Your boiler is one of the single most important appliances in your home. When it is working well it seamlessly provides you with heat and hot water on demand, meaning you and your family to never have to think about it.
When your boiler breakdowns though, the inconvenience of a cold house and no showers can be frustrating, and you could be looking at expensive repair bills just to get it up and running again.
By understanding the workings of your domestic boiler, and keeping on top of a regular maintenance routine, you can help to eliminate the risk of boiler breakdowns all year round.
The Importance Of Regular Boiler Maintenance
Keeping your boiler well looked after will ensure it functions well and remains energy efficient all year round. Identifying small problems before they become complete breakdowns will save you money on repairs in the long run.
British winters can be long and chilly, so ensuring that your boiler is in tip top condition before the cold nights set in can help to guarantee peak efficiency and a cosy home just when you need it the most.
Regular maintenance of your boiler can also help in other ways too. It can:
- Save you money on your energy bill
An efficient boiler doesn’t have to work as hard to produce the same amount of heat as a neglected appliance. This means that you could potentially save as much as 10% per annum on your energy bills, just by keeping the moving parts of your boiler in good working order.
Another financial benefit of keeping your boiler well looked after is the reduction in repair costs that can run into hundreds of pounds if you don’t deal with problems as and when they arise
- Help to prevent the risk of breakdown
We rely on our boilers to provide heat and hot water, and a sudden failure can be incredibly inconvenient to say the least. By having your boiler regularly serviced, your Gas Safe registered engineer should be able to spot any potential issues and rectify them before they become bigger problems, helping to reduce the likelihood of a total failure in the future.
Your engineer will also be able to strip down and clean some of the moving parts of your boiler which will help them to work more efficiently until the next service is due.
- Extend the life of your boiler
Buying and installing a new boiler can be a very expensive business and you will want your existing boiler to last as long as possible. The combined cost of the unit and the installation can easily run into many thousands of pounds, but regular maintenance by a qualified Gas Safe engineer will help to extend the life of your existing boiler for as long as possible.
- Protect your warranty
Large appliances like domestic boilers will come with a manufacturers warranty. Most of these will specify that in order for the unit to remain covered for the term of the warranty, you must ensure that your boiler is inspected and serviced by a qualified engineer on a regular basis.
- Keep your boiler safe
Boilers release carbon monoxide into the atmosphere through a pipe that vents to the outside of your home. Carbon monoxide can be dangerous, and an experienced Gas Safe engineer will check for leaks in the exhaust pipe to make sure all of that carbon monoxide is exiting your home as it should be.
Regular boiler maintenance can also save you money on repairs
Your domestic boiler is a finely tuned piece of machinery, and just like any other it needs to be looked after in order for it to function properly. A neglected boiler is more likely to breakdown leaving you without heat or hot water, as well as a big repair bill that could run into the thousands.
Keep your money in your pocket and your house warm and cosy, by investing in regular boiler maintenance and an annual service by a Gas Safe registered engineer.
Small problems can lead to bigger, much more costly problems and there are some common boiler issues that you should not ignore, including:
- Leaks and drips
If you can see a leak, hear a drip or find a suspicious wet patch around your boiler, you should have it looked at straight away. Pipes can come loose over time or become damaged and a speedy repair or replacement can prevent water damage or further issues with your boiler.
- Frozen pipes
When the weather turns really cold, it is not uncommon for external pipes to freeze over. This can happen to the condensate pipe in a condenser boiler which can put it out of action. To prevent expensive repairs and costly-call out charges, see if you can defrost the pipe by carefully using kettle-boiled water. You should also look at better ways to insulate the pipe for the future.
- Low pressure
A boiler that is not performing well may be suffering from low pressure. You can adjust the pressure level yourself and re-set it to 1.5 bars, but if that doesn’t make a difference or the pressure continues to fall, you should call in a Gas Safe registered engineer as a priority.
- Repair or Replace?
Just because your boiler isn’t working as well as it should do, it doesn’t necessarily mean a costly repair job is looming. In some instances, your engineer may be able to simply clean the boiler, or fix it using reconditioned parts that cost less to buy. By keeping your boiler in good order, you are able to keep repair costs to a minimum.
Advice and guidance from your Gas Safe Registered engineer
As a professional boiler expert, your engineer will be able to recommend ways to keep your boiler in tip top condition, as well as ways to make it more energy efficient. For example, fitting a room thermostat if you don’t already have one, can help you make impressive savings on your energy bill.
Modern boilers and smart thermostats are incredibly efficient and can be programmed to quickly heat your house exactly when you need it. Only using your boiler when you are home will save you a ton of money in the long run.
Another sound piece of advice to keep your home warm and your boiler working efficiently, is to take care of your hot water cylinder. The cylinder thermostat should be set at 60°C/140°F which is hot enough to kill off harmful bacteria in the water and if your tank is not insulated, you can easily lag it yourself. You can insulate the hot water pipes around it at the same time and for a small initial outlay you can save lots more money on your energy bills and help to prevent problems in the future.
A well maintained boiler is a safer boiler – stay safe from carbon monoxide
Domestic boilers can start to produce waste gases when the fuel isn’t burning correctly. These gases are normally expelled from your home by way of a flue or waste pipe. If your boiler develops a fault, and starts to leak these gases, you can put yourself and your family at risk from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Poorly installed fuel burning appliances or those that are poorly ventilated can also increase the risk of dangerous gases filling your home. These could include wood burning stoves, oil and gas boilers, wood or gas burning fireplaces and even some gas appliances. It can also be present in your home as the result of a leak in your appliance.
Carbon monoxide is both odourless and colourless so it can be difficult to detect, but carbon monoxide poisoning can be very serious and, in some cases, fatal. Symptoms of a carbon monoxide leak can include breathlessness, headaches, dizziness, nausea and even loss of consciousness.
If you suspect that you have a carbon monoxide leak in your home, you should open all of your doors and windows, turn off any gas appliances and leave the house immediately. You should make a doctor’s appointment as soon as possible and organise for a Gas Safe registered engineer to come and survey your home.
How to check for a carbon monoxide leak
Although you cannot see or smell carbon monoxide, there are some tell-tale signs that you should be aware off. Of the gas flame on your stove burns yellow instead of blue, or your pilot light is blowing out frequently, you should have a qualified engineer check the boiler for you as soon as possible.
How to prevent Carbon Monoxide leaks
The best way to prevent a carbon monoxide leak in your home is to ensure that your boiler is serviced annually by a Gas Safe registered engineer. Not only will a regular service keep the system running as efficiently as possible, it will also act as an early warning for any potential faults or damage that could lead to dangerous leaks later on.
Stay safe with a boiler maintenance checklist
Every make and manufacture of domestic boiler is slightly different from the next, and not every type of boiler is suitable for every type of home. But there are many basic similarities in the function and form of the unit that can be used to form a basic checklist for you and your home.
While you should always be sure to familiarise yourself with the manual for your own individual boiler, make a note of the following as well to ensure a safe and efficient boiler at all times:
Every time you visit your boiler or boiler cupboard you should:
- Visually check for leaks around the boiler
- Cast an eye over the gauges
- Check for error messages
- Ensure that the area around your boiler always remains well ventilated
- Listen for any unusual noises coming from your boiler. We get used to all of the hums, whirrs and jolts that they make when warming up or cooling down but pay particular attention to noises that you haven’t heard before.
Once a month or so, you can also take a more detailed look at your boiler by:
- Checking the flue gas vent piping is intact and doesn’t appear to need replacing
- Checking that the drain system is always free from obstructions
- Undertaking periodic maintenance work and really getting to know the workings of your own domestic boiler can help to maximise its efficiency and help to prolong its lifespan.
From time to time you should:
- Check the boiler hydronic piping for signs of leakage or other issues
- Watching the boiler flame to ensure that it does not change colour
- Inspecting the tanks and reservoirs to ensure they have the right level
- Testing the low water cutoff level on the boiler tested to ensure that it will cut off in an emergency.
Every year, you should have your boiler service by a Gas Safety registered engineer, who will carry out their own check list to ensure that your boiler is safe, efficient and free from faults. An annual boiler service should include:
- Reviewing the venting system for leaks, flaws or other damage
- Testing the operating controls
- Testing the safety controls
- Checking that all joints and connections are firmly attached
- Checking the air intakes and ventilation flues for obstruction or damages
- Inspecting and cleaning the boiler heat exchanger
- Check the water PH levels
- Examining and clean the condensate system
- Inspecting all boiler wiring and boiler connections, as well as other manufacturer or model specific checks, tests and other safety protocols
Simple maintenance jobs for your boiler that you can do yourself
Perhaps the most important and helpful job you can take on yourself is to be sure to book your annual boiler service. Booking in a Gas Safe registered engineer to inspect your boiler can prevent it from seizing up in the winter, help it to operate more efficiently all year round and allow your gas engineer to detect any minor issues before they become an expensive problem.
Keep your boiler clean
Ensuring that your boiler unit is dust-free will help to prevent the tubes and pipes from becoming clogged up with dust and other debris, which in turn can lead damage inside the unit. Running a duster over the outer housing of your domestic boiler unit when you are cleaning the other areas of your home will help it work better for longer.
Do not try to clean the internal areas of your boiler, as you invalidate any warranty or even break it. Your Gas Safe registered engineer will clean the moving parts during your annual service.
Check the pressure
If your boiler is not feeling as efficient as it used to, it is possible that the pressure has dropped which will negatively impact on its performance. You can visually inspect the gauge on your boiler, and if the pressure has fallen below 1.5 bar, turn the valve to increase the pressure.
Bleed your radiators
Another sign that your boiler is not working as well as it should be is radiators that suffer from cold spots and never feel warm at the top. Bleeding your radiators not only makes them feel warm and toasty again, it also means your boiler doesn’t have to work so hard to heat them, helping to keep your energy costs down during the cooler months.
Turn your heating on
Your boiler can seize up if it is left switched off for prolonged periods of time. Keep your boiler system ticking over by switching the heating on for 15 minutes or so, once a week during the warmer months, before adjusting your timer or thermostat to heat your home for longer periods as the weather turns cooler.
Book a powerflush
If your boiler still feels sluggish and your central heating system isn’t as hot as it could be, consider having the system power flushed by a Gas Safe registered engineer. Powerflushing is a process whereby water is sent through your central heating system at high speed, dislodging any build-ups of sludge, rust and debris along the way to help it operate more efficiently. This type of procedure should only ever be undertaken by a professional, Gas Safe registered engineer.
How can you tell if your boiler is due a service?
If you have not managed to keep meticulous records about your boiler maintenance and service schedule, or if you have moved into a new home, you may be unsure about exactly when your next boiler service is due. Considering the following:
- It’s been a least a year since it’s last service
If you know for sure that it was over 12 months since your boiler was last looked at by a Gas Safe registered plumber, it would be wise to book in your annual service as soon as possible. Your Gas Safe registered plumber will be able to ensure your boiler is running to its maximum efficiency and that you are not facing any expensive breakdowns in the near future.
- Your home doesn’t feel as warm as it it used to
If you find that your heating doesn’t feel as cosy as it did before, despite the thermostat still being on the same settings, it may simply be that your boiler would benefit from a service. See if you can book your Gas Safe engineer to come and service the boiler before the winter kicks in to ensure a nice warm house exactly when you need it.
- Your boiler is making funny noises
If your boiler has suddenly starting to make unusual noises over and above the normal whirrs and judders, it could mean that there is a problem. Your boilers fan or pump can need replacing over time and can start to make a whole host of unusual knocks, bangs and other sounds as they stop working efficiently. A boiler service will identify any issues in order for your Gas Safe registered engineer to repair a boiler or replace it.
- The pilot light keeps cutting out
If the pilot light cuts out or will not stay lit, this is a sure fire sign that your boiler needs looking at. A professional Gas Safe engineer will be able to assess the problem and repair or replace as necessary.
If you notice a change in the colour of the pilot light, this could indicate a carbon monoxide related issue, so if you encounter any problems with the pilot light, call your engineer in straight away.
- Your boiler has got a bit smelly
Although carbon monoxide is odourless, some companies add a scent to let you know when there is a problem. If your boiler is emitting an eggy, sulphur type smell it could be a serious problem. Other strange smells around your boiler could also mean faults in the boiler that still need looking at.
- Your energy bills have been getting more expensive
If you have noticed your energy bills have taken a hike without any obvious external reasons, it could be that your boiler is not being as energy efficient as it could be. A service may help to keep your costs down, and your Gas Safe engineer may be able to recommend more efficient appliances or upgrading to smart controls to save money.
Maintain Your Boiler For Better Results For Longer
By following a few small, regular steps like checking the pressure gauge on your boiler or keeping it free from dust, you can help to increase the efficiency of your boiler as well as preventing bigger, more expensive problems in the future.
Gas Safe registered plumbers are experts in their field, and they are trained to safely maintain and repair the gas appliances and installations in your home. By making sure that the annual maintenance of your boiler is as important as the servicing your car, and that you keep a careful eye on its daily operation, you can help to save money on your energy bulls and prevent potential problems in the future.
For domestic boiler installations, repairs and services in the Bristol area, DHS are on hand to keep you warm and well this winter. Call us today on 0117 924 7200 or use our contact form to find out how our Gas Safe registered engineers can help you.