The value of boiler cover is a hot topic as temperatures fall

A new, more efficient, A-rated boiler.  PA Photo/British Gas.
A new, more efficient, A-rated boiler. PA Photo/British Gas.
Dr John Steadman, archivist of Portsmouth History Centre based at Portsmouth Central Library     Picture:  Malcolm Wells

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It’s become just another of those annual rituals. At the first sign of an autumn nip in the air, everyone starts to reach for the central heating controls.

According to consumer champion Which? almost a third of boilers break down within six years of installation or stubbornly refuse to flash up the central heating at the very time it’s most needed.

Nobody wants to be without heating or hot water in the middle of winter.

Many people opt for boiler insurance cover or a service contract so they don’t take an unexpected hit in the bank balance on top of their energy costs.

However, boiler cover can be pricy and is not the answer for everyone.

LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP

If peace of mind is important, you could be paying through the nose as it doesn’t always make financial sense.

Although prices start at around £11 per month, Streetwise advises readers to think carefully whether they really need the expense of yet more household insurance cover.

First stop should be your home insurance, as many policies include cover for emergency boiler breakdowns up to a fixed sum, usually around £300. Which? analysed the cost of extra cover and compared it with the average amount spent on calling out an engineer when needed.

Typical cost of stand-alone breakdown cover, complete with an annual system and boiler check-up, works out at £150 to £200 a year, but most households don’t need to call out an engineer every year.

With an annual boiler check-up currently costing around £60, you can still have one and save anything up to £140 by not taking out insurance cover.

If you’re disciplined enough to put the savings to one side for a potential breakdown, you can have peace of mind without the cost of taking out more insurance.

WHAT ARE THE ALTERNATIVES?

If you don’t trust yourself to put the savings aside for boiler repairs, there are countless combinations of insurance and service plan agreements on offer.

What you get for your money depends on the type of cover you choose.

Some policies only provide emergency cover for the boiler and central heating system, leaving you to pick up the cost of routine checks and repairs.

Other variations provide cover for maintenance and emergency call outs - but just for the boiler and controls – not the complete central heating system. This means if your system springs a sudden leak, you won’t be covered and still have to pay out for repairs.

Other policies and plans include an annual boiler service, while many don’t.

All policies should include a 24-hour 365-day helpline, and cover for the cost of the call-out, parts, repairs and labour.

Like all insurance policies, you need to be careful before you sign up and agree to part with your hard-earned cash.

Common exclusions include limits on the number of call-outs per year, and obtuse definitions of just what constitutes an emergency.

Some even cap the amount you can receive per claim, leaving you to pick up the bill if extensive work needs to be done to restore your central heating system to full operational capability.

ADDITIONAL EXCLUSIONS

Whatever cover you choose, there may still be hidden limitations to making a claim.

Most policies don’t provide lifetime cover for the boiler. Boilers over seven years old will not qualify for replacement if they pack up completely.

And don’t be surprised if your old system doesn’t meet the requirements of the insurance or service plan provider. You could wind up having to pay to have it updated before they’ll offer you cover, and that could set you back £200 or more.