THE KEY TO TROUBLE-FREE HEATING AND HOT WATER IS … KEEP YOUR BOILER SERVICED!
There is nothing more frustrating and inconvenient than experiencing a problem with your boiler, resulting in no heating or hot water!
It is important when you move home to establish the service history of your boiler system – and if you move into a new build, even more so that you maintain regular annual service checks.
Failure to do this and no manufacturer will be bound to honour their warranty if you have failed to service the boiler. If it’s a gas fuelled system then you must use a GAS SAFE registered engineer for this purpose.
To find a Gas Safe engineer, simply go to: www.gassaferegister.co.uk/find-an-engineer and enter your postcode – the search will return those registered engineers nearest to your address.
A loss of heating and/or hot water can be a real problem – especially in the winter months and in circumstances where the occupants of the property are either elderly or very young.
However, often the problem can be resolved by the homeowner and there are some simple steps you can take which may save you a great deal of time and inconvenience.
First of all it is always a good idea to check your ‘boiler manual’ which should have been supplied to you by your developer when you purchased your property (if you are not the first owner, ask the people you are purchasing from for the relevant documentation).
These will take you through the basics, checking the boiler and the programmer. If you haven’t got a manual or think you may have mislaid it, we have provided you with some useful links to the more popular makes of system – you will find that these provide access to user instructions on line.
Difficulties can arise by incorrect use of the programmer (it’s easy to make a mistake). If there is an ‘error code’ flashing on the programmer display, look it up in your manual as it may well be something that is easy to resolve, for example, re-pressurising your boiler.
This is a process that you may be required to undertake from time to time and, as long as you follow the handbook is very easy and takes no more than a matter of seconds. This is part of your homeowner maintenance. Bleeding radiators can again give rise to heating issues and is an easy fix. Again a homeowner maintenance requirement.
Smart technology has been unleashed on the domestic environment and two of the earliest applications are ‘heating’ and ‘lighting’ control.
The principle is that a software application downloaded to your smart phone will communicate with your home to give you control over these systems. Here are some of the leading brands currently available:
Apple’s very own Homekit seeks to go a stage further and enable the user to control (eventually) all smart appliances from a single application.
If you have an outside tap (pic. A) always make sure that in the winter months you turn-off the supply (indoors and probably under the kitchen sink), empty the pipe by turning on the tap and then lag the tap and any exposed pipe to prevent freezing (water expands when it turns to ice and this causes copper pipes to fracture which then leak when the ice thaws.
In more modern homes in-line isolator valves (pic. B) are commonly fitted between the water supply and a tap, WC or appliance. These enable you to isolate a single item should there ever be a problem, without having to turn-off the water to the entire property. They are a quarter turn action with a flat screwdriver blade. From time to time you may need to ‘bleed’ a radiator.
One of the most usual symptoms of air in a heating circuit is when a radiator is warm at the bottom but cold at the top. This is due to trapped air which needs releasing.
Beyond heating and lighting there is security which includes locks, cameras and alarms.
There are obvious [claimed] advantages top all of these systems, being convenience, control and money-saving.
Typically, many of the heating control systems cost around £200-£300 to install and some believe they can pay themselves back inside 12-18 months of sensible use through the energy savings that can be achieved.
A simple process, using a ‘bleed key’ which can be purchased from just about any hardware store for a couple of pounds, insert it in the valve at the top of the radiator (pic. C) and slowly turn anti-clockwise until you hear a rush of escaping air.Keep an eye on this as when all the air has escaped you will see a trickle of water – at this point turn the key clockwise to close the valve and you will find the radiator quickly gets hot all the way to the top. You may need to do this to several/all radiators in a house (particularly a new build) to remove all trapped air.
Modern heating systems are often pressurised circuits that require 1.5 – 2.0 bar of water pressure. Either your boiler or expansion tank (in the airing cupboard) will display a small pressure dial (pic. D). Should you be required to top the pressure up (if it falls too far the boiler may stop working) then there will be a ‘flexible filling hose’ in the vicinity of the pressure dial (chrome braided pipe) with a small tap at both ends.
Open either tap fully, followed by the other tap (carefully). You should hear the water entering the system and observe the gauge rising.
Shut BOTH taps off when the pressure reaches the optimum level and your boiler should be ready to operate again.
GAS FIRED BOILERS
We have listed most of the main manufacturers below and you will find links to their websites. Should you need further information about your specific model or you are missing the user-manual, click through for help and guidance.
PREPARE FOR WINTER
As a new property any exposed pipework should already be well insulated. Pipes can be protected using ready-moulded lengths of insulation foam (known as lagging), taped together to close gaps. Check outdoor taps. These can be most vulnerable to the impact of cold weather.
Don’t leave a hose attached to outside taps, and – if you have one – turn off the valve (which may be inside) and drain down the tap and pipes. This stops them becoming damaged and cold creeping up the pipe into your house.
Use the frost setting on your central heating, or leave it on low when you are out or away. Insulation is priority number one, but low-level background heating can stop pipes freezing, particularly if the property is empty. Check with your energy company to ensure you are on the most appropriate tariff.