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Boiler breakdowns

This is one of the most common problems faced by home owners and tenants as they can be left without heating or hot water. Unfortunately there is a multitude of things to go wrong so fault finding can often require a trained professional, however there are a few things a customer can try before getting the professionals out.
Modern boilers will usually flash a fault code, please refer to your user instructions as this can help you to identify the problem.

Low pressure.

If you have a combi boiler, or a pressurised heating system your boiler may occasionally shut down due to pressure loss. It is normal for the pressure to require topping up every 6-12 months, however any more frequently than this could indicate a leak on the system or a problem with the pressure relief valve or expansion vessel.
You can identify that this is the type of system you have by finding the pressure gauge. Typically will indicate the pressure level required with a green zone on the gauge, and will normally indicate over, or under pressure with a red zone (usually between 1 and 2 bar of pressure is required, over 3 bar will normally trigger the pressure relief valve).
If the gauge reads under 1 bar your problem could be low pressure
To increase the pressure you will need to find the filling loop of your system. In short this is where your heating system connects to your cold water supply and is used to fill the system with water from the mains. The two most common forms are a flexible silver hose with a valve at either end, or a part integrated into the boiler (If you have an internal filling loop please refer to your manufacturers guidelines). External filling loops are usually located next to or under the boiler, but can be placed anywhere on your heating circuit.

Once you have located the filling loop, keep your eye on the pressure gauge and open the valve gently. If you listen carefully you should hear water rushing through the loop into the heating system. You should notice the pressure gauge rising. Restore the pressure, and then shut the filling loop valve. Be careful not to over pressurise the system as this can cause further problems. Once set to the operating level stop filling and keep watching the gauge.

If the pressure drops again you have another problem ranging from a faulty pressure relief valve to a leak on you system. In this scenario we would advise you not to refill your system again and to call a professional out (even if your boiler works again temporarily, regular or constant refilling will damage your system or exacerbate a leak).

If the pressure stays in the system restart your boiler. Hopefully this will have solved your problem, If not seek professional advice immediately.

Pilot light out.


Many older boilers have a pilot light, a small gas flame which constantly burns in order to ignite the main burner as and when required. Modern boilers typically use electric ignition. If the flame has gone out this will prevent your boiler from operating. Usually the pilot is designed to be relit by the customer, although if you are not confident in your abilities we would advise seeking professional help.
It is always advisable to refer to your manufacturerís instructions as they will usually tell you if your boiler has a pilot light and contain instructions on relighting the flame.
Typically the boiler will have a small glass window through which the pilot light can be seen, and is usually located somewhere obvious on the front of the boiler and normally there would be some indication written on the boiler however this may not be the case.
If there is no flame in the window this could be your problem. If you can see a flame then this is not your problem.

It is always recommended to follow manufacturerís instructions on lighting the pilot light. If you cannot locate the instructions then you are advised to contact your manufacturer or call for professional help.

Power loss.


If your boiler is showing no signs of life whatsoever there could be a problem with the power supply to the boiler. Without electricity the boiler cannot function as the gas valve will have a safety feature preventing the release of gas in case of power failure.
It is always recommended to refer to the manufacturerís instructions where possible.
You will normally notice the lack of power as the boiler should have some kind of indicating light or LED (although older boilers may not). Check that the power switch is on, the timer is on and any thermostatic controls are turned up, as these may give a false impression that your boiler is not receiving power. If there are still no signs of life whatsoever this may be your problem.

Only attempt to solve this problem yourself if you are confident in your ability and aware of the dangers of dealing with electrical problems in your home. If you are at all uncertain do not hesitate to seek professional help.
Check your electrical fuse board. Your boiler should have its own fuse or circuit breaker, although it may not. If you notice that the circuit breaker has tripped off, reset it and then check to see if power has been restored. If you have an old fuse board you may need to replace the relevant fuse.
If the power has not been restored there may be an interruption with the supply. It may be worth changing the fuse in the fuse spur which supplies power to the boiler, or changing the fuse in the plug if your boiler is not wired into the wall.
If the power has still not been restored seek professional advice.

Leaks, Damp patches and burst pipes

Occasionally leakage may occur in your home due to wear and tear or improper usage of your water systems/products. Although fixing these problems is often a job for professionals there are usually damage limiting steps which can be taken by the customer.
If you notice a leak or damp patch appearing it can be difficult to recognise the source of the problem. Essentially you need to work out if the water is coming from the hot or cold water systems, from the heating system, from the waste water system, or from damaged weather proofing (i.e. a leaky roof) or broken seals in your Kitchen or Bathroom.
* Hot and cold water systems
Hot and cold water systems usually fall into two categories, Mains pressure and tank fed. To temporarily stop the leak you will need to isolate the pipework supplying the water to the leak.
For mains pressure systems you will need to look for any isolating valves near the problem, failing this shut off the supply at the main stopcock to turn the water off to the whole house, then open up the hot and cold taps to allow the residual water in the system to drain.
For tank fed systems there should be Isolating valves on the pipework running from the bottom of the water storage tank (usually located in the loft, or in a cupboard). Lever valves can be turned 90 degrees to the off position and valves with a circular handle need to be turned clockwise to shut the valve. Once the water has been shut off, drain the remaining water in the system by opening the hot and cold taps.
Warning- Mixer taps can back feed water from the cold system into the hot or vice versa. Take special precautions not to open both the hot and cold taps at the same time.

Heating Systems

If your leak is from your heating system, and is not from a nut or gland which can be tightened with an adjustable spanner (i.e. from a radiator) then you may need to relieve the pressure inside the heating circuit. This can be particularly difficult. Firstly you need to identify which type of system you have as there are two types of system, sealed or vented.
For vented systems the pressure, or head, is provided by a header tank. This is a small tank, usually about 2 by 1 foot, and is usually stored in the loft (it may be in a cupboard, but will always be above the tallest radiator on the system). A ball valve is usually used to fill the tank. Tie the ball valve up to prevent further water entering the system. Now you can drain the water out of the circuit.
Sealed systems include combination boilers and system boilers. If you have a pressure gauge either on the boiler or next to an expansion vessel then you have a sealed system. Sealed systems do not usually fill up automatically so you can move on to draining the system down.

To drain the system you should have a drain cock or small tap, usually underneath one of the radiator valves (it can be underneath the boiler or outside the house, usually pushed through an airbrick). Attach a hose to the drain valve and run the other end to a drain. Now use an adjustable spanner to open the drain cock (turn it anti-clockwise). Once opened the water should drain. The drain cock operates a rubber washer; these are notorious for becoming stuck and difficult to open. If the drain cock opens without releasing the water it is usually possible to dislodge it with a large screw or small screwdriver, however this is not recommended without a wet and dry vacuum at hand as the water will usually be released at an alarming rate (if the drain cock is outside this may not be a problem).

If you have the tools and the know-how, taking this kind of action can prevent expensive water damage, however if not done correctly further damage could result. If you are not 100% sure of what you are doing it is always recommended to call a fully insured professional instead.

Other problems.


If your toilet is taking longer than normal to clear then the chances are you have a blocked drain. Call someone who knows about drains asap because all you are doing is adding to the problem. Acid rarely works on blocked toilets. Sinks, baths and basins can often be fixed by using specialist acid, off the shelf products from DIY centres rarely work.

Gas leaks