Back boilers: 5 tips for removing and replacing yours

Popular in the 1970s and 80s, back boilers were fitted to the rear of a fireplace to heat the room and hot water. Now outdated, here’s what to consider if you need to replace yours.

Everyone wants to save on heating and when fitted, back boilers were robust, solid products, not the greatest in efficiency terms, but reliable.

As they were generally behind the fireplace in the lounge, anyone trying to live with one now is likely to find it rather noisy too.

“In the 70s and 80s, there were very few wall-hung boilers around and what was around was very big and unsightly. Similarly, floor-standing boilers took up valuable floor space, so opting for a back boiler was a great alternative,” says a spokesperson from Worcester Bosch Group.

Installed neatly behind a gas fire, a back boiler made effective use of the space behind the hearth where an open fire may previously have been.

“The trend began to prove less popular when wall-hung boilers became lighter as they were much easier to access, and, when condensing boilers were made mandatory in 2005, the back boiler market all but dried up,” explains Bridges.

“Some of these boilers will be more than 30 years old, so parts may also not be readily available and you cannot update the old-style gas fire with a newer model.”

Bridges shares his top tips for removing that old unit…

1. How easy is it to remove a back boiler?

Unfortunately, removing a back boiler can be a difficult process. The gas fire, back boiler and flue all need to be taken out, which is likely to cause damage to the hearth surround.

But this means you can build a more modern-looking fireplace. Fitting a beautiful wood-burning stove in its place is ideal as it not only utilises the existing chimney, but adds a focal point to the room too. Otherwise a modern electric or gas fire.

2. What to consider

You will need to bear in mind that pipework for the heating and hot water is likely to terminate where the original back boiler was located. This will need to be re-routed to the new boiler with additional time and cost allowed for this.

3. Different options

You may choose to opt for a combi boiler. This will allow you to do away with any cold-water storage tanks in the loft as well as the hot water tank or cylinder in the airing cupboard, and free up extra space. If you need to supply multiple bathrooms and outlets at any one time, a boiler and cylinder set-up may be your preferred option. 

Either way, updating your heating system to an ‘A’ rated condensing boiler, such as one of Worcester’s Greenstar gas and oil-fired condensing models, could make your system up to 94% efficient.

4. Do the maths

Of all boiler replacements, changing a back boiler to a newer condensing model is likely to be the most expensive. Depending on your property, location and installer, you can expect to pay upwards of £3,500 to upgrade a back boiler system.

5. Who to contact

Due to the popularity of this type of boiler at the time, replacement is now surprisingly common, so your local heating installer should be able to talk through the options with you. Worcester also has a handy ‘find an installer’ section on its website, which allows you to search by postcode and location. 

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