Richard Harvey, Category Director for Heating and Renewables at Wolseley, explains how changes to the ErP Directive this month mean that installers need to be aware of the need to specify low NOx oil boilers.

The major change introduced by the Energy related Products (ErP) Directive this month is aimed at oil boilers. Just like their gas counterparts, oil-based heating systems are now required by law to limit the amount of NOx emissions that are released into the air. Whereas gas boilers are limited to 56mg/kwh, oil boilers must not exceed 120mg/kwh.

Initially, the limits were set to just 35mg/kwh for oil boilers, which would have proved difficult for manufacturers and their current boiler models within the market. However, after several revisions, the limit was raised to 120mg/kwh, which allows for some room for improvement and, where necessary, changes to ensure newer boilers produce less emissions.


One of the common myths is that NOx is associated with energy efficiency, however this is not true. NOx is the measurement of exhaust gases. As condensing boilers have become popular with customers, there aren’t any models on the market that emit high levels of NOx gases. NOx has recently become a hot topic within the heating market as it forms an influential part of the technical guide for the Code for Sustainable Homes.


Regardless of boiler type, the government is hoping to cut NOx emissions to 20% by 2020, in line with EU legislation. In addition, it also hopes to increase the share of renewable energy by 20% too.


Cities such as London already experience high levels of toxic air (i.e. traffic fumes, industry pollution) and so, by cutting emissions and introducing 'greener' technology into the mix, it’s hoped that the 40,000 early deaths each year related to air pollution can be reduced.


So, what should installers be doing to help the approximately 1.5 million customers who rely on kerosene or gas-oil to heat their homes?


Firstly, installers should have already talked to customers about the changes brought by the ErP Directive. For many homeowners who rely on an off-grid heating solution, the changes may need explaining. There may be initial worries and concerns about the costs involved with having to upgrade to a newer more energy efficient condensing boiler.


Installers will be able to talk through the various oil-based condensing boilers that are on offer, and how the makeup of these boilers can provide a cost saving on monthly heating bills.


Fuel poverty is a growing trend in the UK and continues to affect many households. However, following the announcement of the new regulations, the government has been quick to introduce several grant initiatives, e.g. the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) which is funded by many of the big energy firms.


This is aimed to help low income families get the financial help they need to replace a poorly performing/inefficient boiler with a new product which is compliant with the ErP Directive. The customer’s boiler needs to be running on less than 86% efficiency to qualify.


The government has just granted an extension to ECO. Known as ECO3, the scheme will run until March 2022 and will focus entirely on low income and vulnerable households, helping to meet the government’s fuel poverty commitments. It must be stressed, however, that manufacturers and installers themselves will be found guilty of breaking the law if NOx emissions are found to be higher than the minimum requirement of 120mg/kwh.


It is therefore imperative that installers are keeping customers informed of what they need to do to ensure they are compliant with the directive. Installers will be best resourced to adequately inform the customer of the most energy efficient oil boilers on the market.


Working through options with the customer will ease any stress and allow them time to look for alternatives, such as biomass or air source heat pumps, and apply for assistance with the cost from a scheme such as ECO.