again, a 'technician' who worked in sales - not then the engineer who would be installing the boiler - was sent round to give me a quote. Again, I pointed out the existing pipes nearby to the new location of the boiler. This time, I was told the pipes could be connected to the new boiler, but Northern Gas Heating "would not be responsible for any leaks".
Hardly music to my ears. The salesman also incorrectly identified some new pipes as old pipes, saying they needed to be changed (they didn't, as they had only been installed the month before).
In total, the quote for the boiler installation came to £3,170. So, a £600 improvement on British Gas, and it included an excellent five-year warranty on the boiler.
But the sales-like nature of this visit put me off. Could I do better elsewhere?
3) I looked for a qualified independent installer
A recent Which? survey revealed independent boiler engineers often provide a better service than those who work for the big brands. And I noticed that Worcester Bosch provides a local accredited installer search on its website, and underwrites a six-year guarantee of the installer's work (as long as you get it serviced once a year). During September, this guarantee looks like it will be extended to seven years - beating even Northern Gas Heating's guarantee, never mind British Gas' one year of cover.
The independent North London firm I found using the Worcester Bosch search, Mikey's Plumbing & Heating,* could not have been more knowledgeable and professional. Mikey himself - the engineer who would be carrying out the work - came round to do the quote. He said it wasn't a problem to reconnect the existing pipes to the new boiler and he could still guarantee the labour and parts for six years. He then offered to carry out the entire job for just £2,550. This included the six-year guarantee underwritten by Worcester Bosch (so if Mikey goes bust, the guarantee still stands) and two years' free servicing, a chemical flush, a wireless programmable room thermostat (which is truly awesome!) and all the 'make good' building work.
I nearly bit his hand off. I saved £1,200 on the British Gas quote, got six years of peace of mind about all parts and labour relating to the boiler, and I've found an excellent local North London plumber* to boot.
Take that, British Gas!