Imagine when you wake up on a freezing cold winter’s day to find your boiler making strange noises, no hot water in the taps and the heating on the blink. Not an ideal situation when there’s frost on the ground.
Boilers are at their most vulnerable in the winter, when they’re in more or less constant use, but they can break down at any time. That’s why it’s important to keep your boiler in good condition and minimise the risk of break down as having to replace one can cost hundreds, if not thousands of pounds.
Annual boiler service can be a sensible option to keep your boiler in the best possible condition ready for the onslaught of the winter months. But first, what can you do to keep your boiler in a good state of repair?
What can go wrong with a boiler?
There are different types of boiler, but the most common on the market is known as a condensing boiler. This means that, rather than the waste gases evaporating into the atmosphere, they are condensed into a liquid, which allows the boiler to extract more heat from the fuel, and less is lost in the flue.
This condensed liquid is removed via a condensate pipe, which can freeze in colder temperatures. If your boiler isn’t working, and the temperature outside is below freezing, it may be that the condensate pipe is frozen.
The best thing to do is to place a hot water bottle on the pipe until the ice thaws – hopefully this will allow the boiler to resume its duties. You can also pour warm (not boiling) water over the pipe, but if the weather is still cold, watch out for ice forming once the water cools.
Ideally, you should insulate the pipe so it has less chance to freeze in the first place.
Another option is to replace a narrow pipe with a wider one, where the temperature would have to be lower for ice to form in the pipe to the extent that it became blocked.
Keep your boiler maintained
Boiler engineers can be expensive to call out, not to mention they are often hard to book during colder spells.
There are several things to look out for when you think your boiler isn’t functioning properly. If the heating or hot water won’t come on, that is a giveaway, but other things like low or high boiler pressure, or ticking or clanking noises could also mean your boiler maybe struggling to keep up with demand.
One good indicator is looking at the boiler flame – which should be a healthy blue. If it is yellow or orange then the boiler may not be getting enough gas, or conversely if it is getting too much gas, then this could be a more serious situation.
Check your bills to see your gas usage, if you think it is too high or if it’s higher than usual, then you may have a problem with your boiler.
Boiler servicing and cover
A good option is boiler cover, as this then allows you protection when something goes wrong, without costing a lot of money. With some cover plans you can get boiler service as part of the package, or at least cheaply, so you don’t have to worry if the time comes.
The cost of fixing a boiler can range from £150 for a small repair to several hundreds of pounds for larger scale fixes or replacement parts, so having your boiler serviced can help mitigate spiralling repair costs.
Make sure that, if you do have to call an engineer, they are Gas Safe Registered (this has replaced Corgi registered), as this means they will have the skills and knowledge to fix your boiler correctly.