Thousands of homeowners could have to upgrade their electric supply if oil boiler ban goes ahead — costing upwards of £6k

An elderly woman looking concerned looking at a calculator and laptop
The oil boiler ban could force 6% of UK homeowners to seek alternative heating solution, such as heat pumps (Image credit: Getty Images)

Thousands of homeowners could be forced to fork out thousands of pounds to upgrade their electricity supply if the government's oil boiler ban goes ahead.

The oil boiler ban, which could ban new oil boilers in off-grid homes by 2035, could potentially create chaos by forcing homeowners to seek electrical-based alternatives for their heating solutions, despite many rural homes not having the appropriate electrical supply coming into their homes to support the switch.

This could leave homeowners with a difficult and expensive choice to make if they want their homes to remain warm.

Details of the oil boiler ban

The oil boiler ban is seeking to ban all new oil boilers in off-the-grid homes by 2035 as part of the government's plans to meet their net zero emissions targets by 2050.

The ban would force households that cannot use gas boilers to seek more eco-friendly alternatives.

The oil boiler ban is to be included in the Energy Security Bill, which is set to be confirmed later this year.

Oil boiler ban likely to force homeowners to install heat pumps

The ban, which was first suggested in 2021, primarily targeted homes off-the-grid because of their relatively high emissions and expensive fuels, such as oil boilers.

The hope was to make these homes more eco-friendly and to move these homes, and eventually all homes, off fossil fuel-based heating options, and also boost the lagging uptake of heat pumps in the UK, which are seen as a more eco-friendly alternative to more traditional boilers.

The ban would affect 6% of UK households and force them to quickly find alternative heating solutions, and given that most of these households are not connected to the gas grid, they would have to explore gas boiler alternatives.

Vaillant arotherm heat pump in garden using R290 refirgerant

The oil boiler ban has been seen as a chance to improve installation figures of heat pumps, which is seen as a more eco-friendly alternative heating solution (Image credit: Vaillant)

Homes will need a large enough electric supply

A supply capacity of 18.4kVA is generally sufficient to deliver enough domestic supply and connections are typically able to permit the flow of up to 23kVA for shorter durations of time, according to the energy company UK Power Networks. However, this does not account for the increased electrical demand of heat pumps.

This has led to concerns the oil boiler ban could be coming too soon with the National Grid not being able to cope with the increased demands for electric heating. 

A lack of both electricity grid and capacity-trained installers and engineers poses significant barriers to the switch to heat pumps within the next few years.

How much will this cost?

UK Power Networks has released a publicly accessible summary detailing the average expenses and timeframe for their services to upgrade homeowners to a three-phase electricity supply.

Three-phase electric supply is a type of electrical power distribution system, which, unlike single-phase electricity that has only one live conductor, has three live conductors, providing a more balanced and efficient way to deliver electricity.

In 2022, the typical expenses for upgrading to three-phase supply are as follows:

  • 12% of Phase 3 upgrades cost £1,700 – £3,500 (+VAT)
  • 70% of Phase 3 upgrades cost £3,500 – £6,000 (+VAT)
  • 18% of Phase 3 upgrades cost over £6,000 (+VAT)

When asked for estimates on 2023 costs the Energy Networks Association (ENA), who represent UK network operators, refused to answer but did say: "Providing a valid ‘general estimate’ isn’t possible, as providing a 3-phase connection is a bespoke undertaking for sites with exceptional needs, so costs vary depending on the requirements of the individual site."

Ban leaves homeowners with an "invidious choice"

The decision has been met with significant opposition with concerns ranging from the costs to rural homeowners to the inability to meet the demand for more electric heating.

Sir Geoffrey Cox, the former attorney general, said the ban would leave off-the-grid homeowners with an "extremely invidious choice" as they will be forced to pay for heat pumps or other expensive heating solutions.

He stated: “Those of us who live in small rural communities are going to be plunged disadvantageously and prematurely into making a decision like this."

Operators working to make upgrading "as simple as possible"

The ENA claim work is being done to help those who need to upgrade their homes infrastructure.

A spokesperson for the ENA spoke to Homebuilding & Renovating, saying: “With the rapid uptake of heat pumps, electric vehicles and other low-carbon technologies, network operators are working hard to ensure that the rules and regulations in place as well as the infrastructure itself are fit for purpose, including for those impacted by the oil boiler ban.

"The majority of customers can connect new technologies without any issue. A small percentage of customers will require an upgrade to the fuse which protects their home's power supply, and this would be undertaken during the installation of any equipment if required."

The ENA claim electricity distribution network operators are working to ensure consistency of approach throughout the country to make it "as simple as possible" for customers upgrading their home technology.

Joseph Mullane
News Editor

News Editor Joseph has previously written for Today’s Media and Chambers & Partners, focusing on news for conveyancers and industry professionals.  Joseph has just started his own self build project, building his own home on his family’s farm with planning permission for a timber frame, three-bedroom house in a one-acre field. The foundation work has already begun and he hopes to have the home built in the next year. Prior to this he renovated his family's home as well as doing several DIY projects, including installing a shower, building sheds, and livestock fences and shelters for the farm’s animals. Outside of homebuilding, Joseph loves rugby and has written for Rugby World, the world’s largest rugby magazine.