Installing a brand new central heating system: what to budget & expect - No. 42

Updates on No. 42 renovations! It's been a while since I've blogged about it all because I've been up to my elbows in wallpaper.

So where are we at 8 weeks on?

Well, wallpaper has been stripped, carpets have been ripped up, we've had a new door arrival, multiple trips to the tip and lots lots more which I'll update my blog with when Neil & I take a second set of shots of the mess we're living in. 

Today though I want to share the central heating system we're in the process of installing.

For people about to take on a renovation (including us) I think it's normal to be a bit scared off a house if it doesn't have basic needs like hot running water and heating plumbed in.

When we first viewed No. 42 the first thing I noticed was that it had no gas supply, only unsightly electric storage heaters stood in place of radiators. We weren't sure we were ready to take on a house that needed gas being brought in from the pipes that ran along the main road, have a meter installed and a whole house heating fit. I couldn't imagine what the costs would be around it all never mind the stress of having it all done.

Anyway, whatever possessed us to take on the project I can't quite explain, but all I do know is that half way through fitting our heating system, here are some key lessons I've learned along the way:

1. Taking on a house with no gas supply sucks up a big chunk of your budget

If you are considering buying a place with no gas supply and haven't got at least £6K to part with, don't even think about it unless you're happy to live with electric storage heaters.

Our costs so far (still not completed) are looking like this:

  • To bring a gas connection just to our front door - £800
  • To install an outdoor meter - £FREE if you start with a new gas supplier
  • For a good quality and efficient boiler you can trust for years - expect to pay at least £1,500 for your average 3 bed house boiler. We chose a Worcester Greenstar 32CDi for its compact size, output and the trust we feel with the Worcester brand (our last Worcester boiler was incredible)
  • For radiators - we've paid about £1,000 so far on a mix of column radiators and standard radiators but we have yet to buy 3-4 more. This can be done on a tighter budget if you're happy to compromise on the style of the radiator though I think. I went for column radiators in the areas that I wanted to impress and standard rads in others.
  • For a gas engineer to fit and install copper piping and boiler/flue/fans and all rads - this is the cost we aren't sure of yet but I would say put aside £2,500 for labour minimum. 

2. Expect stressful times trying to juggle lots of different contractors at once

We had a nightmare moment project managing this heating installation. It genuinely requires a fair bit of project management skills. If you're interested in how the whole process runs, it goes a bit like this:

 
 

We first had to book in SGN to drill through gas supply from the nearest line to our front door.
Their earliest availability is usually about 6 weeks, so this is important to bear in mind if you're moving in to a house when it starts to get cold. We booked SGN long before we exchanged contracts on the property. 

Then a second SGN team had to come and re-pave the road outside.
This wasn't so much an issue for us as the gas line is on the public street. I didn't have to be at home for them to sort it all, but if the gas line runs through private property you might have to be around. 

Next step is for the gas meter to be installed.
Before this is done, pipes inside can be laid but gas connection can't be safely checked without the meter in place. Our gas provider said it would be 4 weeks at the earliest they could install a meter - again, another long wait especially as you can't order a meter if there's no gas outside your door yet. We had cancellation issues with our provider whilst the engineers were laying pipes which was a real nightmare. 

Once the meter is in, pipes are laid and tested under the floors.
This is a fairly straight forward but messy job. We have wooden floorboards which had to be sawn in places to run pipes underneath. The pipes need to be brought up each level too so it's good to have a discreet route thought out in your head before they come to do the work. Our radiators were all wall mounted and valves were fitted ready to run a gas test at this stage.

Finally when the pipes and rads are all in, a thermostat is fixed  
To control the boiler we've chosen a Worcester Wave thermostat to be installed in our hallway. The model looks really swish on the wall, it's super intuitive to use and it can be linked up to a mobile app so if you realise you've left the heating on when you're on holiday - you still have full control. I will share more about my thoughts on the model once I use it more in colder months. 

So I would say that if you're about to take this kind of project on, plan way ahead before you've even exchanged contracts, and prepare for things to take a lot longer than you think. If you've moved in winter, it might be worth buying a stand in electric heater to tide you over.

3. Source all of your radiators, valves and boiler in good time

Normally engineers will ask what models you like and source the things you need but if like me you prefer to source everything yourself it's worth having these things all ready for the day your engineer starts to lay pipes: radiators, valves, a boiler and flue kit  (can't recommend Worcester Bosch highly enough for their fast turnaround, they delivered within 48 hours - epic), and a thermostat of your choice. 

4. Firm up where you want your boiler positioned early on

The boiler we chose was the Worcester Bosch Compact Greenstar 32CDi because it fits snug inside a kitchen cupboard without compromising on efficiency. When our legend engineers (Drummond Heating, these guys are rapid and worked all hours on the clock for us) came over they suggested us utilise the shed space we have sitting under the house which was once a coal shed. It meant the boiler was out of the way, not encroaching on storage space inside the house, and was safer outside than inside if there was any complications. 

Our Worcester boiler sits in that white shed under the back of the house

Our Worcester boiler sits in that white shed under the back of the house

Tips for choosing the position of your boiler: if you have a garage attached to your house, this could be a great place as it's out of the house. If you're planning on having a kitchen fitted and want it somewhere in your kitchen, consider what the overall layout will be and opt for somewhere that won't take up too much storage space. We considered under the stairs and in our downstairs loo as secondary options.

One big job is done ! Hooray. 

Hope this post helps if you're about to take on a heating installation. 

Full disclosure: I approached Worcester Boiler to offer me a discount on the boiler in exchange for this feature.

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