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new boiler needed- conflicting advice from plumbers

(12 Posts)
BettyBoblin Sun 08-Mar-15 12:17:05

Just moved to a 5 bedded victorian house ( sounds way posher than it actually is) and need to replace the 30 year old relic of a boiler. I have now had 4 different plumbers round for advice and quotes and they all have different opinions of what would be best in terms of regular or combi, position of boiler and the reasoning for their advice. We have two bathrooms, no water wasting drencher shower and excellent water pressure. We're new to the area so difficult to get recommendations but they are all installers listed on the Worchester Bosch website so should all be okay? How do I know whose opinion to go along with?

PigletJohn Sun 08-Mar-15 12:43:21

you say you have excellent water pressure. But what matters is the flow. Fill a bucket at the cold tap on your kitchen sink (and at the utility room and garden taps, if you have them), time it, calculate how many litres per minute you get.

What colour is the incoming water supply pipe, which probably comes up through the kitchen floor and has a stopcock? it might be black or blue plastic, painted iron, tarnished copper, or grey lead. And what diameter?

Also fill the bucket at the hot bath tap, and calculate lpm for that.

BettyBoblin Sun 08-Mar-15 12:55:14

Thanks for replying.
The supply pipe seems to be grey lead about an inch diameter.
The cold water flow seems to be about 18-20 lpm, the hot is more like 12 lpm.

PigletJohn Sun 08-Mar-15 14:25:17

20lpm from the cold tap is quite good. I was expecting, with an old Victorian pipe, that you would have poor flow. If you are planning to do away with the cold tank in the loft, you will need good flow with two bathrooms and (presumably) several people. I would be looking at a conventional or system boiler, with an unvented cylinder such as a Megaflo or other brand. It will give better hot water supply than a combi. Being simpler, the boiler will also have less to go wrong.

When the old lead pipe starts leaking, as it will, replace it with 25mm or, better, 32mm, right out to the pavement. It will give you better flow, which modern plumbing systems need. If you are doing much work on the house, do it before it starts leaking. You will need to trench across the drive or garden, which will upset you once you have landscaped or renewed it. You will also need to take up some floorboards in the hall, or continue the trench at the side of the house if you have access.

As you have lead pipes, ask your water co to test your drinking water for lead content. It is especially damaging to brain development in babies and children, and there may be a lead replacement subsidy if you run a new pipe. Ask for the test straight away, because it may take a long time to arrange.

Remember than any modern boiler will emit clouds of steam from the flue in cold weather (combis are worse for this), so position it where it will not blow past windows or billow round the front of the house. You can get flue diverter or extension kits if there is not a place for the boiler to avoid this, but they will not make your home more beautiful. Do not blow the steam at your neighbour. The boiler will need to be close to an internal drain such as a sink, otherwise the condensate pipe may run outside, where it will freeze in cold weather and your boiler will stio working. Please don't put it in the loft.

PigletJohn Sun 08-Mar-15 14:28:09

BTW heating engineers will be more available, and possibly cheaper, once the warm weather comes and people lose interest in boilers.

BettyBoblin Sun 08-Mar-15 15:06:56

Thanks so much for the advice.

Oh goodness, you've worried me now with the lead pipe thing. I'll get onto the water company asap. I asked all the plumbers about lead pipe safety and they brushed if off and said not to worry. A couple of them elaborated about the fact that the pipes develop a coating on the inside which makes them safe, unless they get damaged or disturbed?

I guess there could likely be some structural damage before it was realised that a lead pipe was leaking as it's all concealed under the floor/ground? Do all lead pipes tend to leak at some stage then? Bit of a worry, thanks for alerting me to it.

I wonder why most plumbers seem to be fans of combis? Oh and one plumber said that if I stick to a regular boiler i'll need a new tank and a new pump. Others didn't mention this, what do you think?

Is a garage okay for a boiler?

PigletJohn Sun 08-Mar-15 15:18:59

Combis are quick and easy to put in, which appeals to some installers.
However I think you will get better HW from a cylinder.

If you have an unvented (pressurised) cylinder you will not need a tank or a pump.

Yes it is true, if you are in a hard water area, there is likely to be a coating of scale inside the pipes. But it is worth having the lead content tested. Lead pipes, and even lead solder on copper pipes, is no longer permitted.

Lead pipes that have lasted a hundred years have had a long life and may leak anytime. They might last another thousand but I wouldn't count on it.

BettyBoblin Mon 09-Mar-15 07:13:24

Thanks so much PigletJohn.

mombee Mon 22-Jun-15 09:37:52

BettyBoblin, what did you decide in the end? Did you go with conventional boiler with HW cylinder or did you go for a Combi? I am in a similar situation and trying to see which one would suit us. Thanks!

mombee Mon 22-Jun-15 09:50:35

PigletJohn, ours is a 4 bed 1 bath and 1 ensuite house. We are 3 people in the family. We bought the house (about 20 year old) 18 months ago. There is a Glow-Worm 30SXi boiler in the utility downstairs and a 170L Megaflow (CL170) in the airing cupboard upstairs. We installed Solar PV soon after buying the house and included Immersun to heat the water. 2 months ago, Megaflo started leaking around the immersion. The local plumber suggested we replace the immersion which we did. Now, it has started leaking again and we are told to replace the cylinder. I do not know how old the boiler is. We have 11 radiators (single panel without TRVs). We have requested quotes for replacing the cylinder. For a Megaflo the quotes are ranging from £1600 to £2000 (plus vat). For other brands it is £1300 to £1600. I am now tempted to see if we should go for a new combi boiler and do away with the cylinder. What do you think? None of the plumbers have suggested this option though.

PigletJohn Tue 23-Jun-15 09:41:13

if you have got used to a Megaflo, you will find a combi very disappointing.

Santon cylinders are AFAIK just as good, and there are some other brands a bit cheaper. If you buy a British-made one, and it is stainless steel, I would expect it to last a long time anyway, I am a bit surprised your old one has been leaking. You could give the makers a call and ask them to comment. You may find a batch, reference number or date on the outer casing. A heating engineer can find decode the date of manufacture on your boiler as well.

BTW you say "local plumber." An extra qualification is necessary to work on unvented cylinders. A budget plumber will probably not have it. Some, but not all, heating engineers have it. The usual thing is to have your boiler maintained and serviced by a heating engineer who is qualified to work on unvented cylinders, and get his to inspect your cylinder during the service call. The makers are likely to have a list of approved installers in your area.

If the immersion swap was a DIY job that might lead to a leak.

mombee Tue 23-Jun-15 11:28:47

Thank you so much. I had a long conversation with Heatrae Sadoa folks. The Megaflo that I have is apparently 22 year old (the first generation) and is no longer covered under warranty. I was not happy with the immersion replacement as they could have clearly told me that they are not qualified to do the job. They charged me £417 for that. Now, they have agreed to refund that amount. I asked the local plumber if he is qualified to do the cylinder replacement and he says yes. After seeing your message, I am now inclined to go for a proper installer even if it costs extra (around £2000 including VAT). £250 less for Gledhill / Centrestore for 170/180L cylinder replacement. Do you reckon this is the standard price? Local plumber quoted £1400 for a Gledhill.

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