The Boiler Plus Scheme was introduced in April of 2018 to help the UK meet its G20 energy saving requirements. The law stipulates that from that date, all new combination boilers must have one of the following features:
- Flue gas heat recovery system
- Weather compensation
- Load compensation
- Smart controls with automation and optimisation functions
Combination boilers make up 80% of the market and this should enable those in England (Wales and Scotland are excluded for now) to achieve a 92% energy efficiency requirement. Timers and room thermostats will now be an explicit requirement and along with banning the old-fashioned dial thermostats should deliver savings to consumers’ energy bills. Installers may previously have been tempted to install the cheaper old-fashioned dial but this was a false economy. Consumers may well have saved £10 on the dial but then they spent an extra £100 on their annual bill due to the boiler being less energy efficient.
Despite this worthy effort to take the industry into the 21st century, there are concerns over the implementation of the legislation. The law was passed after just six months and consultation with the industry was therefore limited. Some suppliers resisted the new legislation with one sending a letter to all of their customers telling them that the new law was optional. It wasn’t, and isn’t. Others found loopholes in the legislation that allowed them to pretend that they were being compliant with the law when in fact they were not. More difficulty was caused by the fact that the quick passage of the legislation didn’t give supply chains in the industry enough time to get stock through from manufacturers to wholesalers.
Even those within the industry who welcome the overall strategy are not impressed by legislation which they see as simply playing catch up with what good installers in the industry have been doing for years. Furthermore, the failure to pass any legal requirements covering non-combination or heat-only boilers (the other 20% of the market) or any legislation which will address the issue of insulation, seems very short-sighted. Without good insulation a lot of the energy efficiency of the new boiler is simply wasted.
Consumers aren’t powerless in all of this however and they are able to check whether or not their new setup meets regulations by checking the government website. Should their new boiler not meet the energy requirements set out in the legislation, then the company that installed it has technically broken the law. The consumer would be entitled to demand that it was re-installed and should the company refuse, could take that company to consumer court.
Both the government and firms which comply with the legislation will need to police the industry and call out firms which don’t. Additionally, the small traders and companies who install many of these boilers need to be educated about the new requirements. It’s not enough for them to simply take the word of the manufacturer or wholesaler that the combination boiler they’re purchasing for a customer meets all of the regulations – they may need to double check it themselves.
Overall nobody is really objecting to the spirit of the legislation. Concerns are rather focused on its implementation. This may turn out to be toothless legislation which is ignored by the unscrupulous members of the industry and dutifully obeyed by the law-abiding. If the government and industry leaders address these concerns however, it could turn out to be another important milestone in the UK’s journey towards an energy efficient and low-carbon economy. Time will tell.