We have seen how boilers are the lifeline of a warm, cosy home, and how a condemned boiler sends people into a blind panic. The reliance we place on our boilers to keep the home warm and functioning is huge, so it seems a good idea to get aquainted with the machine and its inner workings, especially for when things go wrong!

We know that keeping the boiler serviced regularly not only saves money through optimum performance,  but it also saves a whole lot of inconvenience when something goes wrong with it. If worst comes to worst however and the boiler breaks down, here are some handy tips that can help you to identify the problem.

Gas supplyBoiler instructions

  • Check the stopcock is open. If not, open the stopcock to allow the gas to flow through.
  • Is the boiler gas supply on? If the gas stopcock is open but there is no gas flowing, there is a problem with your gas supply. Contact your gas supplier in this event.
  • If you have an oil boiler, check the gauge to ensure there is ample oil in the tank.

Pilot light

  • Is the pilot light igniting? In some cases the pilot light can be re-lit by following the manufacturer’s instructions, usually printed on the door, the front panel or in the instruction booklet.
  • If the boiler doesn’t have a pilot light, press the de-blocking button. If that doesn’t work, check the pressure is set to the most common setting – one bar. If that still doesn’t work and the central heating pressure is correct, there is a gas supply problem. You will need to call in a Gas Safe registered professional for a repair.

Boiler controls and thermostats

  • Is the central heating thermostat set to the on position? Try increasing the level of your boiler or central heating thermostat. Over time thermostats can lose their accuracy, which can cause temperature misreadings, but a Gas Safe registered professional can clean and recalibrate your old thermostat.
  • If the timer on your central heating controls is not working correctly, you may have it set incorrectly or it may have flat batteries or a power source problem.

Electronic programmers

Check that the LCD display, relay or circuit board electronics haven’t failed. If the programmer needs replacing, ensure the new one has a universal backplate. This allows for simplicity of replacing future programmers, since you can simply plug in a replacement without having to call in a professional.

Condensate pipe

During extremely cold weather the condensation in this pipe is prone to freezing, which causes a blockage in the condensate pipe, which impacts the boiler and ultimately causes a major shutdown. The boiler’s display will flash a warning light accompanied by gurgling or bubbling sounds coming from the boiler or the condensate pipe. If this occurs, try defrosting the pipe, and then call in a professional heating engineer to fix the problem.

The checklist above can help to identify the cause of a boiler problem, but it’s not a guide to repairing it. This should only be undertaken by a professional, experienced engineer. Always be safe.

[Photos by spaceman and Phil and Pam Gradwell]