Our Top 10 central heating tips aim to help you stay safe, keep your system working efficiently, and reduce your fuel bills.
- Boiler Service and Safety Checks
You should have your boiler and heating system serviced every year to keep it running properly. This must be carried out by a Gas Safe engineer who will also carry out safety checks on the boiler. You might also consider taking out a service contract which includes breakdown cover. If you live in rented accommodation, it is the landlord’s responsibility to make sure all gas appliances are safe. They are required to have each appliance checked annually by a Gas Safe engineer who will also issue a safety certificate. To check if an engineer is registered use the Gas Safe Register www.gassaferegister.co.uk/
- Carbon Monoxide
Make sure you have a carbon monoxide alarm fitted in your property. They're not expensive and could save your life. Carbon monoxide is a silent killer - it doesn't smell and you cannot see it. Test the alarm once a week to make sure that it is working properly. A faulty gas appliance with incomplete combustion taking place can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning without anyone being aware of it.
- Flame Colour
If you can see the flame in the boiler it should be a clear, strong, blue flame. A yellow, candle like, flame indicates a problem which should be checked out. It can be a sign of incomplete combustion and could lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Whether this is being caused by an obstruction in the flue or some other fault, get it checked without delay.
- Run the System Regularly
Run your heating system once a month even during the summer just for a short while. This will help keep the heating system in working order and reduce the chance of the pump seizing up.
Regularly check the pressure gauge on a pressurised system. This will normally be around 1 - 1.5 bar but look up the recommended setting in the manual for your particular boiler. Combi boilers have a filling loop - usually located underneath - which can be used to top up the system if the pressure has dropped. See Refilling a Sealed Central Heating System. If the pressure needs topping up frequently, it indicates a problem and you should get a service engineer in to identify and resolve it. There may be a leak on the system or a problem with the pressure vessel.
- Timers and Programmers
Make sure that your boiler is controlled by a timer - or better still a programmer. See our Heating and Hot Water Controls article for more detailed information. Set your programmer so that the heating comes on half an hour before you want it - if you get in from work at 6pm then set it to come on at 5:30pm. Similarly, set it to turn the heating off half an hour before you go to bed. This will reduce waste and reduce your bills. Turning your thermostat down by just one degree could make a welcome reduction in your gas bill of around £60 per year.
- Hot Water Temperature
Check the temperature set on your cylinder thermostat - around 55 - 60 degrees is the normal setting. 600 is about the highest temperature of water you could possibly need. Having it set higher than this will mean that you have to mix it with cold to cool it back down to a comfortable temperature. As with room thermostats, turning it up higher does not mean it will heat up quicker – a common misconception.
- Thermostatic Radiator Valves
Thermostatic radiator valves are great but be aware that you must have either an automatic bypass or at least one radiator without a TRV. The reason is simple - if all the valves should close when they're up to temperature, the pump will be working against a closed circuit resulting in damage.
- Balancing the System
If you're having problems with some radiators heating up and others not, the system may need balancing. Radiators close to the pump may be getting more than their fair share resulting in insufficient water reaching radiators further away. For more information see our Balancing Radiators article.
- Insulation and Draughtproofing
Check your attic space to make sure that you have the recommended level of insulation. The amount of heat that will escape through an un-insulated or poorly insulated loft is surprising and it's simply throwing money away. Draught proof windows and doors - simple things like a draught flowing past a badly fitted door or window can really make a difference. We're all conscious of the rising fuel costs and doing what you can to reduce heat losses will pay - literally.