Broken Boiler? How to Tell if it's Time For You to Install a New Boiler
There’s no doubt that we all want a well-heated home when the weather starts to get chilly and in the UK at least, a boiler is one of the best ways of achieving that. But boiler and heating cover doesn’t come cheap and a broken boiler spells disaster for the homeowner both in terms of cost an inconvenience. Although boiler maintenance will really help your boiler to last as long as possible, at some point the broken boiler repair cycle will evolve into boiler replacement. In this blog, we take a look at signs that your boiler is in trouble, with the aim to fix a boiler rather than having to pay for a new one.
Up until recently, a good central heating system basically consists of a traditional gas boiler, which is linked up to a separate hot water cylinder, or a combi boiler, where a single space saving unit supplies hot water and heating in one. Combi boilers account for around 50% of the UKs home heating systems.
When dealing with a boiler you need to factor in its age, since the average boiler last 15 years or less. Good boiler cover will help with ongoing repairs to a point, but eventually you can expect to need a replacement boiler. But what point is that exactly?
To fix a broken boiler is always economical… or is it? A new boiler and installation not only means the difference between throwing good money after bad, but can even end up saving your life!
Choosing to ignore a malfunctioning boiler is potentially fatal thanks to the very real dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning or explosion. Regular boiler and heating service checks are a great way to improve the longevity of your boiler.
In addition, a boiler that’s not working properly is not just inefficient and can end up costing more, it’s not environmentally sound either. For those of us who are concerned about the climate crisis and wish to live a greener lifestyle, correcting or replacing a faulty boiler should be a priority.
Take a look at this list of common boiler problems and see if you can diagnose any potential problems. Always refer to a professional boiler installer than trying to fix the boiler yourself.
Boiler leaking water
Boilers can crack as they’re constantly heating and cooling down, and this expansion and contraction puts them under great pressure. A crack or even a small split can lead to disaster and even a few spots of water indicate that there’s something wrong.
A leaking boiler is one of the most common issues faced by homeowners and if you find a boiler leak then you should take immediate action.
Obvious signs to identify when you’ve got a boiler leaking water include dark-coloured stains on your boiler or in the surrounding area. The location of the stains should give you an idea about where the leak is coming from. For instance if you notice my boiler is leaking water from the bottom, you’re likely to see discolouration on the floor surrounding the boiler.
As well as stains, you might notice physical signs of the boiler dripping water – this can sometime be down to your boiler leaking water from overflow pipe. Sometimes excess condensation can be mistaken for a leak—although when it comes down to it, water, where it’s not supposed to be, is still undesirable.
Bear in mind that even if it is a fixable issue such as the boiler pipe leaking, the exposure to water and damp can lead to other issues. Rust, corrosion and water damage to the surrounding areas can cause unwanted damp smells, inefficiency of the boiler and discolouration of walls.
If you find signs that you have water leaking from boiler, then have a professional visit your home immediately.
Although leaks can get repaired by replacing faulty or damaged parts, sometimes investing in a new boiler makes better sense to avoid ongoing repair costs that are simply delaying replacement.
Boiler pressure too high
The balance of water an air inside of your boiler dictates boiler pressure, which helps to pump hot water throughout the home into radiators, underfloor heating and the water tank. This boiler pressure should be equally balanced throughout the internal pipes and components of your boiler for your boiler to work efficiently and at its optimum.
When boiler pressure is too high, the entire system is put under strain, which can amount to cracks in the pipes and leaks from the bottom of the boiler.
Boiler not heating water
There are few things more frustrating than going for a shower only to find inadequate amounts of hot water.
If you can only get lukewarm water out of the taps, it’s a sign that something is going wrong with your boiler and heating system. Equally if you notice your home seems to colder, even though the heating is on, it’s likely your boiler needs attention.
Usual causes for this can include:
- Broken boiler parts
- Low pressure
- Circulation system issue
- Frozen condensate pipes
Frozen pipes are a relatively common issue, especially when temperatures plummet overnight. When the pipes freeze, the water fills up the boiler and this causes it to shut down or simply stop heating up properly. A heat wrap or extra insulation may solve this issue, but it’s not a long-term solution.
Boiler pressure too low
Faults can also manifest as a problem with one heating system and not the other. For instance, you might be able to get hot water, but no heating for your house, or vice versa.
Low boiler pressure or a faulty thermostat often causes this. If you’re struggling with temperatures in your home heating, a good rule of thumb is to check your pilot light. If it’s orange or yellow this is an immediate concern so please call for help.
Thermostat and boiler not communicating
When the boiler does not respond to thermostat, it might mean you’ve got a faulty thermostat! Equally if you find that the boiler is switching on and off at random, it could indicate the time is malfunctioning.
Utility bills rising
It can be infuriating to receive gas bills that seem to get higher with every passing month, especially when you know you haven’t used more energy than usual.
One of the first things to check when your expenses are rising is the state of your boiler. Old boilers become less and less efficient as time goes by, which results in more and more energy and fuel getting used. This pushes up your energy bills and is bad for the environment too.
The more energy your boiler uses, the more strain it puts on the environment. If your utility bills start rising the most ecologically friendly action is to check your boiler, repair it or replace it with a biomass alternative.
From 2018, the UK implemented new standards in the Boiler Plus policy. This applies to all new boilers and aims to reduce the impact on the environment while still allowing for optimal heating in homes.
Energy efficiency measures outlined in the policy aim to keep utility bills down, as they regulate the use of boilers and the need for timers and other energy-saving measures. However, older boilers won’t necessarily have these energy efficiency measures in place, and are more prone to malfunctioning too.
Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms
Carbon monoxide leaks are extremely difficult to detect, because of the gas having no smell or taste. However, sometimes you may notice a vaguely off odour from your boiler and it’s essential that you don’t ignore this. This odour isn't carbon monoxide. It’s caused by other fumes produced by burning or heating in a malfunctioning system.
Sometimes even dust and pet hair may heat up if trapped in the ventilation system, which causes an unpleasant smell which is another red flag to watch out for. All of this is potentially the precursor to a carbon monoxide leak.
Other indications of a carbon monoxide leak are the pilot light changing colour from blue to yellow, condensation in the room or on the windows where your boiler is installed, or brownish yellow stains.
A sudden appearance of certain symptoms in you or members of your household can signal that your boiler is not combusting its fuel properly due to a lack of oxygen. This results in the release of carbon monoxide—sometimes inside your house.
For many boiler owners, the first signs of carbon monoxide leakages are physical. Headaches, dizziness, breathlessness, nausea and fainting are all signs to watch.
If you’re noticing any of these symptoms appear and disappear as you spend time in and out of your house, then it’s imperative to get your boiler checked as soon as possible.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is potentially fatal, and there have been instances of death caused by faulty boilers. Damaged flues, clogged ventilation, corrosion and general degradation of a boiler may lead to a leak, and physical symptoms are often the only indication that there’s an issue.
Boiler making noise
Hearing odd noises from any mechanism can be alarming, whether it’s from your car or when you open a tap at home. When your boiler has problems, such as faulty pumps, low pressure, or air in the system, it can cause strange noises. Banging, rumbling, whistling, knocking and gurgling are all sounds to watch out for.
The term “kettling” refers to an issue with water flow and heating. When water is being pumped slower than usual, it can heat faster and reach boiling point—100 degrees Celsius—when it’s only meant to heat to 70 degrees. The steam that’s produced causes air to become trapped, which can cause whistling or banging. Essentially, if your boiler sounds like a boiling kettle, you have a problem.
A build-up of limescale on the heat exchanger is a common cause of kettling in the UK. London’s water is hard and the minerals in hard water lead to limescale forming quite quickly. The scale forms in layers and inhibits the movement of water, blocking the flow and causing water to boil.
In older houses or buildings, sludge can be the root cause of strange noises emitting from a boiler. Sludge forms when pipes rust and oxidise, and the iron oxide mixes with water. The sludge is thick and gooey and can easily restrict the water flow, leading to knocking or banging noises. Water struggles to make its way through the thicker substance, and pressure builds up in the boiler and pipes. This pressure may cause pipes to knock, making the same sound as when air is trapped in them.
What to do when my boiler is broken
If you’ve noticed any of the problems above, your first port of call is to contact a gas safe engineer and book a visit. They will be able to establish if the problem is fixable or if your boiler needs replacing.
The average lifespan for a boiler is around 10-15 years, but less if you fail to perform regular maintenance checks. The fact is, boilers are put under huge mechanical strain on an ongoing basis, especially in colder weather, so even the highest rated boiler will eventually break down.
While many faults are repairable, it’s likely that issues will show up more and more as time passes. Older boilers are also less energy-efficient and can cause more environmental damage. Each time you pay for qualified plumber to visit your home and repair, you’re forking out money that could be better spent on a new and efficient boiler.
But before installing a new combi boiler, have you considered a biomass boiler for your home heating solution?
Biomass is something that anyone thinking about new boiler installation should be seriously thinking about. Across the world, fossil fuels like gas and oil are being replaced by organic biomass fuel to heat homes and buildings for a sustainable future.
When it comes to replacing a boiler, people are increasingly choosing a biomass boiler over the traditional gas combi boiler. These are more environmentally friendly systems using natural fuels called biomass, which often come from waste from other industries, such as wood chippings or food waste. This is much more preferable to the traditional burning of gas which is a fossil fuel emitting harmful poisons into our atmosphere.
Using biomass energy is part of a bigger trend of going green, which is gathering momentum as society transitions away from energy sources that are warming the planet. Homeowners are beginning to recognise the many benefits to their pockets as well as to the environment.
From energy efficient household appliances like fridges, dishwashers and washing machines that are now given energy efficiency labels A+++ to as low as G consumers are looking for the best return on their investment and home heating is no different.
While biomass boilers don’t come with an official energy label, they are the greener choice by far, using biomass fuel in the form of wood pellets to function. As well as being viable for a sustainable future, biomass boilers are low maintenance, long lasting and extremely efficient.
Why Switch To A Biomass Boiler?
Wood pellet boilers are renewable heating systems that remove our dependence on gas and by replacing an electric heating system with a biomass boiler, the average household reduce their carbon dioxide output by as much as 9.5 tons every year.
The power generated is carbon neutral, and the fuel is made from organic and wood waste that otherwise ends up in landfills, is burnt, or left on the ground as a fire risk. Domestic biomass burners use logs, wood chips or wood pellets that are sustainably grown, and you can use any other wood waste too. This means if you have access to waste wood, you can power your boiler for free, or at a drastically reduced cost.
The wood and wood chips and pellets are considered a renewable energy source as they can be obtained relatively fast by growing new trees or plants. When compared to gas, oil or coal, the drain on natural resources is incomparable. It can take a lifetime for coal to re-generate and the environmental impact of drilling for gas is enormous, not to mention the effect it has on global warming.
If the environmental benefits aren’t enough to convince you, there are many other benefits to replacing your old boiler with a biomass model.
While you might need more space to store fuel (wood chips or pellets are often used), biomass boilers tend to require less maintenance and can be automated, as well as having the capacity for self-cleaning. It is possible to save up to 1200kg of carbon dioxide a year if you switch to a more energy-efficient boiler.
Biomass boilers costs
The cost of biomass boiler when compared to a traditional combi boiler and radiator installation cost is invariably higher to begin with.
biomass boiler cost
But, when considering longer term costs over the lifespan of each, a biomass pellet boiler is more affordable than you’d originally think.
For instance, although domestic biomass boilers for the average sized British home will cost £9,000, the homeowner can expect to save £600 a year on fuel bills.
It’s often the case that a domestic biomass boiler can be rigging up to existing heating systems and pipe work, which saves considerably too.
Investment in a biomass heating system has yet more rewards in the form of the RHI (Renewable Heat Incentive). Up to March 2022, UK biomass boilers are just one of a few renewable energy technologies that qualify for the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme (RHI).
Homeowners can enjoy financial program that gives quarterly payments over two decades as an incentive to use environmentally friendly energy sources. Over a seven-year period, you could receive around £7500 back from the RHI, meaning your woodchip boiler has paid for itself and then some.
Suddenly a new boiler supply and fit carries whole new potential.
For those sticking to the traditional new boiler and radiators cost thinking they’re saving – it’s only short term. Despite the cost of combi boiler and installation being initially more affordable, once the inevitable costs for broken boiler repair arrive, coupled with continually rising gas prices there really is little contest in what to do if you have a broken boiler.
The UK government has set a new target to cut emissions by at least 68% by 2030, and the RHI is just one of the many ways they aim to do this.
Biomass heat is the future of home heating and the transition is happening now. Gas boilers are gradually being phased out and it’s a certainty that every property will experience one or more of these issues with their old boilers. Being green and moving towards more sustainable options like biomass renewable energy is really the only option for when your older mechanism stops working.
If you’re interested in exploring how biomass heating can benefit your home, then reach out to us! BioSun Energy are fully certified MCS installers, and are members of the RECC meaning you’re not only guaranteed peace of mind, you’re also able to access all the benefits of the renewable heat incentives.
Call us today on 01892 347291 and ask for more information on our renewable energy boiler and heating options including biomass stoves and biomass pellets as well as our boiler and heating service designed for complete convenience.
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