Maintenance on your boiler and central heating system will keep it working well and keep costs low.
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Boilers are expensive to repair and even more costly to replace, so it makes sense to maintain your boiler in tip-top condition.
Your boiler should be serviced once a year by an engineer listed on the Gas Safe Register, even if it seems to be in working order. The engineer will usually check all the parts and clean the components. September is a good time to arrange the service, so you can be sure your boiler can take the strain of the winter months.
Turn the heating on
Boilers can seize up if they are not used regularly. Experts therefore recommend that you turn on the heating for ten or 15 minutes every so often during the summer months, just to keep the boiler ticking over.
Boilers lose pressure over time, which can cause them to run inefficiently. Check the pressure gauge on your boiler if you can and top it up if necessary. Your manual should give you instructions, or you can ask the plumber.
Bleed the radiators
If your radiators are colder at the bottom than the top, air is trapped in the system. You therefore need to release the air by ‘bleeding’ the radiators. If you don’t, the system is not working efficiently, putting an extra strain on your boiler and effectively wasting you money.
Switch the heating off before you bleed the radiators and slot the key into the bleed valve. Turn the key anticlockwise for a quarter of a rotation and you should hear a hissing sound as the air escapes. When water starts to drip (have an old towel or some kitchen paper to hand!), lock the valve and the job is done, though you might need to top up the boiler pressure.
Leaks, cracks, clunking noises or black, sooty marks all suggest you have a problem. So check your boiler regularly and look out for warning signs. The sooner you detect and repair a fault, the better. It’s also wise to make sure that any external vents, flues and airbricks are free from blockages and debris.
The flame in your boiler should be a strong, clear blue. If it appears yellow or smoky, there could be something wrong and you should call a plumber immediately.
Clear the clutter
If your boiler is in a cupboard, is it surrounded by coats, shoes, bags and other clutter? Boilers need ventilation so the space around the appliance should be kept free from clutter. Your boiler should also be relatively easy to access, so make sure you keep the cupboard reasonably tidy.
Your plumber or engineer should be able to advise on whether your boiler has adequate ventilation.
Lag the pipes
When the temperature drops below zero, the boiler’s external condensate pipe can freeze. The boiler will then cut out as a safety precaution. You can melt the ice by pouring warm water over the pipe, but you can prevent the boiler from freezing by insulating the pipes or by keeping the heating on a constant low setting when it is very cold.
A faulty boiler can produce carbon monoxide – a gas that you can’t see, smell or taste. Carbon monoxide can kill, which is why every home should have a carbon monoxide detector, preferably with an alarm. Put it near the boiler and check it every month to make sure it’s working.