Boilers keep your home warm and your water hot, so it’s vital you keep yours in tip-top condition ready for the winter. This is even more important this year, as we all expect to be spending much more time at home over the coming months.
We asked Which? Trusted Trader, John Creasey – a registered Gas Safe-registered engineer with more than 20 years’ experience – to offer his expertise on the best ways to keep your boiler and heating system in good nick.
Plus, if disaster does strike, we’ve rounded up our top tips on how to avoid paying more than you need to for repairs.
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1. Have an annual boiler service
If you only take away one tip, let it be this – always keep up with your annual boiler services.
Not only is it required to validate boiler manufacturers’ warranties, but according to John the cleaning of filters, checking of settings and analysis of combustion readings are all essential maintenance, and will help avoid breakdowns in the long run.
When we asked boiler owners how happy they were with engineers who had carried out their boiler service, independent tradespeople towered above big-name brands for customer satisfaction.
Our table below shows the difference in scores between independent engineers and our highest-scoring big boiler-servicing firm.
|Brand||Ease of connecting||Ease of scheduling||Customer service||Value for money||Customer score|
|Independent traders (4,137)||*****||*****||*****||*****||90%|
|Highest-scoring brand (117)||****||****||***||–||70%|
|Table notes: Based on an online survey in August 2020 of 6,126 Which? members who have had a boiler service in the past 24 months. Sample size is in brackets. Star ratings can range from one to five – the more stars the better. Customer score is based on a combination of overall satisfaction and how likely people are to recommend the brand to a friend. It doesn’t factor in the individual star ratings. A dash (-) means too few responses to give a rating.|
John also advises finding a local Gas Safe-registered engineer to do your annual service. Using the same engineer each year should help them to spot minor problems and replace worn out parts before they cause a breakdown.
Is it time for your annual boiler service? Head to Which? Trusted Traders to find vetted and recommended engineers in your area.
2. Keep your heating system in good condition
Try not to wait until your boilers breaks before you give your home heating system a little attention. There are plenty of things you can do to keep it running smoothly all year round, including:
- Turn on your heating for two to three minutes every two weeks from Easter through the summer to prevent valves from sticking when you start using it again
- Make sure any pipes in your loft or external pipes are properly insulated to prevent freezing – especially the plastic condensate pipe that drains excess water from the boiler’s condensing process
- If you have a wireless thermostat, make sure the batteries are charged
- Fit a carbon monoxide alarm near your boiler so you’re immediately aware of any dangerous emissions.
Does your boiler seem to get one fault after the other? Here are five signs you need a new boiler.
3. Don’t invalidate your boiler warranty
New boilers typically come with a five to seven-year warranty that will cover parts and labour for repairs, plus replacements of any failed factory components – but not for damage due to negligence, accident or an external cause.
Trusted Trader, John Creasey explains that failure to meet certain conditions when fitting and maintaining your boiler will invalidate your warranty and leave you liable for any repair costs that would otherwise be covered. Avoid this by ticking off our checklist below:
- The boiler must be legally fitted by a Gas Safe-registered engineer to the manufacturer’s specification and registered with your local authority within 20 days
- The central heating system must be cleaned and flushed on the day of installation
- The benchmark logbook for the boiler must be filled in fully and correctly
- The boiler’s annual service history must also be up to date and complete.
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4. Pay for repairs the savvy way
Keeping your boiler ticking over shouldn’t cost you a fortune. A little bit of preparation and research goes a long way when it comes to maintaining your heating system.
Don’t assume buying boiler cover is best
In exchange for a monthly or annual premium, boiler cover – from the likes of British Gas or HomeServe – covers the cost of boiler repairs plus, in some cases, an annual service,
Our survey of 7,090 Which? members found that, over the past five years, only 6% of people would have been better off financially in the event of a repair if they’d had boiler cover. The remaining 94% of people would have been better off paying as they go for repairs and services as required.
In our survey, boiler owners with boiler cover paid an average premium of £288 per year. But when you find out that only half of people we surveyed needed to call out a boiler repair person in the past five years, and when they did the average cost of repairs was just £107, it’s hardly surprising that paying nearly £300 every single year is rarely worth it.
Of course, average costs don’t account for worst-case scenarios and for a minority of people we surveyed, boiler cover would have been worth it financially.
We also know that peace of mind is a big selling point for people who choose to get cover for their boiler – two thirds of the people with boiler cover told us it was for reassurance.
If you’d rather opt for boiler cover just in case, here’s how to get the best deal:
- Check levels of cover Some policies don’t include servicing, some don’t cover installation costs and some only offer an unspecified discount (rather than the full replacement value) when replacing a boiler that’s more than seven years old.
- Shop around If you have a boiler that is less than 15 years old, you’ll probably be able to find another provider willing to offer a lower introductory quote.
- Haggle If you’re happy with your provider but not its renewal quote, you don’t have to just accept it.
Before you buy, take a look at our boiler cover reviews to check whether your chosen policy is the best option for you.
Don’t double up on cover
The last thing you want to do is pay for boiler cover twice. Avoid doubling up by checking if your boiler is still in warranty. If it is, you don’t need cover.
Some home insurance policies also have home emergency cover included, either as standard or an optional extra, which might include boiler repairs and sometimes even replacements. Check the terms of your policy to see what cover you have.
Consider setting money aside for repairs
According to the 153 heating engineers that we asked, typical repair costs range from £85 for a thermocouple to £268 for a circuit board. By setting aside £25 a month, you’d bank £300 in a year – enough to cover the pricier repair. If you don’t need any boiler repairs at all, after 10 years you could have saved £3,000 – more than enough for a new boiler.
If your boiler is beyond repair, head straight to our in-depth boiler reviews to find a trustworthy boiler that’s right for your home.
*Average costs are based on the responses of 7,090 Which? members surveyed in August 2020. Annual boiler cover costs: Based on current £288 average annual premium for policies covering boiler maintenance, including repairs and parts. Policies may not cover all repairs or an annual service, but some may include additional cover such as home emergency. PAYG costs: Based on £80 average cost of annual service, plus £107 average cost of a repair to a boiler.