Why now is the best time to get your boiler serviced – and what’s involved

Maintain your boiler now to save money and avoid being left in the cold this winter.

When was the last time you had your boiler serviced? If it wasn’t within the past few months, now may be the time to tick the job off your list, before the winter creeps up on us.

With research from boiler repair firm, Fair Fix, suggesting homeowners in England are spending a staggering £154 million on boiler repairs each year, in the current economic climate, it’s a cost and inconvenience we’d rather avoid.

And even though your boiler is used less in the summer – making it easy to forget it needs attention – the lack of use is the exact reason why it’s the best time to administer some TLC.

The experts agree, and here’s what to expect from a service.

people sat wrapped in blankets, wearing gloves and drinking hot drinksCredit: Shutterstock/Budimir Jevtic
Serivce your boiler in summer to avoid a colder winter

When is the best time to service your boiler?

Avoid the busy winter months

“Boiler maintenance may be the last thing on your mind given the hot weather,” says Tyrone Ekrem, founder of Fair Fix, “but the summer months are actually the best time to check everything is in working order.

“Demand for engineers is lower,” he explains, “which means fewer delays for appointments, and it also means you can identify any potential issues before the winter months roll in and you’re left without hot water and heating.

“In doing so,” he adds, “your boiler will be far better prepared to make the jump between the reduced usage of the summer months and the heightened strain it comes under when the cold weather arrives. Not only will this save you money in the long run, but it will also prevent a considerable amount of inconvenience.”

What should a boiler service include?

Here’s what should be included in your annual check-up

We asked Ekrem and Delene de Haas, an expert at property maintenance firm, Aspect what to expect from an annual boiler service, and they tell us it’s more than just a perfunctory check.

engineer with checklist in front of domestic boilerCredit: Shutterstock/Stock-Asso
A boiler service should include more than a visual once-over

A boiler service should include the following:

The engineer will visually examine the boiler for any signs of damage or wear and tear. They will check the external components, such as the flue, pipework and casing, for any issues.

This is when the engineer analyses the boiler’s combustion process to ensure it is functioning efficiently and safely. This involves checking the gas pressure, burner and the flue gas emissions to ensure they are in line with the manufacturer’s guidelines. They should adjust them if not.

All controls should be tested and verified to ensure they are working correctly. This includes thermostats, timers and safety devices. This ensures that the boiler is functioning as it should, and that users can easily control and regulate temperature, and heating schedules.

If necessary, the engineer may open the boiler casing to inspect its internal components. They will be looking for any signs of damage, leaks or blockages that may impact the boiler’s performance.

This will confirm correct inhibitor levels are being met in the system’s water, which will also flag up if the system has corrosive deposits and needs flushing. Central heating inhibitor is a chemical solution which is added to the water in the system to keep it working efficiently and effectively, to prevent breakdowns and to prolong the boiler’s life.

A service should always include a thorough clean of the condensate trap, which is a device inside a condensing boiler that collects water from the condensing process, before it is expelled via the condensate pipe. Its purpose is to prevent toxic gases from entering the condensate pipe, and to manage the flow of condensate fluid out of the boiler.

Ekrem tell us there are more service options available, but they come at an extra cost.

“You can opt for a service that includes replacing the electrodes, the burner gasket and cleaning out the main heat exchanger,” he tells us. “However, these are generally done on a boiler-by-boiler basis,” he adds, “as you would need to factor in the costs of the gaskets and electrodes, and how well the boiler has been maintained previously. It is considerably more expensive to carry out this kind of service.”

“A full strip down and clean service with the electrodes and gaskets would start at around £150 plus the cost of the parts,” says Ekrem, estimating that you can expect to pay £130 for parts, depending on the manufacturer.

What is an electrode?

A boiler normally has two types – ignition and flame-sensing. The ignition electrode creates the spark that ignites the gas. The flame-sensing one does exactly that – senses when the flame is lit. If there is no flame, it will turn the gas off to prevent the boiler from supplying unlit gas.

What is a burner gasket?

It’s another integral part of your boiler that creates a seal between the burner and the boiler to prevent the release of any harmful gases.

What is a main heat exchanger?

This is a long coiled pipe through which water is pumped. The water inside is heated by gases from the burner passing over the pipe.

What problems can a service identify?

Your boiler may seem healthy, but you’d be surprised at what it hides

It’s important not to take your boiler’s lack of protest during the summer as a sign that nothing is wrong. De Haas is keen to point out that servicing in the summer is important to maintain warmth in the winter.

“In the summer, when boilers are used less frequently or are even turned off completely, there are still several problems that a boiler service might identify,” he confirms .

“Some of these problems could be pressure issues, which can lead to poor performance or even boiler shutdown.” Something worth avoiding when, according to Fair Fix, the average boiler repair cost is £300.

“Leaks in the boiler system from pipes or valves can occur, regardless of whether the boiler is actively being used,” says de Haas, “so a service can identify these leaks to prevent water damage and improve efficiency.”

engineer checking dials on boilerCredit: Shutterstock/Alexander Raths
If your system seems sluggish call in a service engineer now

Ekrem adds that blocked pipes are also a common problem, especially in condensing boilers, which produce acidic condensate that normally drains away through pipes. Condensate – the liquid that condenses in these types of boilers – is usually mildly acidic, with a pH of around 3-5. White vinegar has a pH of around 2.4, while water has a pH of 7.

“Most commonly we find the condensate trap is full of debris,” he says. “We also find low water pressure causes the boiler to overheat. It then starts leaking because it’s too hot.”

The consequence of extra heat? The rubber seals start to fail, causing the boiler to leak from various components.

What should you pay for a service?

According to Check-a-Trade, you can expect to pay on average around £100 for a boiler service. The good news is you should only need an annual check-up.

Aspect and Fair Fix confirm that their costs range between £60 to £150, depending on the level of service required.

It’s also worth noting that it could be money well spent. Without regular servicing, your boiler warranty could be invalidated if you claim against it for a repair, as could your home insurance.

Make sure you always check the small print to see what’s covered.

Signs your boiler may already be in trouble

They’re easy to spot even if you’re only using it for hot water

Although the reduction in use may mean problems take longer to show in summer, there are still clear signs that your boiler may be giving up the ghost.

De Haas, tells us: “A few common signs to look out for are lack of heat, strange noises or leaks and water damage.”

Ekrem confirms that, even if you aren’t using radiators, fluctuations in water temperature can be a sign of things going awry. Likewise, he says other common signs include leaks, or your boiler’s gauge indicating low pressure. Unfortunately, if you have noticed any of these, you may need a repair rather than a service.

pressure guage on boilerCredit: Shutterstock/Mauro Carli
Familiarise yourself with your pressure gauge so you can identify when it’s low

Don’t be tempted to repair or service your boiler yourself

It’s a job for the professionals

Even though research suggests people may be attempting to tackle repairs themselves, as they have either had to wait up to five days for an engineer or the repair costs are prohibitive, it’s a task that should always be conducted by professionals.

“Always ensure your boiler engineer is ‘Gas Safe’ registered as they will have received the necessary training and certification in boiler servicing,” says Ekrem.

Your family will be at risk from gas leaks if the job is done badly. It’s advice that could have serious consequences if ignored.

couple looking at instructionsCredit: Shutterstock/Speedkingz
Don’t be tempted to save costs by servicing your boiler yourself

As well as certification, Ekrem says it’s important not to forget the value of experience.

“Experience means engineers have seen it all before and know exactly what needs doing,” he says, “without having to go through a long, drawn-out diagnostics or trial-and-error process that takes ages and racks up the customer’s bill.”

Before you call out an engineer for a repair, Ekrem recommends you check the following. This will avoid you having to pay an unnecessary call-out fee.

Check the batteries in your smart meter

“We get a lot of call-outs from customers with wireless programmable room thermostats that have stopped working,” says Ekrem. “It’s nearly always the batteries that have run out. So you can save a lot of stress and money by making sure you check the batteries first.”

No hot water? It could be the shower, not the boiler

“Most people first notice a loss of hot water in the shower, after which they go straight ahead and call an engineer,” he says. “Instead, you should check other taps to see if hot water comes out. If it does, the issue is with your shower, not your boiler.”

Sarah Harley

Written by Sarah Harley she/her

Updated:

Since first picking up a paintbrush and experiencing the joy of re-decorating her bedroom in a questionable red, white and grey scheme as a young teenager, Sarah Harley was hooked on the world of interior design. This obsession even led to a real life ‘Grand Designs’ project in 2005 when she donned a pink hard hat and appeared on TV screens, project managing the renovation and extension of a Grade II listed 17th century Folly in South Wales.

Throughout her career, Sarah has gained an array of experience in several different roles, ranging from copywriting, PR, events management and photography to interior design and home staging. With her two passions being the written word and the joys of a beautifully designed home, Sarah’s mission is to open the door on the world of interiors, inviting readers in to help them work their way through the vast choice of products, ideas and trends so that their own homes can reach their full potential.

Away from work, Sarah fills her Pinterest boards with more ideas, dreams of where to travel, takes photographs and loves being by the sea. She has two sons and if she absorbed everything they said would also be a football expert. The fact is she is often more interested in the colour and design of the kit – but don’t tell them that.

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