Nobody enjoys paying out for a new boiler, why would you? The cost alone is a terrifying thought, not to mention the disruption it can cause to your daily routine! This is exactly why we should be looking after our boiler as much as possible.
They say that nowadays, the average combi boiler will last between 12-15 years. This is, of course, dependent on how much it has been used and the attention it’s had. In some cases, boilers will pack up after just 9/10 years. You might also be one of the lucky ones that have seen their boiler working hard for 20 years. Whatever the case, it all comes back to this – The more you look after your boiler, the longer it’s likely to last. It’s not rocket science!
We’ve compiled a list of hot tips on how to give your boiler the best chance of living a long and fruitful life. Have a read and see if you can start giving your boiler some much-needed attention right away.
1. Get it Serviced
An annual boiler service is a must for keeping your boiler in check. Any possible problems can be picked up before they turn into big, costly problems and general safety is ensured, giving you peace of mind.
It goes without saying, an annual service must only be carried out by a qualified person, in this case, a Gas Safe Registered Engineer. Did you know that legally, you’re not allowed to remove the case of a boiler unless you’re Gas Safe registered? Most good engineers will show you their ID, failing this, you can always check on the Gas Safe Register online.
Annual servicing of your boiler is now a requirement to keep up with your manufacturer’s guarantee/warranty. If you don’t have a service history, the manufacturer will most likely void your guarantee/warranty.
While not every engineer works in the same way, there is a list of main checks that every engineer will carry out. These include:
- Visual Inspection – Inspect boiler, boiler casing, boiler seals and check for corrosion and leaks
- Gas Rate – test the rate that the boiler is burning gas to the manufacturer’s instructions
- Working pressure – Test to see if the working pressure is that of the manufacturer’s instructions
- Combustion Analysis – Test with a gas analyser for the correct rate of combustion to the manufacturer’s instructions
Safety Device – Check the boilers safety device is operational
- Controls – Check boilers controls are operational
- Clean Condensate Trap (Condensing boilers only)
- Clean Magnetic Filter (If a Magnetic Filter has been fitted)
Typically, you can expect to pay between £60 – £120. Price varies depending on the type of boiler, the area you live in and the company you choose.
2. Bleed your Radiators
Throughout the year, air can get into your heating system. There is an AAV (Automatic Air Vent) inside your combi boiler which relieves any air that manages to find its way in but sometimes that air will find its way to the radiators and rise to the top. You will know if you have air in your radiator if it is hot at the bottom and cold at the top. Although there are other factors that may mean your radiator is cold, it typically means you need to bleed your radiator.
All you need is a radiator key, which can be bought from any plumbing merchant or DIY store for pennies.
There is a bleed point at the top of the radiator which your key will fit in, just simply turn that and you will hear air coming out. Remember to always have a tissue ready as you don’t want to spill any water. Once you start to get water coming through, close it up, and that’s it, you’ve bled your radiator!
If you’ve bled your radiator and it is still cold, there are other ways to fix this, check out our how to fix a cold radiator blog for more info.
3. Install a Magnetic Filter
A system filter is a metal/plastic component which is connected on the return pipework of a central heating system. Inside, it has a very powerful magnet which grabs any sludge that builds up in the system over time.
A system filter is located on the return pipework of a heating system, as close to the boiler as possible. The reason behind this is that it will catch the sludge before it enters the boiler, preventing sludge from getting into the boiler components and therefore prolonging the life of the boiler. The filter can then be cleaned out. This is done by a qualified heating industry engineer, usually during an annual service. If you’re thinking of getting a magnetic filter installed but you’re unsure which one to get, we have a separate blog that covers the best magnetic filters 2021.
Supply and fit of a magnetic filter will cost you anywhere between £120 – £200, depending on the brand and installer.
4. Add Inhibitor to your System
But what is inhibitor? Inhibitor is an anti-corrosive solution that is added to your central heating system which helps prevent corrosion and scale. It can also aid in the reduction of sludge building up in your radiators. A heating system is made up of dissimilar metals and over time, bits of metal can break off into the system. Inhibitor fights this by applying a protective coat against the metals.
While it is an easy job to add inhibitor to your central heating system, I wouldn’t advise doing it yourself unless you’re familiar with your system and how it works. A pressurised leak from your central heating system can be destructive.
We’ve included a powerflush in this list because of the benefits it can have on your system if needed. It’s not necessarily something you would do as a preventative measure or even something you should regularly do. If your system is relatively new or has been looked after and seems to be working as it should, you probably don’t need to think about a powerflush.
Remember the dissimilar metals we briefly talked about earlier and how it can cause a build-up of sludge? Well, systems that have often been neglected can lead to said sludge build-up. Your radiators won’t get as warm as they should, feeling cooler at the bottom where the sludge has built up and it puts a strain on your boiler to work harder to heat your home. It can also make its way into the components of your boiler and heating system, lessening their life span.
A powerflushing machine is connected to your system and targets that stubborn sludge build-up by attacking it with very high-pressure water flow together with a powerful system cleaning agent. For a more in-depth blog about what a powerflush is and what it does, click the link.
Depending on which company you use, a powerflush can cost between £300-£500, not cheap. You then have to consider the age of the system and boiler. Is it worth it? This money could be put toward a new boiler/system.
6. Give it a Summer Run
Central heating in the summer – What’s the use? Most combi boilers nowadays have a ‘summer setting’ in which only hot water is needed. A boiler is an advanced piece of equipment made up of many mechanical and electrical components and as such, won’t benefit from being unused for long periods of time.
Although working when hot water is demanded, it is recommended to give your central heating a little run-through every so often just to keep it ticking over. It also helps stop the nasty bits building up in one place (your radiator, around components), so switch your heating on now and then throughout the summer and get that central heating water circulating.
7. Insulate Pipes
This is one you can do yourself. For a minimal expense, you can purchase pipe lagging from any plumbing merchant or DIY store.
This only really applies to pipework situated in the loft or garage. By lagging your pipes, you are helping minimise heat loss and protecting against the cold in the winter, where pipes can split and cause major leaks. This only applies to central heating or water pipes, there is no need to lag a gas pipe.
It is worth lagging if your boiler is condensing and the condensate pipe is terminated externally. In winter, a common call-out for gas engineers is a fault with the boiler due to a frozen condensate pipe. This can be avoided by simply lagging the condensate pipe, which is far cheaper than having to call out an engineer.
To sum up...
Combi boilers have an average lifespan of 12-15 years. Apply these tips to your boiler/central heating system and you stand a good chance of your boiler surviving that long and even possibly exceeding it!
While these tips are proven methods of prolonging your boiler/heating system, every heating system is different; the age of the pipework, whether it has been flushed out, if there is an inhibitor etc. So unless you’ve had a brand new system installed, there’s no way of knowing exactly what state your system is in. Apply common sense when applying these tips to your system. Adding inhibitor to a very old, sludged up system isn’t going to benefit you at all, in the same way, powerflushing a brand new system is likely to be a waste of money.
If, however, you’re boiler is on its last legs and you’ve tried all these avenues, then a new boiler may be the best option.
Unsure what boiler to choose? Why not try our Boiler Comparison tool that allows you to compare up to three boiler models or brands at one time, to help you find the most suitable boiler for your home.