Boiler and heating problems? Ask the Expert…

There comes a time in every boiler’s life when age or illness means it can no longer work as efficiently as it once did. Whilst some conditions are terminal, others are treatable if you know how.

With decades of experience in the gas  industry, Doug demystifies the more common problems that can infect your heating systems, and offers advice on tried and trusted remedies:

Ailment: Brrr! My Radiators Won’t Heat Up

Stone cold radiators are never a good sign. Like most heating system hitches, this can indicate terminal illness but there may also be other less serious explanations:

  • Is your thermostat set too low? Check your manufacturer’s booklet for suggested settings
  • Has the pilot light gone out on your boiler? If so, you will normally find relighting instructions on the rear of the front panel
  • Do your radiators need bleeding to clear air pockets?
  • Elementary stuff, but have you checked that your timer is switched on and set to come on at the desired time?
  • Is your heating system full of gunk? You’d be amazed at the amount of rust and sludge that can build up over the years. If you suspect your radiators are suffering from clogged arteries, consider treating them to a professional power-flush. Heating system sludge removers are available in most DIY stores – but it can be a daunting job for the novice.
Ailment: Brrr! My Water Is Cold

One of the big let-downs in life is anticipating a lovely hot shower only to find a freezing downpour. Your local heating engineer is the person to call but if you know the basics of your heating system, it pays to do a few simple checks:

  • Again, is your boiler pilot light on? Reignite if necessary
  • Are the power supply and programmer switches set to the ‘on’ position?
  • Is the power supply fuse working or has it blown?
  • Is your pump working normally? If not, you need professional help.
Ailment: Drip, drip … My Radiators Are Leaking

The first sign of this illness is often little wet patches on the carpet underneath the radiator controls. Your first step should be to find the source of the leak to avoid a trickle turning into a gush. More often than not, this can indicate internal corrosion. Fixing the leak yourself is possible if you’re DIY savvy enough to follow the steps below:

  • Switch off your boiler and allow it to cool.
  • Turn off the valves at each end of the leaking radiator
  • Remove radiator
  • Give the system a good spring clean using a non-acidic cleaner
  • Replace and remember to switch your boiler back on
Ailment: Drip, drip … My Boiler Is Leaking

This can be symptomatic of a serious fault and one that needs urgent attention. Don’t whatever you do ignore it, unless you want the inside of your boiler to start corroding. The cause might be something minor such as a broken pump seal, which is easily repaired. However, it could be the pleading of a boiler beyond repair. Call your local gas safe engineer pronto.

Ailment: Bang, bang … My Boiler Is Making Odd Noises

Whistling, hissing, gurgling, knocking or thumping pipes or boilers need urgent professional attention. It’s a sure fire sign that something has gone horribly wrong. Sometimes the problem is due to what the experts call a ‘hotspot’ – caused by a build-up of limescale in the system. The solution is a powerflush to evict all those nasties which have accumulated in your pipes.

However, it’s always worth checking a couple of other possibilities:

  • Is your boiler thermostat set too high or it is malfunctioning? Try lowering it. If the banging suddenly stops, you have your answer.
  • Could it be caused by poor water pressure? Try checking the pressure indicator instrument on your boiler. If it’s way too low, it will be indicating its’ displeasure via a prompt. Turning it up should resolve the problem.
  • If it’s nippy outside you might have a frozen pipe
Ailment: Brrr! My Radiators Have Cold Patches

This is a common radiator complaint. A sludge and general muck build up is usually the culprit. Cold patches at the top are usually due to trapped air and can be cured by bleeding the radiator. Chilly bits in the middle suggest rust and other nasties collecting, which are blocking heat reaching further down. Again the solution is a thorough clean. Cold patches at the bottom point to a serious amount of gunk obstructing the water flow. Dr Thermowhiz strongly advises you have your radiators professionally flushed. But again, if you are handy around the home, you can buy a heating system sludge remover in most DIY stores. You’ll need to empty and refill the system though, so please don’t attempt it unless you feel confident you know what you are doing or you just love clearing up mess.

Help! How Do I Bleed A Radiator?

Don’t be embarrassed to admit you don’t know. Doug is here to help. Your three must haves are:

  • A totally cold heating system
  • A decent sized dry cloth
  • A radiator key – available in all hardware and DIY stores

It’s as simple as counting to ten and only takes a few minutes. Here’s what you do:

  • Find the valve that will be located at the side or top of the radiator
  • Place your cloth underneath it as water is likely to trickle out
  • Put your radiator key into the square bit of the valve
  • Turn the key anti-clockwise
  • You’ll hear a loud hissing as air escapes
  • After you’ve let the air out, water will trickle out. When the flow has nearly stopped, close the valve by turning the key clockwise
  • All done. Repeat on all radiators in the home
  • Turn your heating back on. Your radiators should quickly get toasty
Ailment: Brrr! My Boiler Is Working Fine But My Radiators Are Cold

If your boiler is happy as a clam but your radiators are sick, chances are you have a pump or central heating controls blip. If bleeding your radiators doesn’t change anything, you’ll need to call your local gas safe engineer who will be able to repair your pump or thermostat/timer or fit a new one.

Ailment: Brrr! My Boiler Has Packed Up

This ailment could well be terminal but it could just as easily be caused by a more minor condition such as a broken pump seal. The first step is to check a few basics:

  • Has the pilot light gone out? If so, relight it as per the instructions in your boiler manual
  • Is your gas switched on? If it is but there is no gas, contact your gas provider
  • Is the central heating switched on? Try setting the thermostat high and see if this fires up your boiler
  • Is the central heating timer broken? Check that it works and is set to the time you want heat and hot water. If you can’t change it, the batteries might be flat

If none of these help, and your boiler was infirm/elderly, the sad truth is that it may have simply decided it’s time to hand over to a younger model.

Whether you need a brand new boiler, a repair, a diagnosis, a lovely thorough power-flush or are just worried about an aspect of your heating system, Doug and his team are waiting by the phone to solve your dilemma. Contact him on 01483 370330 or email for a speedy, professional consultation.