Free boiler exchange: What are the regulations and who is entitled?

House-shaped radiator

Could you get help paying for a new heating system? (Image: Getty)

If your boiler isn’t energy efficient, pay more energy bills.

This is worrying, because winter is approaching, heating needs to be turned on more often, and we know that energy prices are going to skyrocket again in April 2023 anyway.

Of course, the last thing you need this time of year is a super old heater that you can pack away completely.

You may be wondering if there is help available to replace an old, broken or inefficient boiler – especially if you are on a lower income or know/know a retiree who is struggling to heat their home.

Here’s what’s available and where to learn more.

Which free boiler exchange programs are there?

A cauldron

Is your boiler energy efficient? (Image: Getty Images/Image source)

There are two main schemes to get your boiler replaced for free – or get a grant towards the cost.

You are over the government Energy Company Obligation (ECO) program and the separate boiler upgrade program.

ECO4 program

What is it? ECO is the Government’s Energy Company Commitment Scheme.

The program, which has been running since 2013, is currently in its fourth iteration called ECO4 – which focuses on the Home Heating Cost Reduction Obligation (HHCRO).

In short, this is forcing large energy suppliers (with more than 150,000 customers) to help tackle energy poverty by ensuring that people on low incomes and in vulnerable situations can heat their homes, explains Ofgem.

So you could get help installing insulation, as well as a replacement for an old, inefficient boiler or heating system.

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Who is Eligible? Eligible persons are in England, Scotland and Wales who receive the following benefits:

  • child allowance
  • Labor Tax Credit
  • universal credit
  • annuity guarantee loan
  • retirement savings credit
  • social care
  • Earned Unemployment Assistance (JSA)
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • child support
  • housing benefit

If you own your own home, your property must have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of D, E, F or G (the lowest energy efficiency rating you can obtain).

If you rent privately through a landlord or live in council housing, the property you live in needs an EPC rating of E, F or G to qualify – and the landlord must approve any work.

Households that do not claim benefits but are in one of these EPC rating levels and earn a total of £31,000 or less may also be eligible.

People receiving money from utility bills through the Warm Home Discount Scheme will likely be eligible too.

However, exactly what kind of help you can get doesn’t seem cut and dry.

Ofgem states on its website: “It is important to note that being eligible for ECO does not necessarily mean that a utility or installer decides to install an energy efficiency measure in your home.”

How to apply: For more information see’s Energy Company Commitment page.

Contact your local council (which you can find here) or energy supplier (which you can find here) to find out if you are definitely eligible and what grants or assistance may be available.

Local councils and energy suppliers can also refer individuals or households, as can the NHS, if someone has a medical condition made worse by living in a cold home, under this June 2022 Ofgem guidance on ECO4 for local councils.

Smart meters for energy

Elderly person turning down the central heating with a wireless thermostat

Boiler upgrade scheme

What is it? Ofgem says the aim of the Boiler Upgrade Scheme is to help “decarbonize heat in buildings”.

Essentially, this saves you the cost of replacing a gas or fossil fuel boiler with an air source heat pump, ground source heat pump or biomass boiler.

It’s also no insignificant amount of around £5,000-6,000 – with a total of £450million in the pot for this scheme. However, the money goes straight to your installer who negotiates it for you.

Who is Eligible? People in England and Wales can apply for this programme.

People in Scotland and Northern Ireland have access to a variety of loans and grants.

You must apply for a property that you own, install a new heating system after April 2022, and replace your fossil fuel heating system with one that does not use fossil fuels.

In addition, there are a number of eligibility criteria for your property which you can consult on the government website.

That includes making sure your home’s existing EPC doesn’t have prominent recommendations for attic or cavity wall insulation – and making sure your home is even suitable for a low-carbon heating system, which many won’t be.

How to apply: See’s Boiler Upgrade Scheme page for more information.

Through the website you can search for an MCS certified installer to receive quotes and they can confirm whether or not you qualify for the program before making any final decisions.

MORE: Martin Lewis reveals simple kettle trick to get £100 off your bills

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MORE : Five tips to save money on your boiler and heating system

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Justin Scacco

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