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blog posts tagged with boiler

How to Prevent a Central Heating Meltdown

With winter upon us, the nights are growing colder and you can no longer avoid turning the central heating on. If your central heating is in good condition, this will be a seamless process, but if your boiler is feeling its age, there is every chance that you might run into problems in the very near future. So how can you reduce your risk of ending up with no heating as winter approaches?

In a wet system, central heating boilers heat the water that circulates around your network of radiators. If the boiler is working correctly, you turn the heating on and within a few minutes the radiators will begin to heat up. There are other types of heating, but in the UK, a central heating boiler powered by gas, electricity or oil is the norm.

Annual Boiler Service

Boilers need servicing every year. Some boilers are less complicated than others – oil boilers have relatively few working parts – but even so, they still need checking over once per year if they are to remain in good working condition. If you buy a new central heating boiler, it will be covered by a warranty for parts and/or labour. This will give you peace of mind for the first twelve months or so, but you do still need to have it serviced.

Servicing a boiler helps to ensure that any faults are picked up before they become major problems. It also means your boiler will work more efficiently, which will save you money on fuel in the long term. However, there is little point in having your central heating boiler serviced if you don’t use a suitably qualified engineer. Engineers lacking experience or qualifications are not going to do a good job and under certain circumstances could even put your life in danger.

Gas Safety

Gas boilers need to be serviced by a Gas Safe registered gas engineer. Registered engineers are listed on the Gas Safe register; they also carry a Gas Safe registration ID card, which you can check. These are the only people who are legally allowed to work on gas appliances, including gas central heating coilers, so if you are not sure of an engineer’s qualifications, ask him to show you his Gas Safe ID card.

Simple Reasons Why the Heating Isn’t Working

If your central heating is not working, it is worth checking to see if there are any ‘quick fixes’ before you call out an engineer after hours.

If radiators are coming on, but not getting very hot, there may be air in the system so try ‘bleeding’ your radiators. If the radiators upstairs are hot, but the ones downstairs are stone cold, your pump might have stopped working. Another common problem is where the waste water pipe from the boiler to the outside freezes in very cold temperatures – using better insulation on the pipe can prevent this problem from recurring. Other possible issues include:

Gas boilers

  • Has the pilot light gone our? If it has, try re-lighting it.
  • Have you run out of gas – this is only applicable if you are on LPG rather than mains gas.

Oil boilers

  • If the water pressure has dropped below safe level, the boiler will automatically lock out. To correct this, top up the water pressure and then press the restart button (check the manual for details on where to find this button).
  • Have you run out of oil? This is unlikely if your oil tank has a sensor, but it can still happen if the sensor is faulty.

Central Heating in Rental Homes

Landlords are responsible for fixing central heating problems as quickly as possible. Having no spare cash to pay an engineer won’t cut it, so if your landlord drags their feet and you have been without heating and/or hot water for more than 72 hours, give your local housing officer a call and explain the situation.

Most central heating problems can be fixed fairly easily, but if your heating is off more than it is on, it might be time to replace the system with a new one.

Six Things You Should Know Before Adding a Radiator

Adding a new radiator or changing an existing radiator is a relatively simple job, but if you don't know one end of a valve from another, it is a good idea to ask a plumber to tackle the job. It shouldn't cost you a fortune and at least you don't have to worry about flooding the place. However, if you are reasonably competent at DIY, changing or adding a radiator in a wet central heating system (the most common type in the UK) is well within the capabilities of any DIY savvy person. However, before you begin, there are a few things you need to consider.

Can the Boiler Cope?

Boilers don't have an unlimited energy output. If there are too many radiators on a system, they will work but they won't get hot enough. So, before you go adding extra radiators all over the place, check your boiler's BTU—this will tell you the maximum output of the boiler. It is normally ok to add one or two extra radiators, but use a BTU calculator for radiators in the home and cross reference this against the boiler output.

Check It's All There

Buying a new radiator online may seem like a cheap solution, but unless you buy from a reputable company, you could end up missing a few vital pieces. The worst-case scenario is that you remove your existing radiator, only to discover that the new one doesn't have any screws to hold it and the stores are now closed. So check the package before you start the job.

Location, Location, Location

If you are installing a radiator in a new location, think carefully about where the pipes are going to go. It is a lot easier to fit a new radiator to existing pipe work than it is to pipe in from somewhere else. Do you want the pipes to feed up from the floor? If so the floor boards will have to come up, which could be messy. Give this some thought before you make a snap decision.

Air in the System

Adding a radiator means draining down the system, which invariably leads to trapped air in the pipes. Air locks are noisy, but bleeding the radiators should solve the problem.

Top Up the Boiler Pressure

Draining down the system will also reduce the water pressure in the boiler so don’t forget to top this up once you have everything running smoothly. A loud, whining pump is a symptom of low water pressure. If you ignore it the pump will eventually wear out—and a replacement pump is unlikely to be cheap!

More Inhibitor Needed

Another side effect of draining down the system is that you will need more inhibitor (the product that stops sludge building up in the system). The good news is that inhibitor isn’t very expensive.

If in doubt about your DIY skills when fitting heated towel rails for small bathrooms, call on the services of a reputable plumber to do the job. It might be more expensive, but at least your carpets won't be ruined.

Help! My Boiler Isn't Working!

There are very few things more annoying in life than a broken down central heating boiler. Boilers invariably break down at the most inconvenient time—typically when the temperature outside is below zero and your bank account is running on empty. But before you call out a heating engineer, there are a few things you should check.

No Fuel

Mains gas boilers don’t run out of fuel because the gas supply is continuous (unless you have been cut off for any reason), but if you have an oil or LPG boiler, check that you still have fuel in the tank.

Water Pressure is Too Low

If the water pressure inside the boiler falls below a certain level, the boiler will stop working. This can happen for many reasons, but recent plumbing work is a common cause of low water pressure. For example, if you have removed a radiator from the system or you had a leak, you should always top up the water pressure inside the boiler. A failure to do so will cause the boiler to lock out. A noisy boiler is an early warning sign of low water pressure, so be alert.

Boiler Lock-Out

Is the boiler lock out light on? If in doubt about what you are looking at, check the manual, but if the lock out light is on, press the reset button to get the boiler going again. All being well the boiler should resume normal service without any problem, but if it keeps locking out you need to call a heating engineer to identify what the underlying problem is.

Pilot Light

Gas boilers have a pilot light, so check whether this is lit. If it isn’t, try re-lighting it.  Sometimes a strong draft can blow the pilot light out, but should the problem recur, you have a more serious problem to contend with.

Check the Power

It may sound obvious, but is there any power to the boiler? Check to see if there are lights on and if there is no sign of life, try replacing the main fuse.

Dodgy Thermostat

The room thermostat is supposed to tell the boiler when to come on. If your boiler has failed to fire up even though it would normally be on at this time, check the thermostat control panel. If it is a wireless unit, try replacing the batteries, and if all else fails, press the re-set button.

Frozen Condensate Pipe

This is a problem associated with exceptionally cold weather. A condensate pipe removes waste water from the boiler, usually into an outside drain. Unfortunately, condensate pipes are prone to freezing when the temperature drops too low. When the pipe freezes it creates a blockage and water backs up inside the boiler, triggering a lock down. The condensate pipe will need to be thawed out, but this must be done very carefully. Use warm water or a heat pad to gently thaw out the pipe, and if in doubt, call a qualified heating engineer.

Call the Engineer

Boilers are tricky things and there are many things that can go wrong with them. Once you have checked all the obvious things and the boiler still isn’t working, it is time to call out an engineer. Hopefully you have a maintenance contract and the visit won’t cost you a thing, but if you don’t, make sure you know exactly what the call-out charge is so you don’t have any nasty surprises later.

Regular Servicing

One way to prevent boiler breakdowns is to have an annual service. Regular servicing will help to prevent minor problems from snowballing into major issues, as well as make sure your boiler is safe to use.