< Tim Pollard | 10.06.2016

March against the zombies

March against the zombies

Clinging On

We Brits have a tendency to harp back to how things were ‘back in the day’. Such nostalgia can rarely be justified – and certainly not when it comes to ancient boilers dating from a bygone age

I am always amazed at how optimistically we recall the past. The days were always sunny. We were always fit and healthy. The music was great and love was in the air. In short, we wear the deepest, rose-tinted glasses ever made (they were made better in the past, of course).

It’s only when the evidence is presented that the inconvenience of truth becomes apparent. As a bit of a music aficionado, I have recently been watching the re-runs of Top of the Pops from the 70s and 80s currently being broadcast on television. Blimey. Where did all those awful records come from? I keep saying to my long-suffering wife “I don’t remember that one” and “that was never a hit”.

We remember objects with undeserved affection. Our view of cars is a great case in point. We look at pictures of older cars and ask why they don’t make them like that any more. The reason they don’t is because they were awful. They were unreliable, noisy, cold and uncomfortable.

I still remember all those cold winter mornings when the discovery of yet another flat battery on my Dad’s car resulted in an unpleasant bout of pushing and ‘bump-starting’. My first car was a Mini, which had the interesting feature of a built-in foot spa every time you drove through a puddle. Driveways were always decorated with a large black stain, produced by engines generously leaking oil.

Central heating is not immune from nostalgia. I am always staggered by the number of people who report that their “faithful old boiler is still going strong after 20 years”. Oh yeah? The boiler, when fitted new, may have been around 75 per cent efficient. All mechanical devices, including boilers, become less efficient with age. This issue is further exacerbated with lack of proper maintenance.  Such systems will have significantly higher annual running costs compared with a modern replacement, and be prone to breakdowns. In the worst cases, they can also become a safety risk.

The term ‘zombie boilers’ describes older boilers that never seem to die, yet cause untold damage with higher energy bills, higher carbon dioxide emissions, and poorer air quality when compared with a modern boiler. The HHIC estimates around two million boilers in the UK would be classed as ‘zombie’, and in total around 9 million as simply inefficient.

It also stands to reason that if the boiler hasn’t been replaced then it is likely to be connected to ‘zombie radiators’ through ‘zombie pipes’. I’m sure you will all have seen the photographs of the ‘sludge’ that is formed from a natural build-up of black iron oxide, and which causes cold spots, reduced heating efficiency and potential damage.

Any environment with water, heat and metals in close proximity stands the risk of corrosion. If this happens over an extended period without management, then the disastrous results are inevitable.

At the same time, the minerals from chalk or limestone rock that are apparent in our water inevitably reach central heating and water systems, where they can build and cause blockages in pipework, efficiency losses and the premature failure of components. In hard water conditions, limescale builds at about 1mm a year, and can reduce pipe diameters dramatically.

Because of all these factors, we are wholeheartedly in favour of schemes such as the London Boiler Cashback Scheme, with rewards of £400 cash towards the cost of a new installation for the replacement of old, inefficient boilers. However, we think that this scheme should be available across the UK, and that the boiler is only a part of the overall solution.

So join our march against the ‘zombie boilers’ and their nasty little friends. They may look good to the ill-informed, but they will come back to haunt you.

‘I am staggered by the number of people who report that their faithful boiler is still going strong after 20 years’

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