Combi Boiler Pressure Checks

Gas combination condensing boilers, better known as combi boilers, are highly efficient water heaters. They are compact fuel misers, designed and installed to extract the maximum heat from their fuel source.

Unlike their open vented counterparts, combi’s are designed to run a pressurised hot water central heating system that eliminates the need for feed and expansion tanks. This attribute is most advantageous in a property where available space is limited.

Like any sophisticated appliance, combi boilers respond well to good and regular attention. Annual maintenance and servicing by suitably qualified engineers will help to keep a combi in good operating condition. This provides peace of mind for a homeowner in knowing that the boiler is performing in line with requirements and unlikely to break down in the depths of winter.

However, combi boilers require another simple check that can be carried out by the homeowner. Checking that the combi boiler operating pressure is correct and undertaking the necessary operations to maintain it is a relatively easy task.

A combi boiler pressure check should be carried out once a month on a correctly functioning boiler.

The pressure within the central heating system is registered on an analogue dial or digital display panel. In most modern combi boilers, the dial or display is located on the boiler. This can be either on the front, sometimes beneath a protective flap, or at the base, but not always immediately visible due to the boiler cover. It is not usually necessary to remove the boiler cover to observe the pressure register.

Very occasionally, the pressure registering display device is located separately from the boiler but is generally in the vicinity of it.

To locate and correctly identify the pressure gauge, the homeowner should refer to the combi boiler instruction manual.

Having located the pressure-registering device the current pressure within the system can be ascertained. A normal pressure range will be between 1 and 2 bar. On an analogue gauge, a black needle will indicate the pressure on the numbered dial face. On some models, the acceptable cold working pressure area will appear as a green coloured fraction on the dial face. Occasionally a further red needle will be present. This is adjustable and can be set to indicate the optimum operating position that conforms to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

As operating pressures may vary between manufacturers and boiler models, the manufacturer’s instruction manual should be consulted to establish the correct pressure ranges.

Where a boiler appears to be operating at a lower pressure than recommended, the system will require pressurising.

To pressurise a combi boiler central heating system, a filling loop is usually provided as part of the installation. The loop consists of a short length of flexible metal or plastic tubing. This will have screw fittings at each end. There should also be valves at either end of the loop. These may be of a lever or screwdriver operated type.

Before commencing to pressurise the system, the gas burner on the boiler should be turned off. It is probably easier to work on a cold boiler and central heating system.

With the loop valves in the closed position, one end of the loop must be screwed onto cold-water input branch feed beneath the boiler. The other end should be attached to the cold-water branch from the mains cold feed. Both these feed points will have flow control valves.

With the loop securely attached, the loop valves can be opened. The mains water branch feed valve can also be opened. To commence pressurisation, the cold mains inlet feed valve should be carefully operated. The sound of water entering the boiler should be heard.

Whilst observing the boiler pressure indicator gauge or digital display, the valve should be kept open until the correct pressure has been achieved and registers on the display.

Once the correct pressure has been reached, the valves on the loop and the two feed pipes should be turned off.

The filling loop can then be disconnected and the boiler operated. It is not good practice to leave a filling loop permanently attached to a combi boiler.

On some combi boilers, a filling loop is not required and the boiler has an internal pressurising system. This is operated by a dedicated key that has to be inserted into the base of the boiler. The key locks into an internal pipework mechanism and turning it operates the pressurising system. The pressure gauge must still be monitored. When the correct pressure is achieved, the key can be unlocked and removed.

On some boilers, instructions on pressurising are displayed on the boiler. However, the best practice is to consult the operator’s manual where detailed instructions for pressurising the specific boiler model will be found.

After pressurising, the central heating radiators may require bleeding. After bleeding the radiators, the pressure gauge should be re-checked, as it is often necessary to add a little more pressure into the system.

If, when attempting to pressurise a combi, the pressure cannot be raised, immediately check the entire system for evidence of a possible leak. Another cause of not being able to pressurise the system is an inadequate mains water pressure. This may be caused by maintenance operations or burst pipes on the mains network. Often, when the mains pressure is low, the boiler will not function by design.

Where a combi boiler loses pressure frequently, a fault may lie within the central heating system or the boiler itself. If, after checking the system for leaks and checking the boiler’s pressure release valve for faulty operation no problems are evident, it may be necessary to employ the services of a qualified engineer.

Significant problems can often occur when a combi boiler is installed to replace a conventional boiler. The pressure produced by a combi boiler may cause problems in an older central heating system. It is important to have the old system professionally pressure checked prior to installing a combi boiler.

When properly maintained and cared for, a combi boiler will continue to work efficiently and reliably for many years.

 

 

Replacing a Boiler Expansion Vessel

Before considering the repair, replacement or modification of any parts on a boiler, it is a wise precaution to check warranties, service and maintenance contracts and insurance policies to establish whether the work is covered by them, sometimes contrary to an engineer’s advice.

Also, consider whether any repairs carried out on parts that are not covered by warranties might invalidate the warranties if performed by engineers or companies other than those that may be specified by the contracts.

Combi boilers operate using a sealed or pressurised system. Because water expands when heated, an expansion area must be incorporated into the heating system. On a combi boiler, this is usually encased within the boiler housing. It comprises of a vessel with an internal area divided by a flexible membrane. On one side of the membrane is compressed air. On the other side is the central heating fluid. The expansion vessel has a Schrader valve on the air-side where air can be pumped into that part of the vessel to maintain a suitable resistance to the water expansion. This maintenance pressure is usually around 1 bar.

When the heated water in the central heating system expands, it cannot be compressed and consequently presses against the expansion vessel’s internal membrane. This flexible membrane, in turn, distorts to apply a corresponding force on the encased air on the opposite side of the vessel. As air can be easily compressed, the air takes up the expansion volume of the hot water preventing unwanted and dangerous expansion in the heating system.

The expansion vessel in a combi boiler is generally fitted to the central heating return section within the boiler housing. The main problem with expansion vessels is that over time, the diaphragm can deform or even split.

The usual indication of problems with an expansion bottle is a rise in operating pressure registering on the boiler pressure gauge when the heating is operating. A continual increase in pressure will cause the pressure release valve to operate. This will totally remove pressure from the system and consequently, the boiler will most likely shut down. The system will then need to be refilled.

It is a wise precaution to check that the fault with pressure does not lie with a faulty pressure release valve.

Very occasionally, a loss in operating pressure is due to a damaged heat exchanger. If there is any doubt about what might be causing a loss in operating pressure, professional advice should be obtained.

When working on a boiler, the appliance must be disconnected from the electricity supply.

To check an expansion vessel locate the Shrader valve and depress the inner spindle with a pointed object. If water drips out, then the internal diaphragm has probably either perished or ruptured and is consequently defunct.

If only a faint hiss of air or nothing at all is expelled, then it may be that the compressed air side of the diaphragm has lost its pressure charge. The vessel can be recharged using any form of an air pump and attachment. It should be recharged to 1 bar. It is important to reduce pressure in the central heating system prior to attempting to recharge a vessel via the Shrader valve. It would be wise to check the Shrader valve after recharging by putting some washing up liquid on the valve end and checking for bubbles. If all is well, the problem will very likely be solved. However, if the diaphragm has become too distorted by the vessel having an inadequate air pressure, the capacity for expansion may have been reduced significantly and the heating system will operate inefficiently.

Where a ruptured or inefficient vessel has been identified, there are two choices. Either replace the vessel in the combi boiler or fit an external expansion vessel on the heating return pipe as close to the boiler as is practical.

Fitting a new internal expansion vessel into a boiler is quite an expensive business. It can be time-consuming and should be done by a Gas Safe registered engineer. This is because complex system parts of the combi boiler may have to be removed to access the vessel and sometimes the boiler will need to be removed from the wall. This involves disconnecting the flue, which can pose difficulties when refitting the boiler.

On the other hand, fitting an external expansion vessel as an alternative is a relatively simple procedure. As a Do-It-Yourself task, it is quite inexpensive and can be done relatively quickly with the minimum of disruption.

External expansion vessels can be purchased fairly cheaply, generally for around £40 depending upon the required capacity. This capacity should be established prior to purchase. The information can be obtained from the boiler manufacturer’s handbook relating to the operating capacity of the central heating system.

External expansion vessels are usually pre-charged on the air pressure side of the appliance and simply need fitting into the system. Couplings and copper pipework will be required to enable the vessel to be plumbed into the 15 mm central heating hot water return pipe.

The external expansion vessel should be securely wall mounted and plumbed as near to the boiler as possible, but due to its large size, should also be installed in a practical and unobtrusive place away from any risk of causing obstruction or injury to householders and damage to the vessel.

The central heating system will need to be drained prior to installation.

The new external expansion vessel should be plumbed into the system in such a fashion that it cannot be isolated from the heating side. It must always be an integral part of the system.

Once fitted, the system can be re-filled and operated normally. Do not forget to add inhibitor when re-filling the system. Also, check for leaks and airlocks.

The damaged and non-operational expansion vessel is left in-situ in the combi boiler and will not impede the normal operation of the boiler and system.

If the pressure relief valve has been operating prior to the installation of a new expansion vessel, it is probably wise to replace the valve.

Remote Diagnostic Boilers

Imagine getting a phone call from your gas supplier informing you that your boiler has been talking to them.

Your boiler has advised them that although it is working satisfactorily at the moment, it is, nonetheless, in imminent danger of a catastrophic breakdown. Consequently, they need to send their engineer around to replace a part. The boiler has informed them which part it requires and they just need to arrange a convenient time to pop round and fit it.

Now. Does that increase your comfort level, or reduce it?

Of course, the self-diagnostic capability of appliances and machinery is nothing new. You probably encounter it when you take your car for a service and the garage simply connects your vehicle to a laptop computer. From this, they can detect most faults and also ensure that the mechanics and electrics are all running efficiently.

If you have a modern, top of the range domestic gas boiler you may well have seen a gas engineer carrying out a similar process.

The boiler’s ability to interact with technology is nothing new. Boilers, sensors, programmers and timers have all been interacting together in the home for many years. The practice of remotely communicating with the domestic boiler has already become well established. A growing number of householders are controlling their heating via smartphone and android gadgets. These devices utilise broadband technology to monitor and adjust boiler function and household temperature settings from almost anywhere in the world. Not surprisingly, adjustments to the householder’s heating controls are now often made from an armchair in the home and sent over a few thousand miles of networks and satellite connections to a receiver a few feet away.

But this next step forward in communication with a remote central monitoring facility, which can be hundreds of miles away, is already past the development stage and being trialled by one major energy supplier.

Remote Appliance Diagnostics Systems or RADS for short are being heralded as the next great innovation to revolutionise boiler operation for householders. Offering a sophisticated electronic control and monitoring service through a remote diagnostics centre, it is claimed that these devices will maximise comfort and efficiency for boiler owners.

There is no doubt that the early identification of impending boiler problems will provide an extra level of confidence for households, particularly during the winter months. Nobody welcomes an unexpected boiler breakdown in the middle of winter.

There are other benefits too. Most boiler owners are familiar with the situation where an engineer has been called out to investigate the cause of a malfunctioning boiler. The diagnosis usually requires a considerable amount of time fiddling with the boiler’s internal components and a certain amount of head scratching. Inevitably, the engineer comes to a conclusion which usually centres on the recommendation of the fitting a new part. Fitting the part is a straightforward procedure. Ordering and getting the part is another matter.

With RADS, a remote diagnosis should ensure that the engineer arrives pre-supplied with the necessary components.

Through a RADS system, the boiler will be in what is referred to as ‘real-time’ contact with the remote monitoring centre. Real-time is one of those phrases that sound high-tech, but simply means connected to and maintaining a regular contact with the centre. This ensures that the boiler’s operational performance can be monitored for unusual working behaviour patterns. This monitoring will eventually produce a boiler behaviour history, which, when combined with information from maintenance and repair history, will provide valuable information for analytics and engineers.

When an actual or potential malfunction is detected by the provider’s monitoring centre, the centre alerts an engineer. Remotely, the provider’s engineer can use diagnostics software and analysis to determine the possible cause of the problem. In doing so, he can pre-source and obtain any necessary parts from the energy provider’s stores.

Meanwhile, the energy provider’s monitoring centre contacts the boiler owner to arrange a convenient time for the engineer to call. This means that the provider’s engineer can attend to the boiler at a pre-determined time, carry out a few checks to confirm the fault, and immediately install any necessary parts. This, of course, can save considerable cost and inconvenience for the householder and also improve the efficiency of the provider’s engineering department.

Many boiler manufacturers are now building boilers with this technology pre-installed in anticipation of an eventual general consumer uptake of the system. Other companies are investing in developments to provide the necessary components to allow existing boilers to be modified to function with RADS.

Along with remotely controlled and monitored smart meters, boiler-monitoring looks likely to become a normal part of an energy supplier’s service.

How far these developments will provide other additional benefits to consumers remains to be seen.

Having remote boiler diagnostics may remove the potential for intervention by the homeowner. The service provided by the energy provider will ensure that the provider’s engineers facilitate repairs and maintenance to their customer’s boilers. This will allow them to monopolise the boiler repair and maintenance trade, with the potential to affect the businesses of many small, independent boiler heating and plumbing specialists.

Along with smart meters, it could also provide a disincentive to energy customers to source competitively priced alternative energy sources and to easily switch between suppliers.

Perhaps the greatest and growing concern for homeowners is the increasing monitoring of their activity by monolithic companies who have become obsessed with collecting and analysing data connected with consumers and their behaviours. This information is often used to influence and change behaviour patterns in a manner that is beneficial to the companies who collect it, or to those who sell it on to other interested parties.

New energy heating and control technology undoubtedly brings many benefits to homeowners and their families, but when the control of that technology is removed from the homeowner, a certain amount of discomfort about the issues surrounding remotely controlled systems will have to be overcome before they are totally accepted without suspicion

Avoiding Frozen Condensate Pipes

Few people who had a condensing boiler at the time will ever forget the severe winter of 2009/2010. Temperatures dropped to minus twenty degrees centigrade in some areas. That winter revealed a flaw in the generally accepted principle of fitting condensing boiler condensate disposal pipes externally.

An external condensate pipe might have withstood the rigours of that un-typical winter had it been sufficiently insulated. As it was, few condensate pipes were insulated and they subsequently froze.

As a result, condensate could not escape from condensing boilers and backed up into the boiler causing temporary boiler shut down. This resulted in hundreds of calls to boiler manufacturers and heating engineers requesting call-outs to malfunctioning boilers. Good news for heating engineers, but bad news for boiler owners who had to stump up for the cost of the call-out to defrost their condensate pipes.

As a result, and in anticipation of the possibility of further severe winters caused by global warming in the future, installation recommendations for boiler condensate drainage systems were modified.

It is now recommended that, wherever possible, the location and routing of condensate pipes should be internal rather than external.

For home-owners considering the installation of a new condensing boiler, the connection to a suitable internal drainage point is something that can be arranged at the planning stage. The location of a new boiler has to take into account a number of factors including condensate drainage. The convenient connection to services, existing central heating networks, the exit for the flue and the direction of the plume are all major considerations that must be addressed prior to installation.

Where a heating engineer is contracted to install a new condensing boiler, the necessary and suitable connection of the condensate drainage requirements, in line with the boiler manufacture’s recommendations, should be a part of the installation package. The condensate pipe-work must also comply with The Building Regulations, (Drainage and Waste Disposal) requirements. It is important to check with the boiler installer that installation contract covers all the necessary requirements prior to commencing work.

A boiler can produce up to four litres of condensate daily, and this can be directed into a number of internal drainage points. Internal soil and vent stacks, sinks, showers and washing machine drainage pipes are all feasible outlets. However, due to the acidic nature of the condensate, pipes must be of a suitable plastic composition. Condensate typically has a pH of between three and four, making it about as acidic as orange juice. Nevertheless, over time this can corrode metal and any other susceptible material it comes into contact with. Copper pipe-work is particularly vulnerable to the corrosive properties of boiler condensate and should never be used.

All condensate connections to internal drainage points must be in-line with Building Regulations. Gravity fed condensate pipes must comply with minimum fall angles and drain into the nearest possible outlet. Pipe diameters are also a regulated aspect.  The fitting of condensate drains into pipes containing visible air breaks, or traps, or the installation of such devices that create them is an important regulatory condition that must be met. Many boilers incorporate internal traps to prevent flue gases being expelled inappropriately. These will not prevent odours from drainage systems entering the property. The incorporation of condensing pipes into drainage systems at a suitable point does require some sort of trap to be fitted.

When condensate cannot be removed via a gravity fed installation, for example, where a boiler is to be located in a basement and a drainage point is higher than the boiler, dedicated pumps must be installed to facilitate drainage. Installing a condensing boiler without a suitable drainage facility for the condensate will render the boiler unsafe and it should not be operated.

Where condensate is directed into an external drainage point, such as an external stack or a gutter down-pipe connected to the sewage disposal system, the condensate pipe must be insulated at any external points. An air gap must also be maintained.

If it is absolutely impractical to install an internal boiler condensate drainage system, the home-owner must be advised about the problems associated with external condensate drainage pipes. It is not acceptable to fit an external condensate drainage pipe simply out of convenience.

Boilers that work on a siphoning process of condensate drainage are better suited for external condensate drainage. These boilers allow condensate to be expelled in short gushes, rather than continuous drips. This reduces the potential for a gradual build up of ice in freezing conditions and the eventual blocking of the pipe.

The technical requirements for condensate pipe installations are given in BS 6798:2009 and also in the individual boiler manufacturer’s handbook.

For existing boilers with external condensate pipes already in place the situation is a little different. If the boiler is a recent installation and still under warranty, it may be possible to have an external condensate pipe re-routed internally free of charge.

For existing external condensate drainage pipes and ones that have been installed due to practicalities, adequate pipe insulation is essential. No external condensate pipe over three metres should be left unprotected. Insulation must incorporate a waterproof layer to prevent rainwater entering the insulation material and freezing in contact with the pipe. Care should also be taken to ensure that where the drainage connects to an outside drain, an air gap is maintained above the surface level of the drain to prevent the pipe blocking if the drain freezes. Similar consideration should be given to dedicated soak away systems.

It is also possible to purchase electric thermally controlled pipe heating material. This wraps around external pipes and is activated by cold weather. When a minimum external temperature is detected, the material heats up preventing the condensate pipe freezing.

Maintaining boiler operation in freezing external conditions is essential. Boilers that are located in garages or lofts may be particularly susceptible to failure in bad weather if they are not sufficiently protected from frost.

A frozen condensate pipe will prevent a boiler from operating. Although defrosting the condensate pipe will re-activate the boiler, the inconvenience of having to do so can be avoided by careful planning and taking suitable precautions.

 

 

 

 

Noisy Central Heating Causes and Solutions

Noisy central heating systems can be a considerable irritation for households. They often seem to manifest following the installation of a new boiler or at the onset of winter when the central heating system is turned back on. Sometimes, identifying these noises and locating the source can be difficult. The noises may travel around the building and be heard some distance from the source.

Where a new boiler or a new central heating system has been installed, noises are often the sign of poor installations. Sometimes, if a new boiler makes unexpected noises, it can be due to an insufficient water supply. In all probability, the water inlet pipe may be of a too narrow diameter to accommodate the boiler requirements. Replacing this pipe will, in most cases, rectify the problem.

Running a combi boiler at too high pressure will cause boiler noise. The system cold pressure should be around 1 bar. Working pressure should register between 1.5 and 2 bars. The manufacturer’s operating instructions will indicate the correct operating pressure and how to adjust it.

Although prior to installing a combi boiler, water pressure and flow rates should be checked, it is not always the case that they are. Sometimes, the mains water pressure is inadequate, particularly where a combi boiler is installed to replace an existing F and E system. This will result in unacceptable noises being emitted when the boiler operates. This problem can be satisfactorily addressed, but specialist-plumbing advice will need to be obtained.

In some cases, inadequate water supply is caused by restriction of the mains supply pipe due to encrustations of mineral deposits. It may be necessary to replace the mains supply pipes to address this problem. The water provider may be responsible for some of this work if it lies beyond the property boundary.

Conversely, high mains water pressure can cause noisy operation of a combi boiler and cause water hammer in other parts of the plumbing system. Sometimes it is possible to reduce mains water pressure by adjusting the mains water stopcock.  This should be carried whilst monitoring a running cold-water tap. By observing the water flow at the tap, a reasonable assessment can be made of how much to turn off the supply at the stopcock. Alternatively, fitting a pressure-regulating valve to the mains supply at a position after the stopcock will effectively control high water pressure. This valve can be adjusted to provide the recommended pressure of water flow into a combi boiler.

Shortage of water supply to a boiler will certainly produce noise. Most boilers will not operate when water is not available. On an F and E system, an empty header tank may be caused by a blocked or damaged ball valve or an interruption to the mains water supply. Frozen pipes and air locks can also cause interruption to water supplies. However, a return of hot water into the F and E tank from the expansion pipe may indicate a serious boiler malfunction and expert assistance should be sought.

Kettling in a boiler can be caused by a build up of lime scale on the heat exchanger plates. Although lime scale deposits can be reduced by inhibitor on the central heating side of the heat exchanger plates, the boiler side plates will need servicing by a qualified heating engineer.

Where a new central heating system has been installed, knocking noises can be caused by pipe-work that has not been securely supported. However, if the pipe-work has been installed without regard for hot water pipe expansion, the same noises can occur. The problem can be compounded where pipes have been installed in a restricted area where they may rub against each other when expanding. Clip fastening unsupported pipes and inserting foam spacing between pipes in close proximity will remedy these noise-creating problems.

Expansion of pipes located in grooves in floor joists can cause noises, which become amplified through the building. These noises can be eliminated by insulating the pipes passing through grooved joists. It is not a good idea to increase the groove size to accommodate insulation. This may weaken the joist. Applying foam insulation where conventional insulation materials cannot be used may help to reduce the noise.

Noises that are located around the central heating water pump may be caused by sediment eroding the pump mechanism or by pump speeds being set too high. Pump speeds can be adjusted by operating a control device usually located on the front of the pump. Pumps damaged by erosion will need maintenance or replacement.

Air trapped in the system, particularly in radiators, will cause gurgling and popping noises due to expansion and contraction. These noises can be particularly loud. Bleeding the radiators to release trapped air usually solves the problem. Turn the boiler off before bleeding radiator valves. Because water carries around 2% air by volume, air will continually build up in central heating systems, and regular radiator bleeding may be required to prevent noisy operation and maintain system efficiency.

Sludge build up and lime scale deposits can all make a central heating system operate noisily. A 1.6 mm layer of scale will reduce heating efficiency by up to 12%. Power flushing the system regularly will help to remove sludge and debris and the addition of inhibitor will reduce deposit formation.

Draining the central heating system and refilling with the inclusion of a proprietary scale and deposit remover will help to clean an already scaled system. The de-scaler should be allowed to circulate throughout the system for a couple of weeks. Hopefully, the noise from the system will reduce during this time. The system can then drained again and refilled with water and inhibitor. Prior to using de-scalers, boiler warranty conditions should be examined for exclusions.

In general, competent installation procedures and good maintenance practices will reduce the chances of noisy boiler and central heating operation. Poor maintenance will result in sub optimal efficiency and increased running costs. Build up of deposits will shorten pump and boiler operating lives and result in expensive heating engineer call out costs.

 

New Boiler Installation Problems

Having a new boiler installed can make a huge difference in operating efficiency and a considerable reduction in energy costs. As nearly all new domestic boiler installations are now required to be condensing appliances by law, most homeowners are delighted by the benefits. New condensing boilers are lean operators when correctly installed and coupled to sophisticated modern programmers and thermostats.

Over the past few years there have been a number of initiatives introduced to attract homeowners into scrapping their old, inefficient boilers. Grants, free installations and competitive finance packages, have proved to be quite attractive to homeowners. Heating engineers and plumbers have also seized the opportunity to cash in on the great energy efficiency spend.

But what happens when things go wrong?

Most new gas boiler installations are carried out by very experienced gas engineers who have many years of boiler working experience under their belts. Coupled with this they are required by law to be registered with Gas Safe. In order for them to be registered, they must undergo rigorous training and assessment procedures designed to establish competence and encourage safe installation practices and procedures.

It is against the law for any person who is not competent to undertake work on a gas appliance.

However, being Gas Safe registered does not necessarily of itself mean that a gas engineer has the interests of the homeowner at heart. In what can be a very competitive market, with the major energy companies muscling in with the ability to negotiate advantageous bulk purchasing deals from boiler manufacturers, cutting corners to save costs can become an issue.

For some homeowners, the leaflet pushed through the letterbox offering a deal too good to miss on a new boiler installation can be the beginning of an unexpected nightmare.

The quoted installation costs might seem attractive, but the boilers are often of unreliable eastern European manufacture and the finance associated with the packages can have hidden costs and unfavourable interest rates attached.

The danger with these operatives, quite apart from the questionability of the safety and suitability of the installations, is the difficulty of obtaining redress if things go wrong.

Warranties may turn out to be void due to poor installation, finance deals may have variable interest rates and contacting the installer may become problematic. Finance agreements can be sold on to other brokers and financial houses, and some installers have a bad habit of periodically ceasing trading as one company and starting up again as another.

Even with the better-known national boiler installation businesses, things can sometimes go wrong. New boilers can be installed that have inherent faults that, if not rectified, develop quickly into customer satisfaction issues. On occasions, and despite considerable investigation, the cause of the fault is never pinpointed. Manufactures and installers struggle to remedy the situation with neither keen to accept liability.

With a myriad of clauses and exemptions built into warranties it can be difficult to know whether a boiler fails to operate correctly because of an existing fault, or whether the fault results from damage caused by poor plumbing, or problems with central heating components.

Conversely, it can be a case that an incorrectly sized or poorly installed boiler causes considerable damage to a central heating system and to the occupant’s furnishings.

So, when things go wrong, where does the boiler purchaser stand?

Well, where a boiler has been purchased from the installer or the installer’s company, then they are responsible for putting right any installation problems that are obvious immediately, or within a few days of installation. They are also required to replace a faulty boiler should the need arise. It is their responsibility to take the matter further and seek their own redress from the boiler manufacturer. This matter is covered under the Sale of Goods Act 1982.

Where the boiler has been independently purchased by the homeowner, then the homeowner must contact the boiler manufacturer before engaging a gas engineer to investigate the problem. It is the boiler manufacturer’s responsibility to quickly remedy the situation. The homeowners could invalidate any obligations on the part of the manufacturer if they proceed to try to repair a fault independently.

Where householders have unwittingly entered into an installation contract with an un-reputable company, they may find that seeking redress can be quite unproductive. It is often advantageous to have paid for installation on a credit card. This can sometimes provide insurance cover when goods are not of a serviceable nature. In these cases, the purchaser should contact the credit card company.

The small claims court can be a final tool in the armoury of the homeowner when new boiler installation issues remain unresolved. The mere threat of legal action can make slow to respond companies jump into action. Although engaging a solicitor can be helpful, there are suitable templates for letter formats available on-line. It is quite easy for homeowners to proceed through the small claims process themselves.

Perhaps the best way to minimise the chances of becoming embroiled in issues around new boiler installation problems is to carefully consider any installation packages and procedures.

Always buy products and services from reputable companies.

Ensure that any gas engineer is Gas Safe registered and authorised to undertake the specific tasks required. The competence in various areas of gas engineering work will be stated on the engineer’s photo ID card. Always insist on seeing this prior to engaging an engineer’s services. Always make sure that the photo on the card corresponds with the engineer carrying out the gas work.

Gas Safe registered does not necessarily mean that the gas engineer is good at his job. Try to obtain recommendations from previous customers.

No matter how time consuming, always read the small print on warranties, finance deals and insurance documents carefully. Ensure that you fully understand any technicalities prior to signing and entering into an agreement. Such agreements are generally legally binding and rarely in the customers best interest.

Where possible, and if the card provides cover, try to use a credit card to pay for goods and services.

Know your rights, and limitations. Be confident and assertive when dealing with new boiler installation problems and issues. You have the right to seek an effective resolution to problems within a reasonable time-scale, and the right to compensation for legitimate inconvenience.

If you suspect that a Gas Safe registered engineer’s work is suspect, you can ask for a free inspection of the work by Gas Safe inspectors.

Where problems occur following a new boiler installation, reputable companies will usually put things right quickly with very little inconvenience. Most issues can be resolved amicably. A good company’s reputation can rest on customer satisfaction.

As in all purchases, cheap is not necessarily best and too good to miss offers rarely are.

What is Gas Safe Register?

You need some work done on your old boiler and so you call in the same chap who installed it twelve years ago. He’s a friendly, reliable old fellow and was recommended to you when you first bought your property more years ago than you care to remember.  Since then, he has done all sorts of maintenance work for you.

He is obviously a handy guy to know, but is he Gas Registered?

Does it matter?

Well yes. If he is not Gas Registered, his work could put you and your household in danger and he is almost certainly acting in contravention of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 and amendments.

The Gas Safe register was set up by the government in 2009 (2010 in Northern Ireland) with the approval of the Health and Safety Executive and is administered by the private company Capita PLC on their behalf. It replaced the well-known and trusted CORGI initiative and is now the only official registration scheme for gas installers and maintenance engineers in the United Kingdom. Capita PLC holds the contract for ten years.

In order to be Gas Safe registered, a gas engineer needs to be competent.

That competency is obtained by the engineer completing a variety of industry specific courses and obtaining qualifications recognised by Gas Safe.

Registration does not automatically confer on an engineer the authority to work on any gas maintenance procedure. The engineer may only carry out gas work procedures on the specific tasks that the engineer has successfully trained for and is qualified to undertake. The specific areas of competency are printed on the reverse of the engineer’s personal Gas Safe photo identity card.

Businesses that undertake gas installation and maintenance work are also usually Gas Safe registered and receive certification to confirm their status. Along with the individual registration of their employees, this extra evidence enhances their commitment to gas safety and the professionalism of their business.

Gas Safe registered companies and individuals are allowed to use the Trade Mark ‘Gas Safe Register’ brand and have access to a wide range of benefits to enable them to enhance their businesses and promote Gas Safe engineering work.

Engineers must renew their registration annually to continue working legally. Gas Safe regularly inspects the work of registered engineers to check and maintain the high standards of workmanship it expects from them.

Although Gas Safe have managed to raise awareness of the potential dangers involved in having gas engineering tasks undertaken by unregistered operators, the problem still exists. Registered engineers are often called in to remedy the faults and inadequacies that emerge following rogue gas engineering work.

In many cases, householders have succumbed to the financial savings that rogue operators can offer them. Unfortunately, when things go wrong or the unauthorised work is discovered and has not been installed in accordance with current safety or building regulations, the cost of rectifying the faults can be considerably higher than if a registered engineer had undertaken the job initially.

There are also rogue operators who manage to get round the registration requirements by undertaking gas engineering tasks and then getting a registered engineer to complete any necessary paperwork. This of course is illegal but such operators are very good at bluffing attempts by householders to obtain a verification of legitimacy and competency by viewing their registration cards.

Many of these rogue operators can seem very convincing. They often display the Gas Safe logo on their vehicles and paperwork.

In some situations, and faced with the tough economic climate, householders can be tempted to undertake gas maintenance procedures themselves. There are some suitable procedures that are basic and these are often outlined in the relevant appliance handbooks. The law is a little opaque when comes to appliance owners working on their gas appliances. There are areas within boiler housings that are of a plumbing and electrical nature and repairs to those areas might fall within the capability of the householder.

However, many room sealed gas boilers are indeed sealed, and breaking the seal to remove the boiler housing is likely to pose a danger to house occupants following an unprofessional repair and re-assemble.

In general, DIY is not a good idea. It would be very difficult to try to justify saving a bit of money if things subsequently went wrong and other occupants living in the property were put at risk or killed as a result.

Incompetent work undertaken on gas appliances can have catastrophic consequences for those unfortunate enough to be exposed to it. Explosion can wreak devastation on considerably more than just the householder and his property. Whole streets can be wrecked or demolished by incorrectly installed gas appliances. Within the home, loved ones lives can be cut short by the escape of lethal carbon monoxide fumes from badly installed boilers and heaters.

To avoid unnecessary risks, always check to ensure that a gas engineer has a valid Gas Safe Register photo identity card. Ask to see it and check the card to ensure that the engineer is qualified and competent to undertake the work you require doing.

Remember  ”No card, no work!”

In fact, to be really sure you can check the legitimacy of the engineer’s identity and card details online on the Gas Safe Registration website immediately if you have internet access, or by phoning 0800 408 5500.

If you suspect there may be a problem with an engineer’s registration, or lack of it, or you have reason to suspect a registered engineer’s work might not be up to scratch, you should contact Gas Safe who will investigate any problems. They will also inspect any Gas Safe registered engineer’s work free of charge if you request them to.

If the chap you have known for years who usually maintains your boiler and also does other maintenance jobs cannot provide you with a visible validation of competency in the form of a Gas Safe identity card, it would be wiser and safer to leave any gas maintenance and installation tasks to someone suitably qualified.

 

 

 

 

 

Common Boiler Problems

 

Usually, the first sign of a boiler problem is a cold welcome. The copious hot water and the cosy domestic environment so easily taken for granted suddenly freezes into an arctic nightmare.

In most cases, these breakdowns occur when they are least expected or at the most inconvenient of times, for example in the middle of a gentle waking hot shower or when you have your infirm and elderly relatives staying with you.

In the midst of the ensuing panic, a cool and pragmatic approach can sometimes resolve the problem before incurring a costly unsocial visit from a heating engineer.

There are a few practical steps you can take to either solve the problems or at least eliminate them from a problem diagnosis.

If you have no heating whatsoever, check the digital display, if your boiler has one, to ensure it has an electrical supply. Occasionally a fuse spur switch that supplies electricity to the boiler is badly placed and the switch can be accidentally turned off. Failing that, the fuse in the spur might need changing.

If you have hot water, but no heating, check the room or radiator thermostat settings, particularly if they are within the reach of tiny hands.

If you have heating and no hot water check the thermostat on your hot water cylinder if your system incorporates one. If the thermostat setting seems correct, turn the setting up and listen for a click. Its absence may indicate a malfunction of the thermostat control.

Failing that, your system may have a motorised diverter valve close to the hot water cylinder. This diverts the boiler-generated hot water into the cistern heating coil. If the motor fails, there is usually a manual diverter lever on the side of the unit, which can be operated as temporary measure until a repair, or replacement can be arranged.

If you have a modern condensing boiler that refuses to operate, consider the weather. In freezing weather, unprotected external condensate drainage pipe-work can cause problems if it becomes blocked with frozen condensate. In this event, the boiler will close down completely until the frozen pipe-work is free draining. This can be achieved using kettles of hot water, but it can take some time.

If you have a vented or open system, a lack of domestic hot water can be caused by an air lock in the cistern inlet pipe. This is often created if the feeder and expansion tank in the loft runs dry, usually the fault of a sticking or damaged ball cock valve. Getting the water running into the feeder tank will resolve the problem.

If, having carried out these basic checks the problem has not been resolved, the next step is to address other possible causes, but these are likely to require attention from a heating engineer. However being able to supply an engineer with preliminary information can save considerable time and cost.

If you have a new boiler, a diagnostic function will display any error codes. These can be forwarded to the engineer who can then attend fully equipped to remedy the problem.

If your boiler is losing pressure, take a close look at your central heating system, particularly the valves for any sign of leakage. However, if your boiler is leaking considerable amounts of water, turn the mains water off at the stopcock and then run any taps to drain the water in the system safely.

Another fault to consider is a general thermostat issue. Thermostats can become less accurate and unreliable with age. Sometimes this can be rectified by giving them a good clean and recalibration by a heating engineer.

On older systems, pilot lights can pose a problem when they either refuse to light or are frequently extinguished. This can be due to a damaged thermocouple which may need replacing, or a broken air seal allowing draughts to extinguish the flame. In the absence of a functioning pilot light, or on a modern system an electronic spark, the boiler will not function. On some older systems the gas burners can be lit manually, but this is not to be recommended.

An unusual banging or hissing noise coming from the central heating radiators can be alarming, but is often caused by air trapped in the system. This can often be remedied by bleeding the radiators using a radiator key. Sometimes the same noises can be caused by lime scale deposits in the boiler or even low system pressure.

A broken central heating circulation pump may cause cold radiators all around the system, or in some cases due to the natural convection and circulation properties of hot water, hot radiators upstairs and cold radiators downstairs.

If your boiler is fitted with a flue fan, failure of this component is a likely problem after a couple of years of operation. Generally, the boiler will fail to start if this is the case. A failing flue fan will generate a noticeable difference in the usual operating noise of the boiler.

Overall, you can do much to minimise the risk of boiler failure problems by ensuring regular maintenance procedures are carried out and that your central heating system is robust enough to cope with the demands placed upon it. In the unfortunate situation where a boiler problem occurs, the ability to provide emergency heating and other domestic requirements with appliances operating on other fuels is something worth considering in advance.