7 Important Things to Know About Boiler Problems

More than two-thirds of households use oil boilers as their main source of heating, but would you know what to do if you encountered a problem or would you be able to identify a problem?

The majority of boiler breakdowns and boiler problems happen during the cold, winter months, when boilers feel the strain as our central heating systems work more to heat our homes during the winter. While some common boiler problems can be addressed without the need to call in a heating engineer, there are others that will require the services of a qualified and experienced professional.

Super Saver Oil have outlined the seven most common boiler issues and what steps you need to take to sort the problem:

1. No Heat or Hot Water

Likely causes can include airlocks and broken diaphragms, failure of motorised valves or problems with the thermostat or low water levels. The best place to start is to check if your boiler is not working because of an issue with boiler pressure or your thermostat.

If you think you may have a broken diaphragm, airlock or valve it may need to be replaced with a new part. We recommend calling out a registered engineer who will be able to efficiently diagnose the problem and replace any broken parts where needed.

2. Leaking and Dripping

A boiler which is leaking water can be caused by a number of issues. You need to ascertain where the leak is coming from to determine the cause.

One of the most common causes is a broken internal component, such as a pump seal or pressure valve. If the leak is coming from the pressure valve it may be that your boiler pressure is too high. If it’s coming from the pump seal, it may have become worn out and need replacing. You may also find your boiler is leaking around the pipes or tank – this can be a result of corrosion or in some cases where the system has not been fitted properly. However, you should never try to fix a leaking gas boiler yourself – always call out a registered engineer, who will be able to diagnose and fix the issue for you.

3. Pilot Light Goes Out

The pilot light is a small blue flame that’s kept alight to light a larger burner. If this light keeps going out then it may be caused by a broken thermocouple which will stop the gas supply, a draught blowing the pilot light out or a deposit built up in the pilot light.

It is very important to check that there aren’t any issues with the gas supply before trying to reignite the pilot light. If your gas stopcock is on but your boiler isn’t receiving any gas, or if no other gas appliances are working, then you should contact your gas supplier. You can then try relighting the pilot light yourself – ensuring you follow the instructions found in your boiler’s manual.

If none of these things work, you should call out a registered engineer.

4. Thermostat Issues

It may be time to invest in a new thermostat if it is losing accuracy or turning the heating on/off when it’s not supposed to. It’s worth making a few home checks first though, as sometimes these can be easily overlooked. Check your thermostat to ensure it is in the on position and that it is set to the correct settings as it’s possible that it could have been knocked.

It is also worth considering that your home might be warmer than you think, and a thermostat won’t allow the boiler to heat your home higher than the temperature it has been set at. If this is the case, then try adjusting it until you find the right temperature for you.

If neither of the above apply it is possible that your thermostat may have stopped working or lost accuracy over time, and in this case it is probably time to consider a replacement.

5. Strange Noises

Strange sounds can be caused by a number of factors – air in the system, low water pressure is too low or kettling.  Imminent pump failure, particularly in older heating systems, may also be a likely cause for the strange banging noises.

You might be able to determine the type of problem your boiler is having based on the type of noise it is making. For example a noise similar to that of a boiling kettle is usually a result of kettling. Kettling occurs when lime scale or sludge builds up on your boiler’s heat exchange. When these deposits build up in your boiler, they can restrict the flow of water within the heat exchanger. This results in overheating the water, causing it to steam and boil (causing the kettle-like sounds). If your boiler is kettling, it is advisable to call out a registered engineer who will flush out your system to remove the build-up of these deposits and ensure the system is working properly again.

6. Radiators Not Heating Up

If your radiators aren’t heating up there could be a build-up of sludge or air in the system. If only the bottom of your radiator is getting hot then you might need to bleed the radiator. This is a fairly simple procedure and doesn’t require an engineer but if you don’t feel comfortable doing it then contact a professional.

If certain radiators aren’t getting hot then your radiators could need balancing, which can also be done without the help of an engineer but only if you feel confident doing it. The process involves adjusting the valves on the radiators in your property, to ensure each one is getting sufficient hot water to work efficiently.

If bleeding and balancing your radiators prove futile then you could well have a problem with sludge build up preventing a flow of hot water to the radiators. A professional engineer will remove this build up by chemically cleaning or flushing the system, but this is something that you shouldn’t try yourself.

7. Upgrade your boiler

Remember boilers become less efficient the older they get. If your boiler is more than 15 years old, you may want to consider upgrading to a more efficient model. It is worth stressing the importance of getting your system serviced annually to avoid any future problems with your boiler. An annual boiler service is the best way to keep it in good working order, diagnose problems early and limit costly repairs.

Don’t get caught out in the cold this winter. Use Super Saver Oil’s tips and advice on common boiler issues, to ensure your boiler is working effectively and efficiently and enable you to act appropriately to solve your heating problems.

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