As the nights get colder and over half of households in Britain are set to switch their heating on by the end of this week, a report noted that more than one in five suffered a broken down boiler last winter, leaving families £320 out of pocket, on average.
With stretched Brits squeezing every penny, almost six in ten households have no boiler cover in place, viewing it as an unnecessary expense, says price comparison site uSwitch.
However, one in five people considering taking out boiler cover this year are doing so because they faced a large bill when their boiler broke down and they now believe that cover works out cheaper than forking out hundreds of pounds for repairs. Boiler cover costs as little as £89 a year - offering a £231 saving compared to the average cost of repair, says uSwitch.
HomeServe is offering annual cover for £89.16, or £7.43 a month, while npower has a £126 deal, or £10.50 a month; Scottish Power and Scottish & Southern both offer cover for £154.80 a year, or £12.90 a month; British Gas has a £156 policy, or £13 a month; and E.ON does annual cover for £159, or £13.25 a month, according to uSwitch. The prices are based on a 5 year old Baxi Gas combination boiler in Nottingham.
Kevin Sears, energy expert at uSwitch, says: "As household budgets continue to be squeezed, consumers may be tempted to make savings wherever they can. However, going without boiler cover could leave you strapped for cash if your boiler packs up and you don't have the money spare to pay for repairs. The average repair bill last year was £320. If this would be difficult for you to find then boiler cover could give you peace of mind.
"If boiler cover is the right option for you then it is vital to shop around for the best deal. Prices and the level of cover can vary, with some suppliers also including an annual boiler safety inspection. As well as saving money this could also potentially protect your family's health. The other point to consider is that you are not obliged to take boiler cover through your gas supplier - you really are free to shop around to take advantage of a deal that suits your household's needs."
Here are some useful tips:
1. You don't have to sign up for heating cover with your standard gas supplier, choose the most appropriate cover to suit your needs
2. An annual service and safety inspection helps reduce the chance of fatal carbon monoxide leaks and improves energy efficiency
3. Boilers that are not regularly serviced will produce less heat from the gas consumed, which in turn means they cost more to run
4. Often, a boiler will break down without warning. Sometimes when one part starts to go wrong other problems rapidly follow. Here are a few tell-tale signs to watch out for:
a. The radiators don't get as hot as they should
b. It takes a long time to get hot water from the taps
c. Strange banging noises could mean trouble, so call for help straight away
5. To help prevent boiler bother, you can:
a. Make sure that you keep the whole area around the boiler clean
b. Have regular maintenance checks
c. Don't overheat your house
6. Turning your central heating thermostat down by 1 degree Celsius could save you up to 10% on bills
7. Replacing an old conventional boiler with a high-efficiency condensing boiler will save you around a third on your heating bill, and up to 40% with the right heating controls
8. Carbon monoxide is the 'silent killer' - poisoning can be avoided by ensuring that fuel-burning appliances have the correct level of ventilation. Never allow chimneys or air vents to become blocked. Have your appliances checked by a Gas Safe Register engineer once a year.