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Weekly column by EUA's Chief Executive Mike Foster

Despite it being a relatively mild winter to date, I want to return to a hobby-horse of mine, the importance of energy efficient heating appliances in the home and the need to deal with the UK legacy of "zombie boilers". If you remember, these are old technology boilers that never seem to die, yet they remain inefficient - costing homeowners in terms of higher bills; the planet in terms of higher carbon dioxide emissions and a contributor to poor air quality - compared to a modern condensing boiler.

Estimates vary, but around 2 million boilers would be classed as "zombie" and in total around 9 million as simply inefficient. So the challenge is huge. The benefits though are great - proven reductions in heating bills and carbon reduction cannot be ignored. Pity the Government no longer has a major energy efficiency drive working in England at the moment; the devolved nations do their own thing, and have used tried and tested strategies like boiler scrappage or replacement. The simplicity of these schemes cannot be underestimated, and often they bring about matching contributions from the industry, making the decision to replace a boiler more affordable.

Whether a household uses natural gas, oil or LPG the benefits easily outweigh the costs. Indeed, if we use the £400 boiler scrappage as a model, the VAT receipts to the Exchequer from purchase and installation of a new boiler probably outweigh the £400 subsidy - so the scheme is good for the public finances too.

Some argue that such schemes simply bring forward purchases that would ordinarily be made anyway - and there is some truth in this. But, it is entirely likely that given the nature of the older zombie boiler, repairs can be a cheaper option - thus preserving the life of the old boiler. I've long argued for a boiler replacement policy - ideally long term, say over a five year period, which seeks to weed out and replace every zombie boiler with a new condensing boiler. The economics are sound, the environmental gains unequivocal all it needs is the political will.

Best wishes, 

Mike Foster CE

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