What To Do If Your Boiler Breaks

Your boiler is an essential appliance in your home and is in essence the heart of the property, keeping hot water pumping around your central heating system. When things go wrong, especially during the colder months, it can be both frustrating and concerning – how do you fix the problem and how much will it cost to resolve?

Fortunately, there’s no need to panic in this circumstance and you should be able to get your boiler up and running again in no time. Here, we’ll provide a few quick tips on what to do if your boiler breaks, so when the unexpected does happen, you can be well-prepared.

How do I Know my Boiler is Broken?

The first thing you may notice with your boiler not working properly is a lack of hot water or cold radiators. If you have checked these are on, you’ll need to check the boiler itself to ensure it is turned on too. However, having cold running water or cold radiators isn’t the only indication of a boiler having problems. There are a few symptoms to be aware of that can indicate an issue before it leads to a completely failed boiler that doesn’t turn on.

  • Unusual noises – if you hear any unusual sounds whilst your boiler is on such as whistling, tapping or banging.
  • Water pressure issues – you may find the water pressure is intermittent when using the taps or shower.
  • Higher gas usage – noticing your usage is higher when looking at your smart meter or recent gas bill.
  • Increased condensation – if the boiler is not working efficiently, you may notice more condensation on windows.
  • Boiler display errors – before it stops working completely, your boiler may show a warning or error on its display.
  • Pilot light issue – you notice the pilot light isn’t the usual blue colour, instead a yellow or orange flame, or it keeps going out.

As you can see, there are many signs leading to boiler issues. If you do notice any of the above whilst the boiler is still on and working, turn it off immediately to be on the safe side. Some symptoms can be resolved by troubleshooting yourself, but in many circumstances, it will require a professional to evaluate and resolve them.

What to do First

Before turning off the boiler, unless it is already off, make a note of the error shown on the display. This will be helpful when calling a boiler service to advise the problem if you cannot resolve it simply yourself. Here are a few things to check that may help you diagnose the problem and get things up and running again.

Check other appliances

If your hot water and heating doesn’t seem to be working properly, check other gas-supplied appliances to see if it is an overall issue. If you discover your gas oven or hobs are not working either, this could indicate a gas supply issue.

Similarly, if you have no running water or electrical appliances not working either, this can be a supply issue rather than your boiler itself being the problem. You’ll need to contact your utility suppliers if this happens.

Too High/Low pressure

You may need to repressurise your boiler, and by checking the pressure gauge, you will know this if it reads less than 1 bar. Ideally, you will need to increase to between 1 – 1.5 bar by turning the pressure valve underneath the boiler. When radiators are cold, it’s normal for the pressure to be around 1, whilst when hot, they will usually be around 2.

Anything higher than 2 may indicate too much pressure, whilst anything in the red zone under 1 indicates there is not enough. High pressure may indicate you need to bleed your radiators to release air. Low pressure indicates you may have water lost from the system. It can also indicate a leak, which will require professional help.

Frozen pipes

During bouts of cold weather, this can be hazardous for the pipes connected to your boiler. If you suffer a frozen condensate pipe, this is a common problem during winter that can be the reason for a broken boiler. If you have problems turning on the boiler or there are gurgling sounds when the outside temperature has become low, you’ll want to see if you can thaw the pipe.

The condensate pipe is usually made from plastic and will lead from your boiler to the outside of your home. If it’s frosted over, this could be the issue. The water inside the pipe may have frozen, so pouring hot water (not boiling) onto the pipe and even using things like a hot water bottle may help to thaw the ice. If still no resolution, it could be a burst pipe which will need a professional.

Fuse Box

If your boiler isn’t turning on, it could be that the fuse has tripped. Checking the fuse box will quickly tell you if so and can be turned back on. This can happen in situations where you may have had a power cut.

Check pre-paid meter

If you pay for your electricity using a pre-paid meter, check that there is enough credit. If there isn’t, this may be why your electricity supply has stopped, causing your boiler to run stop working too,

Pilot light

If the pilot light has gone out, you’ll want to first check whether this can reignite. You can usually do this easily by following the instructions on your boiler. If it doesn’t work, this indicates a bigger problem. Smelling gas or noticing the light is on but not blue, you will need to turn off the boiler and call your supplier. You should also call the emergency gas line (0800 111 999) to report the problem and have a gas-safe engineer visit as soon as possible.

Thermostat settings

Any situation where a boiler is behaving erratically or shows a warning message on the display can mean an issue with the thermostat. Check this and adjust to see if this will resolve – sometimes the boiler won’t come on if the timer or setting is lower than 21 degrees, so increasing the temperature can check this. Also, check the batteries don’t need replacing on the thermostat if the display is blank.

Is a Broken Boiler an Emergency?

With many common issues having some resolutions you can try yourself, not all boiler breakdowns can be quickly resolved yourself. Many situations may not constitute an emergency, however, on rare occasions, they could be. If you can smell gas or fumes, or notice signs of black spillage marks, soot or scorching on your boiler or pipes, this could indicate a serious problem.

Call the gas emergency service – if you can smell gas or you think there may be a leak, turn off the boiler and call the relevant number below:

England: 0800 111 999

Scotland: 0800 002 001

Wales: 0800 002 001

Northern Ireland: 0800 002 001

  • Stay warm – knowing how to keep warm when a boiler breaks is crucial, as having no heating or hot water during winter means you’ll need to find other ways to stay as warm as possible. Layer up clothing and close any doors or windows to keep the cold out. If necessary, stay with other family or friends, especially in unsafe situations. Hopefully, you can get an emergency boiler engineer to visit as soon as possible to get your boiler up and running again.
  • Carbon monoxide – if you experience headaches, dizziness, nausea or any other symptoms, this can be a sign of carbon monoxide poisoning. Every home should have a carbon monoxide detector installed to alert you if there is a leak. You may need to evacuate your home to be safe until an engineer can visit and repair it.

Who to Contact with a Broken Boiler

If it is not rectified through troubleshooting, you’ll need to call a professional to check your boiler and resolve it. You should never attempt to repair your boiler yourself. If your boiler is under warranty still, you’ll want to contact the manufacturer to arrange a free repair. They can advise on what to do and arrange for a service engineer to visit.

If you have boiler cover that is with a third-party insurer, you’ll want to contact them, especially if the manufacturer’s warranty has expired. You’ll want to check any insurance policy you have, such as your home insurance to see if your boiler is covered too. They will arrange for a gas-safe engineer to visit ASAP.

If you are renting a property and you have a boiler issue, you should call your landlord or letting agent. Tenants’ rights if a boiler breaks down means you have the right to expect your landlord to carry out repairs in a reasonable time frame. This should be within 24 hours if it’s an emergency such as no running hot water or heating.

Maintain Your Boiler

Having a broken down boiler is never at a convenient time, and it’s not just the winter months it can cause an issue, as you’ll want hot water all year round. The best way to keep your boiler running efficiently is to have it serviced regularly, at least once a year. This can help identify any potential problems before they happen and maintain your boiler all year round.

Here at Stelrad, if you’re looking for efficient radiators that can ensure your central heating runs as smoothly as possible (whilst also looking great with your room décor), we can help. Whether you want designer radiators to light up a room, or need energy-efficient radiators to keep the costs down, browse our full range online.

For more heating advice for your home, be sure to browse our latest blog articles.

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