Gas boilers – a quick guide to key issues

Because your boiler is the heart of your home, ideally giving you many years of trouble free heading and hot water, it’s important to make sure you have the correct boiler installed according to your needs and that it is serviced annually. Because this is such a complex area and it can feel like a total nightmare when your boiler stops working, potentially exposing you to exploitation by unscrupulous companies who want to replace the whole system, radiators and all, because you’re understandably desperate to have your heating and hot water back, we thought it would be useful to give just the briefest of guides so you at least know some of the right questions to ask – heating experts such as those who work for STT will be only too happy to answer your questions, whereas cowboys who just want your money will most likely start to pressure you into making quick decisions. Our advice on this is never make sudden decisions about expensive purchases or about anything that is going to affect your life for several years to come.

In essence, whilst it might only be a simple component that costs relatively little and takes only an hour to fit, it might actually be the case that the first breakdown is a sign that it is indeed time for a new system, but it’s a tricky situation when you know nothing or very little about boilers and heating systems. So, whilst you are trusting the opinion of the company you have called, you cannot know how much of an expert they are if you don’t know anything yourself, so here are a few basic guidelines to help you judge whether what you are being told seems reasonable and legitimate.

The first considerations are the age of your boiler and how well maintained it has been. An annual service will extend the life of any decent make of boiler and a competent engineer will usually be able to spot and replace parts that are likely to fail beforehand, saving you money and preventing discomfort. No matter how well maintained though, even the best boilers will need replacing after somewhere between 12 and 18 years (15 years is the average), depending on how much demand has been placed on them.

A second but equally important factor to consider is whether you actually have the correct boiler to begin with: the efficiency of a boiler will depend on how much work is asked of it, and because the efficiency factors of a boiler relate to the number of radiators it is powering and the size of the system in general. It is essential to get the right boiler to begin with to ensure maximum efficiency and therefore a longer life. For example, a common factor in premature boiler breakdown is when people add extensions to their homes but do not upgrade their boiler to cope with the extra demand, shortening its life due to the extra strain. This can apply whether it’s a loft conversion with an extra radiator and shower, or a greatly extended kitchen with two new bedrooms above it; it all depends what the boiler is designed to cope with.

In simple terms, whilst any given boiler has a designated maximum number of radiators that it can power efficiently, the size and location of those radiators need to be taken into account. In particular, larger radiators and greater distances between them will necessitate a bigger boiler, and reduced pressure in the system also means it has to work harder, so it’s all a matter of whether the system was designed properly to begin with and how well maintained it all is. Finally, the location of the boiler itself can make a difference to its efficiency and lifespan because condensation, dirt, dust and grease can all cause a boiler to have to work harder. It is indeed a complex subject which is why you need a professional with integrity and lots of experience to guide you through the many potential pitfalls if, indeed, it is time to install a new system.

And a new system, of course might also mean new radiators because it is essential to get the balance right otherwise you can spend £1800 on a new boiler that should last 15 years under optimum conditions but which could breakdown irretrievably after 8 years if too much strain has been placed on it. However, if you have recently spent lots of money on new radiators, the last thing you want is to have to replace them simply because they are too large and widely distributed for the boiler to handle, but through poor advice or unscrupulous practices you find yourself paying not £1800 for a new boiler but the same again for new radiators when a slightly more powerful boiler costing just a few hundred pounds more could save you having to replace your radiators.

The message we at STT want to try to convey to you is that system design is almost as important as the components themselves, and as poor system design can drastically shorten the life of your boiler it is important to get it right when necessity forces you to address the situation such as when your boiler breaks. This is why STT prefers to employ time-served experts, because they not only have the theoretical understanding, but their years in the field mean they have seen just about every terrible heating configuration imaginable and are fully equipped with the expertise to advise you on the best solution for your unique situation.

As one additional extra, whenever we work with you to address your heating issues we will be very happy to give you advice and guidance on the many ways in which you can make your home more energy efficient because, for example, many people don’t realise how something as basic and simply as fitting reflective foil behind a radiator and the right kind of shelf above it – to help project the heat into the room – can result in a noticeable saving on their fuel bill.

We hope this brief guide to the essentials of boiler efficiency has proved useful in at least helping you to be on your guard when you do have problems with your heating system, and if you do have any further questions don’t hesitate to give STT a call.

previous article next article