Winter is the harshest season, and you probably spend many of your winter days with the heating cranked up. Waking up to find a cosy home is suddenly ice-cold will ruin anyone’s day. Make sure it doesn’t happen to you, by paying good care and attention to your boiler.
As the nights draw in and the days get cooler, your boiler’s workload increases significantly. However, you may not have had your heating on for months. Ageing pipes, lower boiler pressure, grime building up inside your central heating system – there’s plenty that can happen over time that can reduce the effectiveness or even damage your boiler.
Let’s run through all the things you need to do before the cold winter hits, whether it’s to bleed your radiators or check boiler pressure:
We’ll delve deeper into each of these tips to make sure your boiler is ready for winter below.
A lot of people skip their annual boiler service, but it’s so important! A healthy boiler makes for a healthy home, and servicing it will extend the life of your boiler for perhaps years. You’ll save money in the long run, and avoid the headache of boiler breakdowns and problems.
Think of an annual boiler service like servicing your car: any problems will be noticed by a professional long before you break down in the middle of nowhere. A heating engineer will thoroughly inspect and test key components of your boiler to ensure it is working safely, efficiently and reliably.
This will be done during your annual boiler service, but on the off-chance you skipped that, check your boiler pressure before switching your central heating on for the winter.
We have an in-depth guide for checking boiler pressure, which you should definitely read thoroughly, but in short: make sure your pressure gauge is between 1 – 1.5 bar, otherwise your boiler will start to show error codes, or stop working entirely. If your boiler pressure is too low, top up the pressure until it reaches at least 1 bar. If it’s too high, you should bleed your radiators to relieve pressure.
No matter how perfectly sealed your central heating system is, over time air will get inside and start making a nuisance of itself. This might result in cold areas of your radiator (usually the top). If you have, then it is time to bleed your radiator.
Bleeding your radiators is easy – all you need is a radiator key (easily available online or from your local DIY store) and an old towel or rag. We explain how to bleed your radiators in our article here.
One of the best tips to make sure your boiler is ready for winter is to test it before the weather gets too cold. So, around October or early November, just as it’s starting to chill, you should test your heating. Better to do that than wait until the weather is too cold to find out your heating’s kaput.
While it’s still mild outside, test your central heating. Run it for a few hours; make sure the radiators warm thoroughly, and there are no cold spots. Check for tell-tale signs of something amiss: are there clanking or gurgling sounds coming from your boiler? If so, there may be an internal problem with your boiler: an annual boiler service will find what’s wrong.
You should also check the control elements of your boiler, providing it has them. Here’s some common controls you should make sure are correct:
A cold snap can wreak havoc on your pipes, especially if they’re old. The best way to make sure ‘how do I get my boiler ready for winter?’ is to look after the pipes that connect to your boiler.
You need to insulate your pipes to protect them from the freezing cold. Especially the pipes outside your home. These are exposed to the elements, and are prone to freezing. One of the best tips to make sure your boiler is ready for winter is to take steps to stop your pipes from freezing.
If you have a condensing boiler (a boiler that captures hot gasses and uses them to create more heat), the wastewater vapour from the condensing process flows out of your home slowly (about 2 litres an hour). This slow trickle makes them prone to freezing in sub-zero temperatures.
Insulating exposed pipes with lagging will go a long way to stop this from happening. A frozen condensate pipe can damage a boiler and even break it, so insulating it from the cold weather would be a very savvy decision.