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Health-check for home heating systems

Health-check for home heating systems

One of the worst things that can happen during a freezing winter cold snap is if a home’s central heating system and boiler breaks down. Not only can it mean zero hot water and a horribly cold house, it can also be dangerous, especially for the elderly and infirm.

But plumbers are usually very busy at this time of year so getting things fixed can be a nightmare, as well as very expensive.

However, there are ways to minimise the risk of heating system disaster. Here are ten things you should do to keep your boiler, radiators and water tanks running as smoothly as possible all year round:

  1. Get your boiler serviced – Boilers have an average life of 12 years. However, it’s important to keep it well maintained to make sure this isn’t much less! An annual service by a trademark Gas Safe Register plumber only costs between £40 and £60 and is money well spent.
  1. Bleed those radiators – Bleeding radiators is a relatively simple task, but many people fail to do it. Releasing air trapped in the helps the system run without over-working itself.
  1. Don’t put things on or too close to your boiler – It’s temping to place things on top of boilers or jammed up against them in airing cupboards. Don’t do it; ventilation grills and air vents are there for a reason and can be blocked by towels and clothes etc.
  1. Clean the boiler and area around it – Dust can build up and get inside a boiler, reducing its efficiency and clogging up parts, so it dust-free and clean, as well as the place it’s positioned in.
  1. Check your boiler indicators – If the pressure is dropping far too often, or the water’s getting too hot or the flame is anything other than blue, something is going wrong. Likewise, listen out for strange noises such as rushing or grinding sounds. Get it looked at before more serious repairs might be needed.
  1. Lag those pipes – Frozen pipes are one of the most common cause of heating system failure, especially those in attics and basements. Getting them insulated doesn’t cost much and is possibly the best way you could ever spend your cash.
  1. Don’t turn the heating off if you go away – Many people try and save money by completely turning the heating off if they go away during the winter, which is just asking for trouble. Set the thermostat at a low level (around 14 degrees), but not off. Most home insurers require that you leave the heating on or fully drain the system and turn the water off if you go away in the winter months, so make sure you check your policy wordings, so you know what your insurer recommends.
  1. Check your ‘condensate’ pipe – Condensate pipes (the pipe which carries away condensation) usually run outside the home and can freeze if not insulated; it’s one of the most common reasons for boilers breaking down.
  1. Work your boiler in the summer – Like a car, boilers benefit from not being left idle for long periods, such as in the summer. It’s a good idea to run your heating system for 10 minutes every couple of weeks in the warmer months.
  1. Turn down the water temperature – Turning down the temperature setting for your hot water should not only reduce your bills, it will also work the system less hard and therefore, over the years, wear out the boiler more slowly.

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Published 29 January 2018