Boilers in France: Regulations, Maintenance, Repair & Replacement in 2020
There are a wide range of factors to consider when choosing a new boiler for a home in France - type, cost, technology used, contract type… Which will all determine which boiler is right for your house or apartment. The following article goes into detail to present all your options, as well as what to do if a boiler needs repairing or replacing.
The different types of boilers in France
Each type of boiler has its specificities, however they all share the same mode of functioning. Its ultimate goal is to provide a household with heat, via hot water or a heat transfer liquid. A boiler uses a fuel (electricity, gas, wood, oil) to generate heat, which will raise water or liquid temperature inside the boiler. Once the water has reached the right temperature, it can travel through the building’s pipes, all the way to heating appliances or to sanitary water, which will be used for the shower, the dishwasher, etc. But what are the differences between every type of boiler, and which should you choose?
The electric boiler
In France, electric boilers are mainly found in rented apartments or houses, as it is a fairly cheap heating method for the landlord to purchase. This said, electricity is currently one of the most expensive energy types in France, so in the cases of a high consumption, electricity bills can quickly skyrocket.
An electric boiler will be a well-suited heating option in the following cases:
- In a household which isn’t connected to mains gas
- In a small apartment, where there isn’t much space to store wood or propane bottles
- For people looking for an easy installation method, as an electric boiler only requires to be plugged on an electric power outlet to work
The gas boiler
Gas boilers - which can be fuelled by natural gas or propane - offer several advantages: they are easy to install, fairly low-maintenance and are one of the most eco-friendly energy compared to other heating sources. An additional benefit if opting for natural gas as the fuel is that it is the cheapest fuel sources as of today, so it can work well for lower budgets. Moreover, gas offers a very pleasant heat, all nicely even, smooth and quickly spreading. You can find out here how to connect a home to gas.
This said, gas boilers are generally quite a lot more expensive than electric ones. It is also important to note that, if opting for a propane-fuelled boiler, will require the installation of a gas tank, which will have be regularly filled by a tanker truck. These types of gas boilers are thus best suited to isolated houses which cannot be connected to mains gas.
Finally, gas boilers are still too often the cause of domestic accidents because of explosions or gas intoxications. In order to avoid this, make sure your boiler is up to date with maintenance regulations, and if you ever smell gas and suspect a gas leak, you should immediately contact the Gas Emergency Services.
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The wood boiler
Although not the most common type of boiler, the wood boiler has been making a comeback in recent years, due to it being inexpensive, eco-friendly and very efficient.
There are two types of wood boilers:
- The log-fuelled boiler - the cheapest type of wood boiler, also very easy to use. The main issues with this boiler is that is requires manually work to function, and only have a few hours of autonomy. Moreover, the logs have to be stored in a dry place at all times.
- The granule-fuelled boiler - easy to use and with an autonomy of several months, they are definitely one of the most, if not the most, eco-friendly heating methods out there. It does, however, work out more expensive than a log-fuelled boiler, and the granules take up quite a lot of storage space, as well as needing to be strictly kept away from humidity.
The oil-fired boiler
The oil-fired boiler can produce heat at a very fast pace, making it ideal for large surfaces. It is completely autonomous and does not depend of a distribution network.
This said, an oil-fired boiler requires to stock fuel in a large-capacity tank, either in a house or outside, and this tank will need regular top-ups from an oil tanker. It is also quite a pricey investment, as well as being taxing for the environment since oil is a non-renewable source of energy.
What’s more, oil-fired boilers will be banned in France within the next 10 years, and it does thus no longer seem like a smart and viable investment today
Choosing the right boiler: which type is best ?
With such a range of boilers to choose from, it is important to make sure to select the one best fitted to your needs and living space. Several factors are important to consider when choosing a boiler: the type of housing and its location, a boiler’s technology and its power, and personal budget.
Choosing the right energy for a boiler
First off, the housing in itself is a decisive factor: depending on whether you live in a house or an apartment and the size of it, and depending whether it is in a rural area or in a city, the best suited boiler type will vary.
|Location||Size of living space||Which energy is best?|
(for places that aren’t connected to mains gas)
|Apartment < 40m2||Electricity or Wood (log-fuelled)|
|House < 50m2||Wood + propane tank|
|Apartment < 80m2||Electricity|
|House < 100m2||Wood + Electricity|
|House > 100m2||Wood + Electricity|
(for places connected to mains gas)
|Apartment < 20m2||Gas, electricity or Wood (log-fuelled)|
|House < 50m2||Gas|
|Apartment < 50m2||Gas|
|Apartment < 90m2||Gas|
|Apartment > 90m2||Gas|
Choosing the right technology for a boiler
There are several types of technologies available for a boiler: classic, low temperature, or condensing. Although these last two are more expensive to purchase initially, they work out cheaper and more environmental-friendly on the long term. Both the low temperature and the condensation boilers are thus put forward by the French authorities, which have committed to covering 30% of their initial cost, directly or by or deducting it from taxes. Note that you are entitled to this State aid whether you are French or not.
- The condensing technology has the benefit of needing less fuel to function, which makes it more eco-friendly and cheaper than its classic counterparts.It is also very quiet, which makes it a good option for one-room apartments for instance, where space is limited.
- The low temperature technology has the benefit, as its name would suggest, of working at a lower temperature than classic boilers (50ºC instead of 90ºC). This means it is eco-friendly and can help lower energy bills
Choosing the right power for a boiler
Another important factor to consider in a boiler is its power, meaning how long it takes the boiler to provide the pipe system in hot water. If the power isn’t adapted to a household’s needs, this can cause one of two issues:
- If the boiler power is too strong compared to the household’s actual consumption, the boiler purchased will end up being unnecessarily costly
- If the boiler power is too weak, it won’t work as efficiently, as it will provide a lower hot water flow compared to the household's consumption.
Working out which power will suit a household depends on the size of the living space, and whether the boiler will be used for heating appliances only, or for hot water too. But fear not, during the initial boiler quote, the technician in charge of installing the boiler will check if your estimations are aligned with your needs.
|Size of living space||Heating only||Heating + Hot water|
|Apartment < 100m2||12 to 20 kW||23 to 28 kW|
|Apartment > 100m2||15 to 25 kW||25 to 35 kW|
|House < 90m2||12 to 20 kW||23 to 28 kW|
|House > 90 m2||+ 20 kW||25 to 35 kW|
How much does a boiler cost?
The cost of a boiler will depend on its type, its power, its brand and model. Because of all these factors, the prices shown below are set as averages only. Also note that these prices don’t include the cost of labour, pipe laying and radiator installation in a new home.
|Boiler type||Installation cost||Return on investment|
|Electric||€1,000 to €6,000||Poor. The initial cost of an electric boiler is quite attractive, however the electricity bills that follow can end up very high - €2,000 on average for a 100 m² living space.|
|Gas (condensing)||€4,000 to €7,000||Good. Provides up to 35% saving on bills compared to classic boilers, along with a 30% tax credit.|
|Gas (low temperature)||€3,000 to €6,000||Fair. Up to 15% savings compared to classic boilers, but contrary to condensing boilers it doesn’t come with a tax credit|
|Oil (low temperature / condensing)||€3,000 to €10,000||Poor. No tax credit available, plus the price of oil is considerably high than that of gas or wood. What's more, oil-fired boilers will soon be banned in France, so it's best not to invest in this type of boiler anymore.|
|Wood (granules)||€13,000 to €20,000||Fair. This boiler is expensive to install, but granules cost €300/ton on average - twice as cheap as oil. Also comes with a 30% tax credit.|
|Wood (logs)||€3,000 to €8,000||Very good. Logs are the cheapest fuel on the market, making these wood boilers very inexpensive. Also comes with a 30% tax credit.|
Boiler maintenance in France: a legal requirement
The French boiler maintenance regulation
In France, boiler servicing is mandatory for all non-electric boilers since 2009, and must occur once a year - even for modern and brand new models. You should thus take this into account into your energy budget.
Ideally, boiler maintenance should be carried out a little before temperatures start to drop,so around September or October so as not to have to turn the boiler off in the middle of winter.
For new boilers, the servicing needs to be done within the year of installation.
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What happens during a boiler maintenance procedure
The gas boiler maintenance
The annual gas boiler servicing is a way of ensuring the system is functioning properly, to prevent any power outages or issues that can impact both the energy bills and household’s safety. Only a certified professional can carry out this procedure and give you the proof of servicing.
During this procedure, the professional will do the following:
- Clean the inside of the boiler
- Test the safety and regulation devices
- Dismantle, clean and reset the burner
- Control the temperature of the smoke and the level of carbon monoxide
The wood boiler maintenance
The servicing for wood boilers is meant to ensure these are in alignment with the environmental criteria fixed by the Government. This is done by controlling the boiler’s productivity and its emissions of pollutants.
During this procedure, the professional will do the following:
- Clean the boiler and the ash pit
- Check the state of the hinges and change them if necessary
- Clean the exhaust fan and the air vent
- Ensure the draft regulator works properly, as this is a critical component in wood boilers
- Check the overall state of the regulatory components
The oil-fired boiler maintenance
This maintenance procedure also requires intervention from a professional, who will do the following:
- Clean the heating system and the boiler hearth to remove any combustion-related residues
- Service the burner - the nozzle in particular. This part may either just require a clean or have to be replaced.
- Check the state of the filters
- Sweep the chimney
- Control the level of carbon monoxide released by the boiler
- Restart the boiler so as to check there aren’t any malfunctions.
The electric boiler maintenance
Electric boilers are not subject to the mandatory annual maintenance, as they don’t produce carbon monoxide. It is however important to descale this type of boiler regularly so as to ensure it keeps functioning properly. This can either be done by you or a professional.
How much does a boiler maintenance cost?
It all depends on the type of boiler and the servicing contract agreed to with the professional who comes to service the boiler. Some contracts will offer priority assistance in cases of emergency and include other services, such as an annual chimney sweep (also a mandatory, annual procedure).
Here are the average prices as of 2019:
- For a classic boiler, servicing will cost around €80 to €190 per year
- For a low temperature boiler it will cost between €80 and €130 per year
- For a condensing boiler, the cost will vary from €140 to €190 per year
This said, boiler maintenance should not be seen as a financial burden; rather, it can help prevent outages and can even increase a boiler’s lifespan, saving you money in the long run.
For a rented living space, the person in charge of paying might vary:
Benefits of a regular boiler maintenance
There are several non-neglectable benefits to regularly servicing a boiler:
Preventing carbon monoxide intoxication
Servicing a boiler can dramatically decrease the risks of carbon monoxide intoxication. This gas is the cause of around one hundred casualties and more than 3,000 incidents in France every year. What makes it so dangerous is that is odourless, colourless and deadly at too high dose.
The professional will thus check the concentration of carbon monoxide produced by a boiler - above 10 ppm, the boiler system will need further investigation, ad above 50 ppm the boiler will need to be switched off immediately.
Saving money on energy bills
A well maintained boiler consumes between 7 and 12% less energy, and thus can help reduce energy bills in similar proportions, depending on the quantity of energy used, the size of the living space and the type of fuel used. For instance, according to the French Ministry of Sustainable Development has estimated that a well serviced, granule-fuelled wood boiler in a 200m² can help save up to €320 per year on energy bills.
Improving the lifespan of a boiler
Finally, a well-serviced boiler will be able to function for longer and be less likely to need repairing or replacing.
Maintaining a boiler regularly could for instance increase its lifespan by 5 years, making it functional for 20 years instead of 15. Taking into account the fact a new boiler costs around €4,000, by delaying the replacement of a boiler by 5 years can mean a saving of €1,000.
How to repair a broken boiler in France
When to call a professional to repair a Boiler
Aside from the annual maintenance procedure, a boiler may need to be repaired every now and then. Sometimes it can be a matter of examining the boiler yourself and proceeding to a minor fix, but other times getting help from a professional is necessary.
Problems with an electric boiler
The most common issue with an electric boiler comes from a power outage, especially if the power your boiler is subscribed to is too weak compared to your consumption as this will cause the fuse to trip. Before seeking professional assistance, make sure the boiler is well plugged in and that your house or apartment isn’t affected by a general power outage. If this is not the case, the interventional of a professional will be necessary, as there is probably an issue with the boiler safety system.
Problems with the fuel supply
Another potential problem can arise if the supply of fuel is cut off. Before seeking assistance, check that the vents through which the fuel circulates are open, that there is still enough fuel left in the boiler, and that the energy network isn’t down.
Problems with the hot water system
Problems linked to the hot water system can be very dangerous. Make sure to control the water pressure and check that it isn’t too weak or too high (an average water pressure is between 1 and 3 bars). If it is too weak, simply refilling the system should do the trick. If the pressure is too high however, there is a very dangerous risk of the system exploding and you should immediately make an emergency call to a repairperson.
Problems with the heating system
If the boiler isn’t heating your living space properly, before you seek assistance you should check that the thermostat is properly set and that the air vents are clear. A heating malfunction can also be caused by an incomplete combustion - especially if the fuel used is of low quality - which is dangerous and puts the boiler at risk of exploding.
The heating system can also be compromised by a bad smoke evacuation, which is also dangerous as it puts you at a risk of intoxication. In both these cases, you should contact a professional immediately.
The Cost of a boiler repair
It is very difficult to give an estimate of a repair intervention, as prices depend on many factors, and every professional is free to set their own prices.
The cost will take into account:
- the travel expenses which can range from €20 to €160 depending on the date of intervention and how complex the intervention is. A complex intervention on a bank holiday will for instance cost a lot more than a simple one on a standard week day
- the repair costs which every professional is free to choose based on a hourly rate. These typically range between €30 and €70 per hour
- the cost of any items of the boiler that need changing, which once again can vary considerably, from one item and one brand to another. While some small items only cost €10, other more complex ones such as the circulating pump, can cost upwards of €200.
Subscribing to a boiler maintenance contract
Since a one-off repair intervention can cost anything from €200 to €500, it might be worth considering subscribing to a maintenance and repair contract.
These contracts usually cover the annual maintenance intervention plus a free additional repair intervention per year, the replacement of certain items or a guaranteed delay of intervention.
Should I subscribe to a boiler maintenance contract?
Subscribing to such a boiler contract can give you the peace of mind in relation to the mandatory boiler servicing, and can also work out advantageous for you if you live in an far out and isolated area, as the contract will oftentimes include unlimited travel expenses.
However, it may not be worth getting tied to a contract if your boiler is old, since it will need changing anyway, or if the boiler is already under manufacturer guarantee, in which case the replacement of items will be covered already.
How to choose a boiler maintenance contract
Make sure to read all the clauses before signing any contract (or get help from a French-speaking person if needed).
Depending on what it includes, the annual cost of a contract will range from €60 to €150. All contracts will, at the least, include:
- the annual boiler servicing
- the coverage of travel expenses
- a 7-days-a week intervention guarantee
And for isolated homes or boilers for which the warranty has just expired, the contract will also at minimum include:
- unlimited travel expenses
- the coverage of items needing replacement
What to check for after a Boiler Repair
Once an intervention is over, make sure to do the following:
- check the items that have been replaced
- keep the replaced, faulty items
- ask for an intervention certificate or an invoice proving the entirety of the procedures carried out.
If anythings feels suspicious about the price charged or the intervention in itself, you can contact the Synasav, the French national maintenance and after sale services union (02 47 32 97 09) or the Synadep the French national union for at-home repair interventions (04 86 06 36 76).
Boiler replacement in France
When should I change my boiler?
It can be quite daunting to think about having to replace a boiler, but this is a very important and necessary investment. But how and when do you know the time has come for an update?
Average lifespan of a Boiler
Depending on the brand and the model, a boiler can stay in function for 10 to 20 years. The lifespan will mainly depend on the quality of the device, the frequency of use and most importantly if its servicing.
Some small and simple ways of increasing a boiler’s lifespan include:
Changing a malfunctioning boiler
Sometimes repairing a boiler is only a matter of changing a small item. But if your boiler keeps breaking down, if it isn’t working properly or if the device is over 15 years then it is probably time to replace it.
If in doubt, do not hesitate to get advice from a professional who will be able to inform you on the state of your boiler and give you advice as to which new boiler would be best suited to your needs.
Is your boiler experiencing either of these issues? If so, it may be time to change it. To find your new and ideal gas boiler at the best price, you can start by getting a free and instant gas boiler quote today
How much does a boiler replacement cost?
It is recommended to get in contact with several professionals to discuss your options and ask for quotes to find out the solution that suits you best. Note that for rented homes, it is up to the landlord to cover this cost (but up to the tenant to pay for any more minor repairs) Below are estimates of replacement prices each type of boiler
|Type of boiler||Cost estimate|
|Classic wall mount boiler||€3,000 to €6,000|
|Classic floor mount boiler||€5,000 to €8,000|
|Condensing boiler||€4,000 to €5,000|
|Oil-fired boiler||€5,500 to €6,500|
|Wood boiler||€3,000 to €8,000|
What happens to the boiler contract after a replacement?
Make sure to notify the professional with whom you signed a contract for the replaced boiler, for if not you will end up having to keep paying for it.
Benefits of replacing a boiler
Replacing a boiler, especially an old and faulty one, will provide you with a lot more comfort at home. You will be able to choose more modern, more efficient and more adapted boiler that will be better suited to your needs, while also not having to worry about power outage problems or intoxication hazards, since new boilers are way less likely to encounter these issues.
A lesser impact on the environment
In France, the new models of boilers (condensing and low temperature) are designed to consume less fuel and function more efficiently. This means that, for a same level of comfort, a boiler will require less resources and thus will have a lesser impact on the environment.
Lower energy bills
Finally, and as a consequence of needing less fuel to function, a new boiler will help you save money on your energy bills overtime.