Doctor On The House: Flue, what a scorcher: the hot thing in heating
Trumpeted as the latest in energy efficiency, the condensing boiler can also cost a lot to maintain, says Jeff Howell
Sunday 09 August 1998
The best way to save money on heating this winter, as every pensioner knows, is to spend all your waking hours in the public library. Probably the worst way is to buy replacement double-glazed windows; studies have shown that the small amount of heat they save is unlikely ever to cover the cost of the installation.
Somewhere in between come condensing boilers. These are being promoted by the green lobby - and, of course, the manufacturers - as the latest in energy efficiency, but Steve the plumber is not so sure.
Condensing boilers take almost all the heat out of the burning fuel, so the flue gases are cool. This results in condensation within the boiler, hence the name. When they're up and running, condensing boilers are reckoned to be around 15 per cent more efficient than conventional ones, but Steve's scepticism comes from the fact that they are more complicated, so there are more parts to go wrong and need replacing. Because they need much more diligent servicing, maintenance costs can be double those of conventional boilers.
For example, the condensed liquid, which is corrosive, has to be piped away to the drains - and these pipes must be regularly checked for blockages.
Condensing boilers also have a characteristic that is never mentioned in the brochures. Because the flue gas is cool, in cold weather it actually emerges as steam.
Plumbers call this pluming, and it means you get a jet of steam coming out of the balanced flue in the outside wall. If your house is on its own then nobody will mind, but Steve says that in some parts of bedsit land the steam from these plumes can now be seen shooting in through the windows of the people opposite.
In condensing boilers the heat exchangers are aluminium, so they would be more expensive if it were not for grants from the Energy Saving Trust - an industry and government-funded body - to persuade householders to replace their old systems with condensing boilers. Nothing wrong with that, if the aim is to lower the nation's fuel consumption, but as with other supposed energy-saving schemes, there is a danger that such a subsidy may mask the true energy costs.
Aluminium, for example, uses an enormous amount of power in its manufacture, and Steve's multiple visits to service and fix the boiler will themselves use up some of the earth's resources - petrol, wear and tear on the van, getting the spare parts shipped over from Germany, bacon sandwiches consumed on the job.
It all depends on how you look at it, but perhaps this subject needs a bit more thought before we all jump blindly in.
q Contact: Energy Saving Trust, 0345 023005.
- 1 Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
- 3 Halle Berry takes ex-boyfriend Gabriel Aubry to court for allegedly trying to make daughter look less African-American
- 4 Isis propaganda image showing 'abuse of Muslim woman by soldiers' is actually taken from Hungarian porn film
- 5 'You should come to my house and eat cheeses with me': 4-year-old sends adorable love letter to girl at school
Turkish President: 'Equality between men and women is against nature'
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
Ferguson decision: Tea Party website mocks Michael Brown's family over T-shirt typo
Michael Brown shooting: Ten things we know – or know better – now the Ferguson grand jury's work is over
Isis propaganda image showing 'abuse of Muslim woman by soldiers' is actually taken from Hungarian porn film
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Revealed: How the world gets rich – from privatising British public services
Exclusive: UK approved £7m Israeli arms sales in six months before Gaza conflict
iJobs Money & Business
£Attractive: Citifocus Ltd: High calibre individual with significant product d...
£Negotiable: Citifocus Ltd: Leading global bank seeks experienced credit analy...
£Attractive Package: Citifocus Ltd: High calibre individual with a high degree...
£Attractive: Citifocus Ltd: High calibre individual with superior academics an...