Is your home’s heating system ready for winter?
We’ve only just waved goodbye to summer, and temperatures are still mild enough to avoid flicking the heating on, but now is the ideal time to check your heating system and make sure it’s ready for the colder months.
The colder seasons of the year place the greatest strain on your heating system, which is why most boiler breakdowns happen during winter. Our old combi boiler packed up during a snowstorm and we were without hot water and heating for almost two weeks, which is not an experience I’d like to repeat any time soon!
It makes sense to carry out any necessary repairs or maintenance on your heating system at a time when you’re not really using it. Not only will you avoid having to put up with a freezing cold house, chances are plumbers and heating engineers will be less busy and able to carry out the work sooner.
Check out these tips on how to prep your heating system for whatever winter throws at it.
Get your boiler serviced
If you haven’t had your boiler serviced in the last twelve months, this should be top of your list. A boiler service involves a heating engineer checking that your boiler and heating system are working safely and efficiently. It’s a good way to avoid minor faults becoming major issues, and a regular service is often required to validate any manufacturer warranty. Aim to service your boiler once a year.
Trapped air within radiators is a common cause of lost heat, and it’s really easy to fix. Turn your heating on and feel each radiator; if it’s cold near the bottom, bleed the air out of the valve until water runs out. Be careful, the water will probably be hot.
If you’ve removed all trapped air and your radiator still has cold spots, you could be dealing with a build-up of sludge in your heating system. This can be dealt with by a heating engineer, usually by either power-flushing the system, or using powerful chemicals to break down the sludge. Seek the advice of a qualified heating engineer if you think you’ve got a problem with sludge.
Check your heating system pressure
Low pressure in your heating system can cause loss of heat and reduced hot water supply, and it’s also likely to reduce energy efficiency. Boilers usually have a pressure gauge which is separated into green and red zones; the needle should be within the green zone when the heating system is cold. It’s quite common for heating systems to lose a little pressure over time, so you may need to top yours back up; check your boiler’s manual for instructions on how to do this.
If your system pressure is too high, you can bring it down by bleeding some water out of the radiators.
Insulate external pipes
A really common cause of boiler breakdowns in winter is water freezing in the condensate pipe. This is usually a plastic pipe that runs through the wall from the boiler to the outside of your house. Take a few minutes to insulate this pipe and you’ll avoid unnecessary disruption to your heating, not to mention having to stand outside in freezing conditions while pouring warm water over a pipe! You can buy pipe insulation in DIY and hardware shops, check your pipe diameter before you head out.
If you haven’t already got a carbon monoxide alarm fitted in your home, do it now. Carbon monoxide leaks can be fatal, and regular smoke detectors don’t pick it up. You need a carbon monoxide detector in every room that has a fuel-burning appliance – so if you’ve also got a fire in the lounge, for example, you’ll need one there as well as near the boiler. You can find tips on installing and testing your detector here.
Finding a local professional
If you need the services of a heating engineer, make sure you look for people with experience of doing the type of work you need on your system. If your heating system involves gas, your tradesman has to by law be on the Gas Safe Register, you can check if a specific engineer is registered here.
Aim to get quotes from more than one tradesmen, so you can compare the services on offer and find the best deal. You might like to use a comparison site to save time; this allows you to compare heating quotes in your area just by filling in a single online quote request.
If your existing boiler is struggling to cope with the demands of your heating system, or developing lots of faults, it may be time to consider replacing it. Here’s a quick outline of the different types of boiler to get you started:
- Conventional boilers have a water cylinder and a water tank. You need room for the cylinder (it’s usually located in an airing cupboard) and the tank, and if the hot water runs out you have to wait for it to reheat.
- System boilers have a water cylinder but no water tank. Again, you need room for the cylinder and will have to wait for water to reheat.
- Combi boilers don’t need a cylinder or a tank, so they’re a good option if you’re tight on space. You won’t run out of hot water either.
When it comes to choosing a new boiler, it’s well worth listening to the advice of your heating engineer, as they will be well-qualified to assess your specific needs and suggest the most suitable option.
What checks will you be carrying out to prep your heating system for winter?
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