boiler breakdowns

Boiler Maintenance Tips: What You Can Do Without Calling an Engineer

May-2020 / 5 min read

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Boilers are the heavy-duty heroes that keep our homes warm during the cold seasons. Prevent boiler breakdowns during the snap by staying on top of their problems. As a homeowner, landlord, or tenant, there are things you can do to help maintain your boiler. 

What is boiler maintenance?

Boiler maintenance is the work you do to ensure that it has no hiccups that could lead to a broken machine. It is a combination of inspection, cleaning, and small repair tricks to keep your boiler functioning and fuel-efficient. Since boilers vary from type and brand, read through and see what applies to the one you have in your home. Before we begin, we have to consider what work is safe for us to DIY versus what isn’t.

The line between you and a Gas Safe engineer

  While you can pick up tricks from the boiler maintenance work previously done on your boiler, it is essential to note that it is illegal to do gas work. You are not protected when boiler issues arise when you do it yourself. Warranties require regular boiler service from the professionals in the Gas Safe Register or the OFTEC else they become invalid. When you do the job yourself, you are accepting the risk that comes with misdiagnosing or aggravating the problem. When you spot a problem during your visual inspection or tricks don’t work, please call a Gas Safe engineer in your area. 

Who are Gas Safe and OFTEC? 

In case you are not aware, Gas Safe or the Gas Safe Register and OFTEC are the regulating bodies for gas and oil work respectively. They conduct tests and inspections to check the company and trade workers in the industry. They issue IDs to every engineer and plumber registered with them. You can run ID numbers through their website to confirm. Any complaints of work done or suspicion of illegal boiler maintenance work should be reported to them. 

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What happens when you do work meant for Gas Safe engineers?

When you do gas fittings or repairs without being a Gas Safe engineer, you are always in the position of ruining your boiler. Your boiler can last for 15 years or more with proper maintenance. Shoddy work leads to an expensive repair or replacement that could have been avoided. You could also miss vital signs of boiler failure, which ranges from a broken boiler, a gas leak, and possible fire, among other things.

How do you maintain a boiler?

Before problems occur, make it a habit to check on your boiler regularly. Keep the manual on hand and highlight important manufacturer notes. 

Personal Inspections

Keep your boiler well-ventilated, avoid cluttering the area with old clothes, coats, or other miscellaneous items. When living with other people, you may have to check every month–case they forget. 

All air vents and flues must be free of obstruction. They are the passageway of the air; any kind of blockage could affect your boiler performance. If you do not have a flue access panel, have one installed.

Check if your boiler flame is blue. If the fire is orange or red it is an indicator of improper combustion or build-up of dirt and debris which may lead to carbon monoxide (CO) leak. You may need to contact a British gas boiler service.

Inspect the water/boiler pressure. The proper range should be indicated in your manual. If you do not have a manual on hand, the ideal pressure is within the first two levels. If they are not on the correct level, you can adjust it. Turn on the taps on either side of the system to fill the loop, or consult your manual. It is safe to do this yourself.

Check your radiator, if you find that the top is hot, but the bottom is cold it is a sign of dirt building up inside. To fix this call an engineer for a power flush If the radiator is not hot at all, you may need a valve replacement.  

Last but not least, visually inspect your external pipe for any leak or dripping. One of Gas Safe’s testimony was of a family that did not spot the dripping of the boiler because a dresser blocked the water damage. Their broken boiler had been in bad shape for a while, regularly releasing CO. Keep an eye out for any leaks and contact an engineer to have these issues addressed.

Boiler Maintenance Tips

After your inspection, there are things you can do at home without calling an engineer: 

When you notice the nights are getting colder as winter approaches, lag your pipes. For conventional, condensing, and system boilers, check the pipes in your loft. They should all be insulated. If you find any gaps around the pipe, joint, or taps cover it with pipe lagging. You can find DIY lagging kits at the hardware store. Fit your tank with an insulated cover, if it does not have one yet. Frozen pipes are tricky to deal with and deal with losing central heating and hot water.

Electric boilers don’t have pilot lights, but if you have an older model, check them. If your pilot light is out and you cannot generate a spark when you release the spark generator button, you may need to replace the universal thermocouple. Find a spare and replace it by undoing the nuts holding it in place and remove it from its tube then replace. Not all work to bring back the pilot light can be done by yourself. Do not work with the jets and consult an engineer. 

When you live in areas with hard-water, reduce/ descale your system. Scale builds up inside the heat exchanger. Fit a self-dosing phosphate scale inhibitor on the supply pipe between the feed and expansion tank to the boiler. It comes with a cartridge that needs to be replaced annually.

  If your boiler doesn’t work, try troubleshooting it by turning it off and on a couple of times. If the switch is stuck, this is a short-term solution, and you may need to have the switch professionally replaced. Another reason for your boiler turning off is the system that kicks in when it overheats, which occurs when the pressure drops. You can add water in the system (as mentioned earlier) and reset. 

How often should a boiler be serviced?

A lot of things are going on inside the boiler. Boilers are serviced once a year, ideally. Since the state of your furnace varies, sometimes not a lot of work is necessary if it is new. You can apply the steps listed above to maintain it yourself. However, if you spot any problems or would rather have a professional do it, please contact your local boiler service. Prices vary so consult your homeowner’s cover and check if boiler services are included. Annual boiler services are also provided, for a fee you can be covered the entire year and have access to boiler maintenance and repair when needed.

There is a lot you can do to stay on top of boiler problems without calling an engineer. However, this means putting the time in and regularly consulting your manual. Even if you do everything right, you may come across issues that are beyond your capabilities. Stay vigilant and stay safe!  

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