5 simple tips to make sure your boiler is ready for winter
Here in the UK, we are lucky to have relatively mild weather for most of the year. However, there are always cold snaps during winter when temperatures can drop lower than usual. Freezing temperatures can last from anything from a few days to a few weeks. When temperatures drop below zero, you want to be sure that your house will stay warm. This guide will help you to stay a step ahead of the weather and make sure your boiler is ready before it is put to the test.
Clear your gutters
Your home needs gutters so that rainwater can be directed off the roof and drained away into a gutter without compromising your home. Blocked gutters can cause all sorts of problems, the main one being damp. No one wants a damp home in winter, so it’s really important to get your gutters cleaned.
If your home has lots of large trees located around it, it’s probably best to get someone out to clear your gutters once most of the leaves have dropped. Otherwise, they will only reclog them. This means that the best time to have them cleaned is late autumn.
Sweep your chimney
It’s likely that your fireplace hasn’t had a huge amount of use over the spring and summer months. But as the weather cools down, there’s nothing nicer than getting a few logs burning and snuggling up to watch a film. It’s a good idea to first have the chimney swept to remove any excess dirt. Cold weather can also cause damage to your chimney, which is why having it swept at the beginning of winter is a good idea.
Check window and door seals
In winter, you want to keep as much heat in your home as possible. It’s likely that you’ve had windows and doors open in summer or left on the latch. You should do a quick check of all your windows to make sure they’re fully closed. You should also check that the seals haven’t worn away or blown out as this could result in additional heat loss.
Repair the roof
Your roof should be checked for any damage prior to winter. A damaged roof could allow water to come into your home and create damp or mould. You could hire a professional to take a look at the roof and ensure that it’s in good condition and that there are no tiles that are damaged or missing altogether. Autumn is a time of year when the UK experiences high winds, and tiles can be lost completely.
Top up your oil tank
If you rely on oil to heat your home, it’s a good idea to check that the oil tank is topped up. When an oil boiler runs out of fuel, the system needs bleeding and this can be quite a process that could mean your heating is off a few days. To avoid this from happening, you should have the tank refilled in plenty of time. This could also result in cheaper fuel, as you’re avoiding peak time.
How to prepare your boiler for winter
It’s not just certain areas of your home that you need to think about ahead of the cold weather. Your boiler is the most important appliance in your home as it keeps you warm and allows you to take a hot shower too. Therefore, you should consider doing these things ahead of winter to ensure your heating system works efficiently in the following months.
Insulate the condensate pipe
One of the most common causes of boiler failure during winter is a frozen condensate pipe. This relatively common problem is the reason for a huge number of unnecessary call-outs, which could be costly for you.
Gas condensing boilers are very efficient because they reuse the heat present in the flue gasses to heat more water, resulting in reduced gas usage. However, when this happens, the flue gasses reduce in temperature from around 130 ℃ to 50 ℃. This massive reduction in temperature produces condensation that needs to be drained. Very efficient boilers can produce as much as two litres of water per hour from condensation. It is drained via the condensate pipe. However, as these pipes are located outside of your home and the flow of water is quite slow, it can freeze over quite easily. This is most likely to occur at joints in the pipe or sections that are at quite a flat angle.
The easiest way to stop an outdoor condensate pipe from freezing is to ensure it is fully clad with a waterproof cladding. Be aware that although it is made from plastic, it is still part of your gas system. Only a Gas Safe engineer can make alterations to the pipe itself.
Bleed your radiators
It’s very important to bleed your radiators when you first turn your heating on, and to ensure that this is done regularly thereafter. Your heating system can get a build up of air inside it and this is most common in older systems but also systems that haven’t been used for a long time. Because air bubbles in the gas central heating system rise, the air tends to collect at the top of radiators and steadily gathers, making them hot at the bottom but cold at the top. The problem can be more common if, like many people, you don’t run your heating during spring and summer.
Bleeding your radiators can ensure that your heating is as effective as possible, helping to keep you and your family comfortable. It can also help to save money by improving the efficiency of your system.
Check your boiler pressure
Another common cause of heating problems is low boiler pressure. This is typically caused by a reduction in the amount of water in the system. It is normal to have to repressurise once or twice a year, however if you find yourself needing to do this more frequently then a service by a trained engineer is recommended.
Your boiler pressure will typically be around one to 1.5 bar when the system is cold. This is usually indicated on the pressure gauge by a green zone. If you find that the gauge is showing 0.5 bar or less, you will need to repressurise the system. Find out how to do this in our guide to repressurising your boiler.
Service your boiler
One of the best ways to ensure that your boiler is ready for winter is to check that it has recently been serviced by a trained engineer. A boiler service will help to keep your boiler in the best condition and keep it running as reliably and efficiently as possible, making sure it is ready for any weather.
Your engineer will be able to check the condition of parts and ensure that any worn or damaged parts are replaced long before they can become a risk, as well as cleaning components as required. This will optimise the performance and safety of your boiler.
Check your thermostats
A faulty thermostat can cause your room to be too hot or too cold. If your room thermostat has blown, it will not send a signal to the valve that allows the radiators to heat up and this could leave you in the cold. Alternatively, a thermostat that cannot read the room temperature could allow your home to get hotter and hotter. This can be very frustrating as you may only be able to have your home extremely warm or very cold.
To confirm a faulty thermostat, you should set the heating to ‘on’ at the timer, turn the boiler thermostat to minimum and see if the boiler switches off. If not, turn off the boiler’s time clock and check again. If the boiler fails to respond to the thermostat, it may not be working. If this is the case, it is recommended to seek assistance from a Gas Safe engineer.