Clash of the Titans – Boiler V Winter!

At Opal Lettings, the boiler is one of the most important pieces of kit in our arsenal. The Boiler is the nemesis of the Landlord, as they are expensive to replace.  And when one breaks down, it nearly always waits until Winter when people need it the most.  A friend had to replace 7 of them in the space of one year, a few years ago.  Ouch!

If you are in a diagnostic mood, you can identify some of the likely faults yourself. But, apart from thawing or lagging the condensate pipe in the winter months, I strongly advise to call a Gas Safe Engineer at all times.  We can recommend several reliable engineers at Opal Lettings, give us a call! Gas can be very dangerous when you are not sure of what you are doing.

Characteristics and Symptoms:

The 10 main characteristics of a broken boiler are: no heat or hot water, leaking, pilot light cuts out, low pressure, condensate pipe frozen, banging or whistling noises, thermostat, switches itself off and radiators not working.

Condensate Pipe:

So, let’s look at Winter’s favourite boiler fault, the frozen condensate pipe. The function of the condensate pipe is to take away acidic water from the boiler.  Acidic water is caused by gas and the condensate pipe takes it outside to a drain. 

Because the condensate pipe is itself outside, it is vulnerable to weather conditions and likely to freeze in heavy snow or frost.  It is usually white/grey, about half an inch in diameter, and would be near the ground (drain) outside your house. Usually the display screen on the boiler will let you know if there is a fault. You can thaw it yourself by pouring hot – but not boiling –  water on it.  A warm cloth also can work.  To prevent it from freezing you can wrap a piece of old blanket around it. Make sure the blanket is covered by plastic e.g supermarket or black bag, and make sure the covering is not blocking the part that leads into the drain!  Or you can lag it with foam tubing.

Low Boiler Presssure:

Low boiler pressure could be caused by a leak in your system. You need to have a look at the built in pressure guage. If the needle is below 1, it means low pressure and means central heating won’t work properly. That can be a water leak, radiators recently bled, or maybe the pressure valve needs replacing.  Don’t attempt any of this yourself, call your Gas Safe engineer.

Thermostat:

Thermostat issues usually result in boiler switching on and off the heating at random,  or losing accuracy.  You can check that it’s on and set to the correct setting, as it could have been accidentally switched off or knocked.  If that doesn’t work, it is likely to be faulty, at which point your Gas Safe engineer would need to source a replacement for you.

Other Issues:

Banging or whistling noises, aka kettling, can mean there is air in the system, pressure too low, or your pump might be about to pack up.  Again, you will need your Gas Safe engineer.

Radiators not heating could be an air blockage in radiator or sludge.  If only the bottom of the radiator heats up, it likely needs bleeding.  If it is sludge, your Gas Safe engineer can use a chemical mix to remove sludge and flush through the system.

Age is a Factor:

All boilers over 10 years old are more susceptible to faults. They cost more money to run, and don’t work as efficiently.  Often it is more cost effective to replace them.  Plus the newer, smarter versions are more energy efficient.   Whatever age your boiler is, it is good practice to get it serviced once a year. For Landlords, this can tie in with every time your Gas Safety certificate needs to be renewed.  Standard domestic boilers cost anywhere between £1700 and £2500, most of them are around £2000, they can come with 5, 7 and 10 year parts and labour warranties depending on which model you choose. 

Hope that helps, if you need one, we can find a Gas Safe Registered Boiler engineer for you. #opallettings #openingdoorsforyou