Elderly couple thanks ‘angel in disguise’ after receiving free boiler replacement

A gas combi boiler with the front exposed to reveal the controls inside
(Image credit: Getty)

A couple in their 70s have thanked an “angel in disguise” for installing a free replacement boiler in their home after their old boiler stopped working. 

Ann and Keith Hartley, aged 71 and 74 respectively, live in Burnley and had faced the prospect of a winter with no heating due to not being able to afford a new boiler. 

Making use of government and charity grants is one of many valuable energy-saving tips to help homeowners manage energy price rises, and one of these CIC is the Disabled and Elderly Plumbing and Heating Emergency Response (Depher). Here's how they helped the Hartleys.

A free boiler replacement thanks to goodwill

The Hartleys contacted Depher, which provides free and discounted plumbing and heating services for vulnerable households, and were initially informed by founder James Anderson that it would cost £1,695 for a replacement boiler and installation.

According to LancsLive, the Hartleys only had around £1,000 to put towards a new unit, so Mr Anderson posted a tweet asking for donations to cover the rest of the required cost. A few hours later an anonymous member of the public donated the £695 needed to purchase the unit. 

Mr Anderson then helped the couple apply for a £400 rebate from Burnley Council and said he would install the boiler for free, meaning the couple had to pay nothing towards it. 

“We didn’t think it was possible for somebody to help us, it doesn’t normally happen to us,” Mrs Hartley told the Press Association (PA).

“We were both dumbfounded, we were stuck for words… [Mr Anderson] was like an angel in disguise to be quite honest, we were both very emotional about it.”

James Anderson of Depher

James Anderson of Depher (Image credit: Depher)

Tackling the cost of living crisis

Mr Anderson launched Depher in 2017 after being alerted to a rogue trader who had quoted a vulnerable man £5,500 for a new boiler he did not need. 

Depher, a CIC (community initiative company), is reliant on public donations to cover the cost of labour and materials, allowing it to provide free or discounted heating and plumbing services to those who need it most.

In addition to fitting replacement boilers, the CIC has also topped up people’s electricity meters, provided vulnerable children with birthday presents and cake, and delivered food bank shops.

The work has even come to the attention of actor Hugh Grant, who has made donations of several thousand pounds to Depher, which reinvests any profit into the work it does for the community. 

“The cost-of-living crisis is causing anxiety and depression, which is really, really bad,” Mr Anderson told the PA. “So it had come to a stage where I thought, ‘I’ve got to do something about this, I’ve got to help them as much as I possibly can.’”

What home improvement grants are available?

Low-income or vulnerable households can benefit from government schemes such as the Warm Home Discount scheme, which provides a one-off rebate on your energy bill, and the Energy Company Obligation, which offers funding towards energy-efficient home improvements. 

The following support is also available:

  1. Insulation grants - some schemes offer financing towards installing cavity wall insulation and loft insulation
  2. Window replacement grants - some scheme exist across the UK to help cover installation costs
  3. Government help with energy bills - try these funding options to help with your energy bills, and to make home improvements that can lower your energy usage 
Jack Woodfield
News Editor

Jack has worked in journalism for 11 years and is the News Editor for Homebuilding & Renovating, a role he has had since 2019. He strives to break the most relevant and beneficial stories for self builders, extenders and renovators, including the latest news on the construction materials shortage and hydrogen heating. In 2021 he appeared on BBC's The World at One to discuss the government's planning reforms. 


He enjoys testing new tools and gadgets, and having bought his first home in 2013, he has renovated every room and recently finished a garden renovation.