Press release:

Boiler breakdowns cost UK households over £725 million in unexpected repair bills

  • Nearly a fifth of UK homes (17%) – over four million – have experienced at least one boiler breakdown in the past year[1]
  • Households with no boiler insurance had to fork out an average of £245 to repair the broken boiler – a total of £725 million[2]
  • Half of UK households (48%) would rely on savings to cover the cost of boiler repair, but more than one in 10 (13%) would turn to credit cards or a bank loan[3]
  • uSwitch.com encourages families to consider boiler cover for peace of mind about unexpected repair bills.

UK homes have paid out over £725 million in unexpected boiler repair bills in the past year, according to new data from uSwitch.com, the price comparison and switching site[2].

Nearly a fifth of consumers (17%) – the equivalent of over four million households – have experienced at least one boiler breakdown in the last 12 months[1]. The research found that the average cost to repair a boiler breakdown was £245, adding up to a collective cost of £725 million[2]. However, 4% of those experiencing a breakdown – the equivalent of almost 185,000 households – faced a repair bill that exceeded £1,250[4].

Unexpected boiler repairs can dent family finances at any time of the year, but are particularly difficult to deal with in the midst of one of the coldest winters in recent years[5]. To cover the cost of an unexpected boiler breakdown, nearly half of households (48%) say they would rely on their savings. However, 3.5 million homes (13%) say they would have to rely on credit cards or take out a bank loan[3].

Aside from the financial inconvenience, living without hot water or central heating creates lots of additional problems. Of course, no one enjoys having a cold shower, but if the central heating isn’t working for a prolonged period there could be more serious consequences, particularly for the elderly, vulnerable, small babies and people with chronic illnesses. These include reduced dexterity, mental health issues, and an increased risk of cardio-vascular and respiratory illnesses[6].

To protect themselves against an unexpected repair bill, uSwitch recommends consumers first check to see if they are covered by their home insurance policy. If not, it may be worth considering taking out boiler cover for some extra peace of mind. This is available not just from the boiler manufacturer – some energy companies also offer boiler repair services, irrespective of who your energy supplier is. For the 13% who would rely on credit cards or take out a bank loan to pay for repairs, a 0% interest purchase card could also be an option to help spread the cost over a few months.

Shona Eyre, energy expert at uSwitch.com, says: “Boiler breakdown can be a real-life nightmare for many families, and the temperamental British weather doesn’t help matters. It’s not just the financial impact of having to fix a boiler, having to go without hot water and heating for any length of time can be a huge hardship for many families.

“Older boilers are more prone to needing maintenance and are much more likely to break down if they haven’t been used in a while. With this is mind, boiler cover that includes an annual service may be worth considering. Our advice is for households to first check their home insurance policy, as many providers will include boiler cover as standard.”

Boiler breakdown warning signs:

  • Boiler switching off: if you find yourself having to reset your boiler all the time, it’s likely there’s an underlying issue. Some of the common reasons a boiler will start playing up include low water pressure, a faulty pump, or air in the central heating system.
  • Water Leaks: water coming from your boiler is an obvious sign that something is wrong and could indicate an issue with an internal pump or valve. It’s important that this is dealt with immediately by a professional before internal components of the boiler are damaged or any harm is done to your property.
  • Noise: if your boiler is making unusual banging, hissing or rattling sounds, don’t ignore them – this could be sign that there’s a problem with your heat exchanger.
  • Hot and cold water: if the temperature of your hot water changes all the time, it’s worth looking at the boiler. Not only is it impractical when wanting to take a shower, this could be an issue with the boiler’s circulator pump.
  • Smelling gas – If you can smell gas, you should call the National Gas Emergency number immediately on 0800 111 999. The Gas safe register also has great advice on what to do in a gas emergency. You should switch off gas appliances by turning off the supply of gas from the emergency control valve at the gas meter. Then open doors and windows immediately to allow fresh air to ventilate the area.

— ends —

Notes to editors

Research was conducted online by YouGov between 7th November and 1st December 2017, among 13,494 consumers responsible for their household’s boiler (aged 18+).

  1. When asked ‘how many times has your boiler broken down in the last 12 months’ (since the end of October 2016), a total of 17% of respondents said their boiler had broken down once or more than once: 13% responded once; 2% responded twice; 1% responded three times; 1% responded more than three times. 2 million households in the UK (source: ONS). 17% of 27.2 million is 4.624 million.
  2. When asked to think about how much, in total, it cost to repair their boiler the most recent time that it broke, the average response was £245.11, and when asked if they have boiler cover, 64% of respondents said no. Therefore 64% of the homes who experienced a breakdown paid to repair it = 2,959,360 households. 2,959,360 million households x average repair cost of £245.11 = £725,368,730.
  3. When asked what would be used to pay for an emergency boiler replacement, 48% of people said they would use their savings and 13% said they would use a credit card or bank loan. 2 million households in the UK (source: ONS). 13% of 27.2 million households is 3,536,000 households.
  4. When asked to think about how much, in total, it cost to repair their boiler the most recent time that it broke, 4% of respondents reported that the repair cost them over £1,250. 4% of 4.624 million households = 184,960.
  5. https://www.express.co.uk/news/weather/903875/snow-forecast-uk-weather-update-Met-Office-coldest-winter
  6. The Health Impacts of Cold Homes and Fuel Poverty report for Friends of the Earth: https://friendsoftheearth.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/cold_homes_health.pdf

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