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 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:
- 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.
- 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.