Occasionally it may be necessary to drain down a combi boiler and central heating system. This may be to facilitate maintenance procedures, cleaning the system or the addition of extra radiators.
The process is relatively simple, but prior to attempting to drain a system, it is advisable to ensure that the person carrying out the draining also knows how to re-fill, add inhibitor and pressurise the system once the work has been carried out.
The method of pressurising of a combi boiler system varies between model and manufacturer. Instructions for pressurising may be found in the boiler user’s manual.
It is important to note that if the actual boiler requires draining, this must only be carried out by a competent person. Draining a combi boiler system does not involve draining the internal part of the boiler.
Before draining the combi boiler system it is important to ensure that the mains electricity supply to the boiler and any system programmers are turned off. This is to prevent the boiler operating with an empty system, which could seriously damage the boiler.
It is not necessary to turn off the mains water supply when draining a combi boiler system.
To drain the central heating system, first, locate the drain tap. This will be on the ground floor or the lowest point of the system. Occasionally it will be conveniently located at the end of a leg of pipe leading from a radiator to the outside of the property. If not, a length of hose will need to be attached to the spigot and run to the outside of the property or to a ground level drain entrance.
With the drain tap opened, water should start to flow out of the system. This flow will need to be supported by opening up the bleed valves on all the radiators attached to the system, starting at the top of the property or the radiator furthest from the drainage tap. Air entering the system will replace the vacating central heating fluid.
With the system drained, now is a good time to flush through the central heating system to remove debris. This is best accomplished by engaging the services of a specialist company, however, some sludge and debris can be removed by operating the refilling device to allow water to flow through and out of the system. It will be necessary to close off the radiator bleed valves to facilitate the flushing through of upstairs radiators.
Once any maintenance work has been accomplished, the system can be refilled and pressurised.
Firstly, the drain tap should be closed off. It is then essential to go round all the radiators and close off the bleed valves using the radiator bleed key.
At this point, it is essential to add an inhibitor solution into the system. A good way to do this is to locate the plug at the top of one radiator. This plug will be at the opposite end to the bleed valve. Removing this screw threaded plug will reveal an opening into which the required amount of inhibitor can be added using a funnel or open-ended tube.
The correct amount of inhibitor required by the system can be calculated by using the information supplied with the inhibitor.
Do not forget to replace and firmly tighten the radiator plug after adding the inhibitor.
Water should now be allowed back into the system using the filling loop or the refilling device appropriate to the particular boiler. This may be a key type facility, which operates an internal valve system within the boiler.
As water re-enters the system, the pressure gauge on the boiler should start to register an increase in system pressure. If it does not, immediately close off the filling loop and check the entire central heating system for any leaks. It may be found that a bleed valve on a radiator has not been closed off correctly or some new work on the system is leaking.
When the pressure indicator on the boiler reads one bar, the filling loop should be turned off and all the radiators bled to remove trapped air in the system. The bleed valves on the radiators should be bled from the nearest radiator to the boiler along and up to the radiators upstairs, or the furthest from the boiler. It will be necessary to return to the boiler filling loop and re-fill the system after bleeding the air from each radiator.
With all the air removed from the system, the filling loop should be operated to pressurise the system up to the manufacturer’s recommended cold pressure operating level. This is usually between 0.5 and 1.5 bar.
Once the correct pressure is reached, the boiler power, the programmers, and the timers can be turned back on.
The boiler and central heating should now operate correctly. Any banging or loud gurgling sounds will indicate that air is still trapped within the system, as will any radiators that are hot at the base but cold at the top.
To remedy these situations, the radiators will need further bleeding to remove the trapped air.
To clean a combi boiler system, the process is similar to that described above.
First, drain down the system. Flush through with clean water. Refill with water and a suitable cleaning fluid such as Fernox. Re-pressurise the system and run for 48 hours. Drain down the system again. Flush through with clean water and refill the system with inhibitor. Finally, re-pressurise the system.
Before undertaking any DIY work on a combi boiler central heating system, it is advisable to check that the work will not invalidate any warranty on the boiler that might be in place.