How to sidestep the 2026 oil boiler ban and avoid installing a heat pump
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How to sidestep the 2026 oil boiler ban and avoid installing a heat pump

Jul 15, 2023

Telegraph Money explains the options households have for heating their homes

Oil boilers are set to be phased out from 2026 onwards, in a move that has left many rural homeowners up in arms.

Despite growing calls from Conservative MPs for the policy to be significantly watered down, or scrapped altogether, in its current form the rules would see those living in off-grid homes unable to replace their oil boilers within the next few years.

Households will instead be encouraged to switch to heat pumps under proposals to help cut heating emissions – but there are concerns about their efficacy and costs in rural homes, with some homeowners facing costs of more than £40,000 to make the switch.

If it goes ahead, the ban on new oil boilers could affect 1.7m homes, and has been likened to a “rural Ulez” by former environment secretary George Eustice.

If you’re one of the many people who currently use an oil boiler, you may be at a loss of what to do for the best – here are your options.

An oil boiler works in a similar way to a gas boiler, except it burns oil rather than gas to create heat. Rather than being connected to the gas mains, homes with oil boilers have specialised tanks that store the oil until it needs to be used. This is why they tend to be popular with off-grid rural homes.

New-build properties will no longer have the option of being fitted with oil boilers from 2025; off-grid homes will not be able to replace oil boilers with a like-for-like replacement from 2026.

There are also plans to ban the installation of gas boilers in new-build homes from 2025, with the sale of new gas boilers banned from 2035.

Oil boilers are set to be banned sooner because burning oil is said to produce twice as much carbon as burning gas. The bans form part of the Government’s net zero plans.

Now read: Pitfalls of the Government’s net zero boiler ban explained

As it stands, households with existing oil boilers will only be faced with switching to a heat pump whenever their boiler breaks down after 2026 – so some homeowners are choosing to push that day back as far as possible.

Several Telegraph readers told us that, despite their current oil boilers being in perfectly good working order, they planned to replace them as close to the deadline as possible in the hope they’ll be able to continue using them for several years to come.

On average, oil boilers have a lifespan of between 15 and 30 years, depending on the quality, how well they are maintained, and level of use. In theory, a new oil boiler purchased in the next couple of years could last you until 2055.

Having a new oil boiler fitted will cost at least £1,700, but more likely closer to £4,700, according to estimates from The Eco Experts.

If you don’t want to take the step of paying out for a new oil boiler, you can help lengthen the life of your existing equipment.

The best way is to make sure the boiler and oil storage tank are serviced regularly by qualified OFTEC (Oil Firing Technical Association) engineers.

Not only can this extend the boiler’s lifespan and make sure it’s safe, it can also improve its efficiency by up to 10pc, according to the provider Northern Energy.

We heard from one reader who was planning to stock up on spare parts for their oil boiler, intending to fix it themselves after the 2026 deadline.

While it is possible to buy parts online, taking a DIY approach to your boiler is not advisable; any work with oil boilers has to be done by a certified engineer, and work done yourself can make the appliance unsafe and – should anything go wrong – it can also invalidate your warranty and home insurance.

It will still be possible to get your boiler serviced and repaired after the 2026 deadline; but current plans suggest it won’t be possible to install a new one after this date should it be too broken to repair.

One alternative to kerosene, which is the usual fuel used in oil boilers, is hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO). This odourless oil can be burnt as fuel, and can reduce carbon emissions by up to 90pc.

HVO is a form of renewable fuel made using waste vegetable oils or animal fats, and has a similar chemical makeup to kerosene, making it compatible with oil boilers.

This means that with a few tweaks to your heating system, carried out by an engineer, you could use HVO to heat your home.

Worcester Bosch, a boiler manufacturer, says it’s developing a range of oil boilers that can use HVO as an alternative to kerosene, as well as HVO conversion kits that can be used on existing models.

Depending on your boiler and the engineer you recruit for the job, a conversion could cost between £500 and £2,300, according to heating oil comparison service BoilerJuice.

However, given the ban is currently on oil boilers themselves – rather than on the fuel they burn – making the switch won’t currently make any difference if your boiler needs replacing after 2026.

The availability of HVO and other biofuels is also fairly limited in the UK, but it’s hoped these more environmentally-friendly energy sources will become easier to access in future.

Mr Eustice has already called for effective subsidies to be applied to HVO to make life easier for those with oil boilers.

If you’re considering making the switch, note that your boiler must be in good working order to withstand a conversion, and you’ll need to get your manufacturer to confirm that it’s HVO-friendly.

Just as with using kerosene, you’ll need to maintain your boiler regularly to ensure its safety and efficiency.

The Prime Minister is facing pressure from MPs to rethink the oil boiler ban, leading some to question whether it will go ahead.

Mike Foster, of the Energy and Utilities Alliance trade body, has previously told Telegraph Money that rural voters had been seen as “low-hanging fruit” and predicted a U-turn on the proposed oil boiler ban.

The Telegraph has already reported that the ban might be watered down, allowing households to install new oil boilers as long as they run on greener fuels. It has also been reported by this newspaper that 30 MPs have written to the Prime Minister to raise the issue.

The Energy Bill is expected to return to Parliament for final sign-off in the autumn.

Households are being encouraged to switch to heat pumps as a more environmentally-friendly replacement for oil and gas boilers. Heat pumps use the same technology as air conditioning to transfer heat around your home, depending on where it’s needed.

Depending on the type of heat pump installed, it might take warmer air from outside your house, or the ground, and move it inside.

However, heat pumps are not suited to all homes. As they run on electricity, they are not suitable for off-grid homes, and we’ve heard instances where they have been unable to generate the amount of heat required to warm up large rural properties.

Heat pump installation can also be expensive. Air to water heat pumps can cost between £5,000 and £18,000, while ground source heat pump costs can come in between £13,000 to £35,000, but may range all the way to £45,000, according to figures from price comparison site GreenMatch.

Now read: Six reasons not to buy a heat pump

There are government schemes in place to help homeowners in England and Wales with the cost of heat pump installation. Those fitting a new system can get £5,000 off the cost of a new air source heat pump, or £6,000 off the price of a ground source heat pump, under the Boiler Upgrade Scheme.

However, given the current prices the £450m invested in the scheme means just 90,000 homes will be able to take advantage of the grant over its first three years – significantly below the 600,000 installations target the Government is aiming for by 2028.

The support is also offered on a first-come, first-served basis, with those off the gas grid not given priority.

Those living in off-grid rural areas could be eligible for a £5,000 discount on having a biomass boiler fitted.

To apply, you need to contact an MSC certified installer to ask for a quote for the work – they’ll also let you know whether your home is eligible – and they’ll apply for the grant on your behalf on the Ofgem website.

Now read: The energy-saving upgrades for your home that are actually worth it

Now read: Pitfalls of the Government’s net zero boiler ban explainedNow read: Six reasons not to buy a heat pumpNow read: The energy-saving upgrades for your home that are actually worth it