We’ve put together some helpful advice if you’re dealing with
a heating or plumbing issue at home right now.
This is one of the most common problems faced by homeowners and tenants, and one of the more troublesome as they can be left without heating or hot water.
There are many things that can go wrong, so fault finding usually requires a trained professional. However, there are a few things to try before getting the professionals out.
Modern boilers will usually flash a fault code. Firstly dig out the boiler user manual and find the troubleshooting section. Here seek out the fault code and follow the instructions to help identify the problem and resolve it where possible.
If you have a combi-boiler or a pressurised heating system your boiler may occasionally shut down due to pressure loss. It is normal for the pressure to require topping up every six to 12 months, however more frequently than this, could indicate a leak in the system or a problem with the pressure relief valve or expansion vessel.
You can identify that this is the type of system you have by finding the pressure gauge. Typically it will indicate the pressure level required with a green zone on the gauge, and will normally indicate over or under pressure with a red zone. Usually between one and two bar of pressure is required. Over three bar will normally trigger the pressure relief valve.
If the gauge reads under one bar, then the problem could be low pressure.
To increase the pressure you will need to find the filling loop for your system. This is where your heating system connects to your mains cold water supply. The filling loop is used to fill the system with water.
The two most common types of filling loop are:
- a flexible silver hose with a valve at either end, or a part integrated into the boiler. (If you have an internal filling loop – please refer to your manufacturer’s guidelines);
- external filling loops, which are usually located next to or under the boiler, but can be placed anywhere on a heating circuit.
Once you have located the filling loop, keep your eye on the pressure gauge and open the valve gently. If you listen carefully you should hear water rushing through the loop into the heating system. The pressure gauge should be rising.
Restore the pressure, and then shut the filling loop valve. Be careful not to over pressurise the system as this can cause further problems. Once set to the operating level stop filling and keep watching the gauge.
If the pressure drops again you have another problem ranging from a faulty pressure relief valve to a leak in your system. In this case, we advise not to refill your system again and to call a professional (even if your boiler works again temporarily). Regular or constant refilling will damage the system or exacerbate a leak.
If the pressure holds, then restart your boiler. Hopefully this simple process will solve your problem. If not, seek professional advice immediately.
Pilot light out
Many older boilers have a pilot light. A small gas flame visible through a small, glass window on the unit. It constantly burns in order to ignite the main burner as and when required. Modern boilers typically use an electric ignition.
If the pilot light flame has gone out, your boiler will not switch on. Usually a pilot light is designed to be relit by the owner, however, if you are not confident with doing this we advise you seek professional help.
It is always advisable to refer to the boiler manufacturer’s instructions, as they will usually tell you if the boiler has a pilot light and contain instructions on relighting the flame.
As mentioned above, the boiler will have a small window which is usually located somewhere obvious on the front of the boiler. There should be some indication marked on the boiler, however this may not be the case.
If there is no flame in the window this likely to indicate the problem. If you can see a flame, then problem is elsewhere in the system.
We always recommend referral to follow manufacturer’s instructions on lighting the pilot light. If you cannot locate the instructions then you are advised to contact your manufacturer or call for professional help.
If your boiler is showing no signs of life whatsoever, there could be a problem with the power supply to it. Without electricity the boiler cannot function. This is because the gas valve has a safety feature preventing the release of gas in case of power failure.
We always recommend referral to the manufacturer’s instructions where possible.
You will normally notice the lack of power, as the boiler should have some kind of indicator light or LED display (although older boilers may not).
Checks you can do:
- the power switch is on
- the timer is on
- any thermostatic controls are turned up (as these may give a false impression that the boiler is not receiving power)
If there are still no signs of life, then it is likely the power supply is the problem.
Only attempt to solve this problem yourself, if you are confident in your ability and aware of the dangers of dealing with electrical problems in your home. If you are at all uncertain, seek professional help.
Check your home’s electrical fuse board. Your boiler should have its own fuse or circuit breaker (although it may not). If you notice the circuit breaker has tripped off, reset it and then check to see if power to the boiler has been restored. If you have an old fuse board you may need to replace the relevant fuse.
If the power has not been restored, there may be an interruption with the power supply. It may be worth changing the fuse in the fuse spur which supplies power to the boiler, or changing the fuse in the plug if your boiler is not wired into the wall.
If the power has still not been restored seek professional advice.
Leaks, damp patches and burst pipes
Occasionally leakage may occur in your home due to wear and tear or improper use of water systems/products. Although fixing these problems is often a job for professionals, there are usually damage limiting steps that you can take.
If you notice a leak or damp patch appearing, it can be difficult to locate the source of the problem. You need to work out if the water is coming from:
- the hot or cold water systems
- the heating system
- the waste water system
- damaged weather proofing (a leaky roof)
- broken seals in your kitchen or bathroom
Hot and cold water systems usually fall into two categories: mains pressure and tank fed. To temporarily stop the leak you will need to isolate the pipework supplying the water to the leak.
Mains pressure system
You will need to look for any isolating valves near the problem. Failing that, shut off the supply at the main stopcock to turn the water off to the house/flat. Run the hot and cold taps to allow the remaining water in the system to drain.
Tank fed system
There should be isolating valves on the pipework running from the bottom of the water storage tank (usually located in the loft, or in a cupboard). Lever valves can be turned 90 degrees to the off position. Valves with a circular handle are turned clockwise to shut the valve. Once the water has been shut off, run the hot and cold taps to allow the remaining water in the system to drain.
Warning – mixer taps can back feed water from the cold system into the hot water system or vice versa. Do not run both the hot and cold taps at the same time.
If there is a leak from your heating system, not from a nut or gland which can be tightened with a spanner (i.e. from a radiator), then you may need to relieve the pressure inside the heating circuit. This can be difficult. Firstly, identify which type of system you have as there are two types, sealed or vented.
The pressure, or head, is provided by a header tank. This is a small tank, about one foot by two foot, usually located in the loft (it may be in a cupboard, but will always be above the tallest radiator on the system). A ball valve is usually used to fill the tank. Tie the ball valve up to prevent further water entering the system. Now you can drain the water out of the circuit.
These include combination boilers and system boilers. If you have a pressure gauge either on the boiler or next to an expansion vessel, then you have a sealed system. Sealed systems do not usually fill up automatically so you can move straight to draining the system.
To drain the system you should have a drain cock or small tap, usually underneath one of the radiator valves (it can be underneath the boiler or outside the house, usually pushed through an airbrick).
Attach a hose to the drain valve and run the other end to a drain. Now use a spanner to open the drain cock (turn anti-clockwise). Once opened the water should drain. The drain cock operates a rubber washer. These are notorious for becoming stuck and difficult to open.
If the drain cock opens without releasing the water it is usually possible to dislodge it with a large screw or small screwdriver, however this is not recommended without a wet and dry vacuum at hand as the water will usually be released very quickly (if the drain cock is outside this may not be a problem).
If you have the tools and the know-how, taking this kind of action can prevent expensive water damage. However, if not done correctly further damage could result. If you are not 100% sure of what you are doing, call a fully insured professional instead.
If you smell gas – call this special emergency number 0800 111 999.
SHUT OFF YOUR EMERGENCY GAS VALVE, DON’T OPERATE ANY SWITCHES, JUST OPEN THE DOORS AND WINDOWS AND WAIT OUTSIDE.
If your toilet is taking longer than normal to clear then the chances are you have a blocked drain. Call someone who knows about drains as soon as possible. Acid rarely works on blocked toilets. Sinks, baths and basins can often be fixed by using specialist acid. Off the shelf products from DIY centres rarely work.
Free consultation and advice, free quotations, no fix no fee repairs.
TD Property Maintenance Limited
Registered Company Number: 10591494
12 Selby Close