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How to look after your boiler and central heating

Essential tips for maintaining your central heating system

An engineer servicing a boiler

Imagine a week in December without your central heating. The cold air nipping your skin when you rolled out of bed and no hot water for your shower. Brrrr. We may take our central heating for granted, but we'd all be grumpy without it.

A staggering 97% of households in England and Wales have some form of central heating (2011, Census - Office for National Statistics). The majority will probably have a gas or oil fired boiler with radiators in each room.

It's an efficient and effective way to heat a home, but one that we don't take much notice of – unless it stops working.

So if you had to replace your central heating, how much do you think you'd need to spend?

Homebuilding and Renovating magazine say that as a rough guide, to install central heating in to an average three-bed property with no heating system will cost between £3,235 and £4,200 (September 2016, Retrofit Central Heating). It could cost more if the plumber needs to take out an existing system and rework the piping. That's a lot of money to find all in one go.

It pays to maintain your central heating system

Some simple maintenance will help to keep your central heating system ticking along from one year to the next. By staying on top of the maintenance, you'll find you have fewer breakdowns and chilly December mornings.

Here are our five top maintenance tips:

1. Get your boiler serviced regularly.

We recommend you get your boiler serviced once a year by a registered Gas Safe engineer if you have gas central heating or an OFTEC registered engineer if you have oil fired heating.

2. Lag pipes for protection.

To safeguard against pipes freezing during the winter and causing problems with your central heating system, buy ready-made lagging to fit around water pipes that are exposed to the cold.

3. Leave the heating on low.

When the weather turns cold for long periods of time, keep your heating on low during the night to stop your central heating pipes from freezing up.

4. Bleed the radiators.

Sounds gruesome, but this just means letting the air out of the radiators. If air builds up in a radiator it will stop the water from circulating properly and the radiator will feel cold at the top.

5. Summer testing.

Flick the heating on for a few minutes each week during the summer months when you’re not using it regularly. This will help to keep the pump running freely, so that when you turn the system back on in the winter it should fire up without a problem.

Common problems with central heating systems

You don't have to be a qualified plumber to know something is wrong with your central heating system. Some of the problems to look out for include:

  • Cold spots at the top or bottom of a radiator
  • Boiler flame glowing yellow when it should be bright blue
  • Clanking sound coming from pipes or radiators
  • Using more gas than usual
  • Boiler pressure too high or low
  • Carbon monoxide detector triggered

What to do if things go wrong

If you have a maintenance plan with an organisation where you pay for them to look after your boiler, then the first thing to do is give them a call. They might include a breakdown service as part of the package.

If you don't have specialist cover and your system has suddenly stopped working because of a burst pipe or electrical fault, you may be able to get help from your home emergency cover.

This type of insurance covers you against boiler breakdowns and plumbing emergencies. You can usually get help any time of the day or night, every day of the year.

At LV= we provide up to £500 for each home emergency when you add the cover to your home insurance plan. You won't need to pay any excess and we arrange for a tradesperson to come round and help with the problem.

If your central heating system stops working because of a fire, or a storm, or someone has vandalised your home, then you may be able to claim on your home insurance.

Home insurance provides cover for both the fabric of your home and its contents. If a storm floods your home and damages your central heating, you can use your home insurance to pay for the repairs.

You can also use home insurance and emergency cover together. So, if you have an emergency with your central heating system that causes damage to your carpets or floods your ceiling, you can use your emergency cover to stop the problem and home insurance cover to pay for repairs.

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