How to install central heating

Copper gas pipe outside house

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Updates on our renovation! 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 (Update: the shots of the mess mid-install are here). 

Today though I want to share some information about the central heating installation, including central heating installation cost..

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:

Before central heating installation

How much does central heating installation cost?

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 for central heating installation are looking like this so far:

  • 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

  • A trustworthy, good quality combi boiler will cost at least £1,300 for your average 3 bed house. We chose a Worcester combi boiler, the model is the Worcester Greenstar 32CDi for its compact size, output and the trust we feel with the Worcester brand (our last Worcester combi boiler was incredible) see our full Worcester Greenstar 32CDi review

  • 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.

During Central heating installation in 1930s house
During Central heating installation in 1930s house

What kind of disruption is expected with gas and central heating installation?

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

External view of central heating installation
External view of central heating installation

We first had to book in SGN to drill a 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 quite messy job, carpets got lifted up and we have wooden floorboards which had to be sawn in places to run pipes underneath (say goodbye to some of your original wood floors). 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.

During central heating installation inside a 1930s property

How and when should the radiators, valves and boiler be sourced?

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. 

Where should the boiler be positioned?

The boiler we chose was the Worcester Bosch Compact Greenstar 32CDi because firstly it was more than powerful enough for our 3 bedroom semi-detached house and secondly it would fit snugly inside a cupboard without compromising on efficiency.

When our legendary engineers (Drummond Heating, these guys are rapid and worked all hours on the clock for us) came over they suggested that we 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. 

External view - Our new Worcester central heating system sits in that white shed on the left

External view - Our new Worcester central heating system sits in that white shed on the left

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 a kitchen and considering kitchen heating ideas as well as the positioning of a new boiler, 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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