Winter is almost here and it’s already that time of the year where everyone is concerned about heating and their boiler system. Since we live in an area where snow is heavy and it gets extremely cold during winter time, we always make it a habit to check our boiler and heating system to make sure that we are prepared for the winter. You really don’t want your heating system to suddenly fail in the middle of the night because it’ll be difficult to get someone to repair your boiler and it’ll probably cost double the price to get your heating system fixed within a few hours.
Your Boiler is your Best Friend During Winter
Getting your boiler ready for winter is not only common sense, but practical too. You can definitely save a few hundred pounds by fixing all boiler issues before winter time starts. For one, if there are components that need fixing or replacement, this can be done almost immediately before winter. Whether you choose to do that on your own or you get someone to get the work done, the fact remains that preparing your boiler for winter is a good choice.
For those who are wondering how exactly do you go about preparing your boiler for winter, here are some of the best practices we make to get our heating systems up and ready.
So in a nutshell, your boiler becomes your best friend during winter but it’s your responsibility during summer. Make sure to get everything ready for your boiler so that it will work without problems when you need the heat to fight the cold inside your home.
One of the greatest benefits of having your heating looked at now rather than waiting until something breaks, is that you have the luxury of time. Because you aren’t dealing with the pressure of a cold house, you can take your time to find a good plumber with reasonable prices, and can afford to wait a couple weeks for an appointment at a convenient time if need be.
Getting your boiler and central heating system serviced and checked in summer is often ideal as you can do it in your own time, as opposed to expensive emergency call outs over the winter. And once it’s done, you can rest easy in the sun, knowing that when the colder months arrive you’ll be tucked up in the warm.
Recent announcements of increases in energy prices also mean it’s worthwhile getting your heating system checked out to ensure it operates at maximum efficiency. Old systems, or systems which are not running as well as they could be, are likely to be costing you more than necessary, so a check up can be hugely cost-effective over the long-term.
Have your Boiler Checked – With winter time fast approaching, it’s always a common mistake to ignore your boiler’s present condition and just immediately turn on your heating system when the weather starts to go cold. Suddenly, you’ll realise that your house is not as warm and toasty and you’d like it to be. By the time you call a heating engineer and they give you the service bill, you’d have already spent a fortune getting your boiler in tip-top shape again.
This is one very important reason why you should get your boiler checked by a qualified professional to make sure that it will be running perfectly during winter time. This way, you’ll have more time to find replacement parts if needed and prevent more issues with your boiler in the future.
Look for a Good Boiler Engineer – If your boiler needs checking, only a qualified boiler engineer can do that for you. If you don’t know one, you can easily find one on the Internet. We cannot stress this one enough.
The boiler engineer will clean all the parts and the components of the boiler to make sure that it is working properly. They will also make recommendations for replacement parts or for any other issues that your boiler may encounter.
Your boiler engineer is also the one who checks water hardness. You should have the hardness of your water analyzed. If the water is too hard, it can cause your boiler to be less efficient, and calcium and other hard minerals will be deposited in the system causing you system to work much harder than is normally necessary. The addition of an ion exchanger can help to keep your water soft, and deter the deposit of minerals.
Sign Up with a Reputable Boiler Cleaning and Maintenance Company – For those who don’t know a good boiler engineer or for those who simply don’t have the time to clean up their boiler systems, then this is a good move to do before the winter.
Just like a good boiler engineer, these guys will clean up your boiler system to make sure that it will run without problems during winter time. Also, these guys will be responsible for getting your boiler running through the winter and will conduct maintenance checks too.
Always Set an Annual Boiler Maintenance Check – Not a big fan of hiring people to do your boiler maintenance duties? Then you should always begin your annual maintenance check in the spring and summer seasons. These are the best times to complete needed welding and refractory repairs and replacements before the next heating season begins. Your inspection program should include:
- Checking for leaks in goosenecks, mud legs, stay bolts, horizontal and vertical seams and tube replacements.
- Checking for disintegrating refractory in the combustion chamber(s), repair or replacement of refractory may be needed.
- Re gasketing all front, rear and chamber doors to prevent leaks.
- Replacing all broken studs and bolts on all doors.
Most manufacturers recommend yearly servicing, and these plans should not be readily neglected. The costs are minimal when compared to the expected returns, and even more benefits are realised, when the costs of expensive repairs are eliminated as your machine operates much more efficiently.
An annual service contract can ensure that your boiler is operating safely, and professionals are trained to carry out more than preventative work, however in the interim you can perform a series of checks at regular intervals.
Insulate and Defrost your Pipes – Before the winter season starts, start checking your pipes to make sure that it is completely drained of water. That’s because water expands during the cold months when it freezes and may cause your pipes to burst.
If your boiler’s external condensation pipe freezes, it can cause your boiler to stop working. If this does happen, you can defrost it by pouring lukewarm water over it. Never pour boiling water on your boiler’s external condensate.
Pipes are more prone to damage during winter due to sudden severe drops in temperature along with having to battle the changing weather. This puts the home’s drainage and heating systems under extreme levels of pressure, especially any systems which are full of water such as pipes, water tanks and valves. This water turns to ice when temperatures fall suddenly and expands within whatever it is contained in.
If for any reason water starts to leak out of these containers, it can cause serious damage to that area within the home. Furthermore, if this leak occurred whilst the home was inhabited and the leak was allowed to continue, imagine the level of extensive damage that would happen.
If you are going away for any period of time during the winter months then it is probably best to guarantee your home is protected by asking a friend, relative or neighbour to pop in and ensure everything is running OK.
Make sure that while you are away from your home that you set your central heating system to come on at regular intervals during the day (usually two) for at least 15 minutes per session. This will certify that you have a steady water flow throughout; stopping the water freezing and avoiding any damage to your pipes.
It is tempting to keep your heating off to save money and resources but throughout the colder months, even when you’re not away, you should try to have your heating on for short periods on a low temperature setting.
Inspect your Boiler’s Internal System – Keep the interior of your boilers clean. If tubes and sections are free of soot, the boiler fires less frequently, therefore using less oil. The more a burner fires, the more fuel is used. So it’s always a common rule of thumb to have a look inside your boiler’s internal mechanism. Your boiler engineer can do this but if you want to save money, you can also do it yourself.
Inspect Heating Systems and Boiler Controls – Keep you heating systems and controls clean. As soot continues to build up in the tubes or sections, it inevitably spills out and invades controls and other sensitive equipment areas. Not only does this cause needless repairs and costs, but it often occurs at unpredictable times. Valves too, must be kept clean if they are to operate properly. As you prepare your boiler for the winter, wipe down the burner parts and sweep the boiler room clean.
Overhauling your Burners is a Must – If you need to overhaul your boiler’s burners to get the machine into top condition, then do so before winter sets in. Always inspect the color of the burner’s flame. It offers telling signs of oil and air mixture problems.
If the boiler is giving off a dark orange or black smoke, there is too much oil and too little air. If the flame is very pale, then there is usually too much air and too little oil. Also conduct a combustion test to determine the fuel efficiency. Check belt motors and replace them if worn. Check the accuracy of your fuel oil gauge, and finally calibrate necessary controls.
Always Keep a Boiler Log – Maintain a boiler log on a continuous basis. For those who have no idea what a boiler log is, it serves as the basis for assessing how your boiler is running and what is being done to keep it in good shape.
At regular intervals, you can record readings such as the gas and flue temperatures, as well as the fuel levels and consumption. With a log, you can readily identify abnormalities, which can be the source of potential problems. Recording of the pressures and temperatures can also be used to indicate if and when there are problems developing. Be sure to record the operating temperatures and pressure of the oils that lubricate your unit.
The log should be maintained on a daily, weekly and monthly basis so that annual cost projections for fuel and maintenance costs may be accurately calculated. You can do this on a piece of paper, on a notebook, or even on a document on your computer.
Do Some Final Boiler System Checks – Before winter time arrives, you should always do some last minute checking on your boiler system.
- Record your boiler’s stack temperatures. Rising stack temperatures may indicate increased soot, poor efficiency and potential ignition or burner failure.
- Blow down the low water cut off and check the water feeder and gauge glass.
- Check out return lines, flush and clean out mud legs.
- Check the air vents on all the mains, risers and radiators in every room, especially where there is water such as the bathroom.
Last Minute Things you can Do
Before winter sets in, it’s always a good idea to get the phone number of the boiler engineer maintaining your boiler system. Also, make sure to check that they are available at any time of the day. While some boiler engineers are only available by an appointment setting, always keep in mind what his/her service hours are so that you can immediately book an appointment if in case your boiler system breaks down. Don’t wait for your boiler to completely break down; if you notice that your house or room is not as hot as you want it to be or if you smell a gas leak, immediately contact your boiler engineer at once.
It also pays to have a thermostat. Thermostats should be used at an optimal temperature of 68 degrees, which would keep the house cosy and help to save 10% of the fuel bills. If one is more cautious about saving on the bill, lowering the temperature further when the house is unoccupied will help a lot. Otherwise, one can use a programmable thermostat to define the temperature of a house at different time periods.
For those who use the traditional boiler system, don’t fret. This type of boiler system still works even until now. Apartments still use this because of the need to get heating through different rooms and floors of the building. However, the system will likely become faulty after 15-years of installation. In such cases, the better alternative is the use of “energy star” heating systems that are fuel efficient and work more prominently as well.
It is obvious that people don’t open windows intentionally in winter, but there is a chance for air leaks that can occur through window gaps, pipes, electric outlets and doors. This means loss of heat and chances of microbial growth within the sealed atmosphere. Weather stripping and caulking can help to prevent the leakage of air.
In most houses, the air exits through the chimney, attic, bulkhead doors, ductwork, pull-down stairs or cracks in the basement. Before trying to tend the situation of the home, make sure to check all these spots and create a list of places with leakage. It would help in reducing the time to repair and avoid the exiting of hot air during the winter. Insulating the house thoroughly either through experts or with individual efforts can prevent air leaks.
Affordability vs Quality Service
Finally, it’s time to decide whether you should get a professional to get your boiler in running shape before winter or if you’d rather do the whole thing yourself.
Again, there are advantages and disadvantages for each option. The advantage for going solo on the whole boiler maintenance before the winter system is that you can save a lot of money. It is also the popular option nowadays, especially during the pandemic season. The only drawback here is that if you have no idea how to maintain your boiler system, then you may do more harm than good instead. Worse, you could end up in an accident and even worse you could end up endangering others.
Getting professional help means getting the best possible servicing for your boiler before the winter sets in. This is always the choice for people who own multiple houses or have an apartment complex that is run by a complicated boiler system. Getting professional help also means paying for their time and service. You also may shell out more money if some of the parts of your heating system needs replacement.
If you need a recommendation, then getting professional help may seem the better option. Going DIY may save you a few pounds, but if your boiler ends up with problems because you failed to check one or two parts of the system, then you will probably end up paying more for getting the machine repaired. Besides, there are a lot of boiler maintenance companies that are not too pricey. You can check the Internet or for personal recommendations for those kind of companies.