Most homes in the UK has central heating, the majority of which are fuelled by gas. As wind and solar power become more accessible, both at a grid level and at home, more are seeing additional energy sources at play, but in most instances we still use gas to heat our homes.
A gas-fired central heating system might be cheaper to buy than an oil-fired equivalent, but they are still pretty expensive to replace with boilers costing many hundreds of pounds, plus fitting. Therefore, it’s worth taking a few prudent measures to keep your boiler in top shape. Here are a few;
- Have your boiler service regularly, preferably every year. A great time to schedule this sort of work is when you don’t need to use the boiler (i.e the summer) so make a diary note now to plan your next service schedule in later Summer – ready for the Autumn. There is a reason many of us think a boiler only ever breaks down in the winter you know.
- A serviced boiler will be more efficient (and safer) than one that’ve been neglected. In any event, if you own a home that’s rented to others, you need to have the gas appliances checked and certified by a qualified engineer every year (including your central heating boiler).
- In addition to the service inspection by the professional, it’s worth taking a few precautions yourself. For example, if your boiler is floorstanding, perhaps in your garage, make sure it isn’t covered with ‘stuff’. It’s never a good idea to build a fireplace of junk over your boiler! Even if the boiler is well insulated, a cluttered boiler area will also make it harder to access and potentially restrict air circulation.
- Something you can do, maybe once a month, is check the central heating system pressure. If you’re unsure how to do this, refer to your manual. More systems than you think have small leaks which, over time, can result in systems running under the proper pressure. This can cause damage or result in the boiler automatically switching off. Check it.
- Check and bleed the radiators for air trapped in the system. This will result in a less efficient system and is normally easily identified by cold spots on some radiators. When bleeding a system make sure it’s warm (but not running) and then, starting at the first (and lowest) radiator in the system after the boiler, work your way around your home, bleeding each radiator in turn. You can buy a small tool for this at any hardware shop or on ebay.
- Watch out for carbon monoxide, the silent killer. A simple and relatively cheap installation of a CO (carbon monoxide) detector will put your mind at rest.
- Lag all pipes to protect against frost and, especially if you are going to be away for a while when it’s cold) consider leaving your heating on with the thermostat turned down. This will help stop pipes freezing and avoid costly bursts and water damage. If possible have a close friend or family member pop in from time-to-time to make sure everything is OK.
- If you have a balanced flue boiler, periodically check the outside flue when the boiler is not running to make sure the flue is clear of twigs, leaves – and birds’ nests! It’s also worth checking to make sure the small condenser pipe that runs out from the boiler has not frozen up. If it has, it’s likely your boiler will stop working, just when you need it most!