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5 Tips to save you needing to call a heating engineer this Winter

The big question around South West London at the moment is…. When should we put the heating on? Should we try and wait as long as we can?

I live in Balham, and it’s already set to come on every morning in my house 🙂

When you do finally turn your heating back on, because it hasn’t been used all Summer long, there are often problems, either with the boiler itself or possibly a radiator or two. More often than not you don’t need to be a qualified heating engineer to fix these problems, so we’ve created these these 5 quick tips to help you get your heating back on and avoid calling us out this winter…

#1 Boiler pressure is too low

9 times out 10, this is the reason boilers are not firing up. It’s a very simple fix though so don’t worry. Most boilers these days have a little pressure gauge (pictured below), either on the face of the boiler, under the boiler, or located externally somewhere close to the boiler.

If this pressure gauge is on zero, you will need to “top it up”, so the boiler will work again. This is done by using the filling loop (pictured above right). Your boilers pressure needs to be between 1 – 1.5 Bar for it to work, so using the filling loop you can re-pressurise your boilers pressure. The filling loop is usually a silver hose located under the boiler / near it, and it should have 2 black handles on either end if it. Turn those handles so they’re in-line with the pipe and watch the needle rise on the pressure gauge. When it gets to between 1 – 1.5 Bar, close the handles again (so they’re perpendicular to the pipe work). Some boilers have internal filling loop, and the filling loop will be located on the underside of the boiler. Some Worcester boilers require a special key to top their pressure up. It would be a good idea to locate your boilers filling loop before anything goes wrong this winter, so make sure you know where it is, how to use it, and whether you have the special key for it. If you need any help with any of this, we’d be more than happy to take a quick look for you and show you where everything is, free of charge. * Please note, do not over pressurise the boiler, and do not leave the filling loop permanently open either. Make sure you shut it off at around 1.5 Bar, it doesn’t need to be EXACT, but thereabouts.

#2 Programmer & Room Thermostat

Make sure your programmer is on & your roomstat is turned up. If your programmer says “heating on”, but your roomstat is turned down past say 21 degrees C, then your heating won’t fire up. Both of them need to be on and turned up. If your room thermostat is a wireless one, make sure the batteries are still ok too, this is also quite a common problem we find. A couple new batteries are a lot cheaper than a weekend callout charge.
#3 Money saving tip

Did you know that turning your room thermostat down by just 1 degree, can save you up to 10% on your energy bills, so it’s worth doing. 60% of the average homes energy bill is your HEATING, and about 24% is your HOT WATER, so little tips like this can make a lot difference. Also if you have TRVs on your radiators, use them, don’t just leave them on the highest setting constantly, as that basically means they’re fully open all the time. In rooms that aren’t used that often, turn them right down / off until you need to use that room. In other parts of the house keep them set at about 3 or 4. 5, typically the highest setting on a TRV is usually too high, and you’d actually be alright at 3 or 4.

#4 Radiator not working

If you have one radiator not heating up, check to make sure the valves either side of the radiator definitely open. If you have a TRV (Thermostatic Radiator Valve), like the one pictured below, try opening and closing it a few times, as they can get stuck, this SHOULD sort it out. If not, you can also try taking the TRV head off, and loosening the little pin inside the valve. This needs to move up and down slightly, to open and close the valve, but CAN sometimes get stuck, and may need a bit of help after not being used all summer. Please see the pics below – The TRV should have a little nut at the base of the head, that you can turn to loosen it off of the valve body. Once the head is off, you can use a pair of pliers or something to gently move the pin up and down. This should “un-stick” it, and it should start heating up again soon. This also a VERY common problem we come across around this time of year. *Please note, you shouldn’t need any tools to remove the head, this can all be done by hand. If you do need tools, you might trying to turn the wrong nut.

#5 Radiators not heating up properly

If your radiators are hot at the bottom and cold at the top, they need ‘bleeding’, which means they are full of air at the top of them, and that air needs to be let out (bled), using a little radiator key (available from any hardware store). Once the radiators are full of water, they should heat up evenly then. See the pic below left.

If your radiators are cold at the bottom, but hot at the tops, that means they are full of sludge / dirt and need cleaning out. The best way to do this is by powerflushing the system. This is quite a big job, usually a full day’s work if done properly. See the pic top right, if theres a layer of dirt lying on the bottom of the radiator, then it won’t heat up properly, your boiler will be working harder to try and heat that radiator, all that dirt WILL be circulating around your heating system, and ultimately your energy bills will be higher. Powerflushing your system can save you money on your energy bills, as well as prolonging the life of your boiler too.

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