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We don’t give much thought to our central heating system. We expect it to work when we need it, pumping out a continuous supply of heating and hot water. But if a fault develops, a broken boiler can cause untold misery to descend, throwing our hard working homes into chaos.
During recent winters the UK has experienced prolonged spells of extremely cold weather – down to minus 20°C and below in many areas. This resulted in a significant increase in the number of calls to boiler manufacturers and heating engineers.
At our Newport letting agency office we have noticed a spike in boiler enquiries. People tend to not use their boilers during the (kind of) warm summer months, so are now switching them on as it’s grown colder and discovering that there are issues.
Top 10 problems you may encounter with your boiler;
1. No heat or hot water – although on the surface quite disastrous, finding that your boiler isn’t producing any heat or hot water is actually a very common problem. Potential causes range from broken diaphragms and airlocks, to failure of motorised valves. Issues with the thermostat or low water levels could also be contributed to the problem.
2. Leaking and dripping – a variety of issues could cause your boiler to leak water and specifically it will depend on where the water is leaking from to determine the cause.
3. Strange banging noises – your central heating system can emit some very strange noises, be it banging, whistling or gurgling sounds. Numerous things could be attributed to the problem, for example air in the system is a common cause, it could be that the water pressure is too low or it’s kettling (see below).
4. Pilot light going out – this could be down to a broken thermocouple which is removing the gas supply to the pilot light, and would therefore need replacing. It could also be down to a draught blowing the pilot light out because of a broken air seal, or a deposit has built up in the pilot light, so the pilot light needs to be cleaned.
5. Losing pressure – this could be attributed to a water leak in the system, which is the most common reason for a loss of pressure. It could also be down to the pressure relief valve, which in turn is caused by the expansion vessel failing. This problem can be rectified by replacing the pressure relief valve and recharging the expansion vessel with air.
6. Frozen condensate pipe – most modern energy efficient boilers have a condensation pipe – which transports water away from the boiler – and this can freeze up in prolonged periods of extremely cold and icy weather, causing a blockage which results in the boiler breaking down. Thawing a frozen condensate pipe should ideally be done by a qualified engineer.
7. Issues with thermostat – the older a thermostat the more likely it is to develop a fault, whether it’s misreading temperature setting, losing accuracy or turning the heating on/off when its not supposed to. While a heating engineer can clean and recalibrate the thermostat, it might be wise to invest in a newer, more energy efficient one.
8. Kettling – a common issue if you live in an area that has hard water, kettling is caused when lime scale builds up on your boiler’s heat exchange. If you start to hear a strange rumbling noise, it could be due to kettling. Build up of lime scale can result in steam bubbles being produced which can be responsible for the banging noise.
9. Radiators not getting hot when the central heating system is on – this could be down to the pipe work, which could be corroded inside and has caused sludge to gather in the system which prevents the free flow of hot water to the radiators. Chemically cleaning or flushing the system will remove these deposits. Hot water failing to circulate around the system could also be a result of a defective pump.
10. Boiler keeps switching itself off – numerous issues already mentioned could explain this, from low water pressure (check the gauge to make sure the pressure is correct), to a problem with the thermostat and a lack of water flow due to a closed valve, air or the pump not circulating the water in the system properly.