Most British homes turn on their boilers for winter around the middle of October. As the date draws closer, conducting checks on your boiler before the cold hits will significantly reduce the risk of breakdown when the weather is at its chilliest. People who wait until winter arrives before performing a check risk boiler malfunction, higher utility bills and worse, safety problems from carbon monoxide leaks.

Failure to prepare your boiler for winter could lead to repair charges of £350-£1,000, or even more when it breaks down. This usually happens when the weather is coldest in December or January, at a time when most families are short of cash after Christmas shopping and other expenses. You might have insurance for your boiler and central heating but insurance won’t pay for repairs if it’s been over a year since the last boiler service. It can also be hard to find an engineer at peak times, meaning you are left in the cold.

Here are some easy checks and fixes a plumber could do to prepare you for the winter.

The checklist

  • Ensure your boiler is working

It might appear obvious especially if you use your boiler for your morning bath, however, to be safe, test your boiler by switching it on for a few hours under mild weather conditions and see if the radiators are properly heated. This will let you know if there are any issues with the boiler or if it’s broken in which case you should call your engineer.

  • Service your boiler

A recent study reveals that almost half of British homes haven’t services their boilers in over a year. If you fall under that category, now is the time because a boiler service is a full proof plan to fix any existing issues with your boiler. This guarantees your boiler stays in top shape throughout winter.

  • Revisit the Manual

Manuals are a great guide on how machines work and your boiler manual might help you identify some of the issues you’re having and how to correct it. Familiarize yourself with the manual for a better understanding on its mechanisms and all the safety information you should know about.

  • Check for boiler leaks and buy carbon monoxide alarm

Check to ensure the there are no leaking pipes or holes on the boiler, we strongly advise you to purchase a carbon monoxide alarm as extra security to keep your home safe and alert you when the air becomes toxic. Should the alarm sound, please follow the following steps:

  • Open all doors and windows for ventilation
  • Turn off all appliances that burn fuel such as cooking gas and boilers
  • Do not turn on the lights, matches or anything that could cause a spark
  • Leave the property
  • Get medical assistance if you inhaled an unhealthy dose or you’re being affected by resulting symptoms.
  • Insulate your pipes

The nightmare of every homeowner is living without central heating or hot water during winter. When the condensate pipe freezes, the boiler stops working. The best way to avoid this is to keep the temperature low and insulate your pipes when it freezes by pouring tepid water over it. To prevent the boiler from re-freezing, wrap the pipes in old towels, for non-frozen pipes, thaw the pipe, and insulate it with foam tubing.

  • Noisy or frozen pipes are a problem

Your home boiler should run silently. Use foam or other soft padding for balance so it doesn’t have direct contact with the surface. If the noise is caused by poor water pressure, contact a plumber.

  • Check the boiler pressure

The efficiency of your boiler is in jeopardy when your boiler loses pressure. Topping it off is easy and instructions are usually in the manufacturer’s installation guide or watch a YouTube video for visual guide. Check boiler pressure if it goes above 2.5 bar and contact an engineer.

Bleed the radiators

Bleeding the radiators is a measure to keep your central heating in good shape. Radiators with colder parts leaning to the bottom means trapped air, buildup of sludge or debris, which affects the central heating system.

  • Timers and thermostats

During the boiler service, your engineer should identify issues with the timer and thermostat. The thermostat is usually placed next to a window, attic or areas of the home that is cooler. Problems with your timer makes it hard to warm the house at a comfortable temperature. If you have a wireless thermostat ensure they are working properly and replace the batteries.

  • Power flushes

A power flush is a more effective method of cleaning the radiators. The engineer cleans the pipes and radiators to remove sludge, refills the plumbing device with corrosion inhibitor and clean water to moderates the boiler pressure and enhances the efficacy of your central heating.

  • Electric ignition/Blue boiler flame

If the boiler isn’t igniting, please perform these checks:

  • Check all gas appliances and the gas shut-off valve to ensure the gas is working.
  • Reset the boiler or turn on, turn off the electricity supply to see if it works
  • Check water pressure
  • Ensure the pilot flame is blue, not yellow.
  • Oil heating levels and oil tanks

Check your heating oil levels and confirm you have enough to last through winter, if not restock now to avoid the price increase that always happens few days to winter. Inspect your oil tank to make sure there is no corrosion and have it serviced by an engineer where necessary.

  • Check for Draughts

Blocking draughts is a cost-effective way to warm your home. The thermostats automatically turn up higher when cold air enters your home from gaps in the door and windows. Draught-proof your home before winter to reduce the heating bills and prevent cold air seeping in. Draught excluders is a good purchase to block cold air, use draught proof stripes on the door to reduce the amount of air that trickles into your home.

  • Check your flue

The flue is the pipe that removes waste gases from your home and the boiler by extension. It is critical for a fully functional boiler so check for blockage regularly and perform regular maintenance to reduce congestion.

  • Clean your boiler

Most of the problems that impede on your boiler’s efficiency is preventable if you keep the boiler clean and tidy. Create a routine to check for dust and debris to prevent the boiler from jamming within itself.

Get in touch with a plumber today and get yourself ready for the winter months.