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Last Updated on May 1, 2023

Boiler Breakdown

Boiler Breakdown, in most cases, comes without warning.  When your boiler is running properly and all is good in the world, it is easy to take it for granted.  You expect that, without fail, it will always provide you with hot water and heating when you need it and probably never think about it too much from one day to the next.  Until something goes wrong and you experience a boiler breakdown first hand, that is.  Then, everything in your house is thrown into chaos and you start to panic about how you are going to manage without a boiler.  Especially when you have small children in your house.

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Most boiler breakdowns tend to happen during the coldest months of winter, and this is often because they haven’t really been active in a while.  The working components inside a boiler have to tolerate extremely high levels of thermal and mechanical stress, various types of water qualities and dissolved oxygen.   At its highest working capacity, the inside of a boiler is pretty much like a furnace, which means it makes a huge difference if the internal components are made from the highest quality materials.  After a long period of inactivity, the internal components feel sudden strain when they try to heat your house, which could leave you having to pay for an inconvenience you could really avoid, a boiler breakdown.  This is why regular annual services are required not only for maintenance but also to preserve the manufacturer’s warranty.  Also, as we’ve seen during the Beast from the East in 2018, a lot of people ran into the problem of frozen condensate pipes.  The solution is easy enough, you just need to pour hot water (not boiling water) on the pipes and have them insulated for the future.  For more handy tips and solutions to common boiler problems, and discounts and any new updates, follow Boilerhut on Facebook.

There are various reasons though that can cause a boiler breakdown, and to help you know what to look out for, we are going to highlight some of the most common faults.

Boiler Breakdown caused by the Age of your Boiler

Boiler breakdown can often be caused by old age.  Rust and corrosion build-up and spread over the course of many years, causing deterioration to boiler components, pipes and sometimes connections.  And as mentioned above, because the components in a boiler go through severe thermal and mechanical stress, this eventually results in a mechanical failure or troublesome leaks, which can leave you without hot water or heat.  In time, there may also be an accumulation of debris and dirt that prevents the mechanics of your boiler from working as they should or restricting the water flowing.

No Hot Water Or Heating

boiler breakdown

Boiler breakdown related to a lack of hot water or heating can be the result of many issues.  It could be, for instance, that your boiler’s motorised valves are failing possibly due to system debris or simply that the motor that drives the valve open or shut needs replacing.  Airlocks are also a common problem caused by the following reasons:

  1. System is sucking air into your radiators & pipework. Or…
  2. Magnetic sludge are creating methane and appearing as airlocks.

The difference is a distinct odour when you bleed your radiators.  And yes, this gas is flammable.

It may even be low water levels.  Check your pressure gauge if you have one.  Or if not, check if the ball valve on the small feed & expansion tank is not stuck in the closed position.  This is the small tank usually in the loft.  A faulty thermostat or circulation problems can cause a boiler to shut down prematurely.  At this stage, it is not a complete boiler breakdown.  Poor and intermittent water temperatures are also a common fault, especially on combination boilers.  Although a specialist engineer/trained installer may be able to rescue your boiler and repair/replace broken components where they can, if your boiler is too far gone, it may be best to replace your boiler.  Boiler manufacturers only guarantee the supply of spare parts for 10 years.  So, if your boiler is over 10 years, the warning signs have arrived.

Dripping Or Leaking due to Boiler Breakdown

If you are experiencing dripping or leaking from the boiler itself, it is definitely a sign that all is not right with your boiler.  Determining the cause of these drips or leaks all comes down to figuring out the source of the leaks.  A trained installer will be able to help you figure this out.  Although, generally the cause of this kind of issue is a damaged pump seal, pressure valve or some other internal components.  The boiler pressure may be on too high a setting if there is leaking, and it is sourced to the valve controlling the pressure.  If the leak is coming from the seal around the pump of your heating system, it may be that it is broken or natural wear and tear has occurred and it needs to be replaced.  Boilers have been known to sometimes leak around the heat exchanger. This is the worst-case scenario, and almost always leads to a replacement usually caused by corrosion.

Pilot Light is Going Out

[This applies to older boilers only. Newer boilers have error codes.]

If your boiler’s starter light or pilot light is going out, this is obviously going to cause problems.  This itself may be the result of your gas supply not being able to flow properly due to a broken or worn thermocouple.  A Thermocouple or thermoelectric device is a proving component for boilers with pilot lights only.  The thermocouple sits in the pilot light and the heat is transferred to a small electric current.  This current sends a message to the mains gas valve, and when the gas valve senses the current, it opens and sends gas to the burner.  This is the gas valve’s safety device.  So, if there’s no pilot light, there’s no mains gas to the burner.  However, it may also have been that an obstructive deposit of some kind has built up around the pilot assembly preventing the thermocouple from sensing the flame.  Always check the obvious first.

Is there gas flowing to your property? Check cooker or hob or gas fire.  If there is no gas at all in your appliances, then check if the EMCV (Emergency Meter Control Valve) is on.  This is situated at the meter and is labelled EMCV.  If all is good, it’s time to check in with the utility supplier that provides your gas.  They may be working in the street and have isolated your supply.

When Your Condensate Pipes Freeze Up

boiler breakdown, thaw condensate pipe

[It may not be related to a Boiler Breakdown]

During sub-zero temperatures outside, external condensate pipes can freeze up, especially if you own a condensing boiler.  The condensate pipes are what removes condensation and any waste steam that are inside your boiler.  If frozen, this stops your boiler from working.  As the pipes exit your boiler and run in a drain outside, this puts the pipes at danger of completely freezing up when the temperature drops lower and lower.  If you are trying to find the condensate piping on your boiler, it’s actually very easy.  Under your boiler, you will find that there is piping exiting from and entering into your boiler, and if among these, you find plastic piping, it is more than likely to be it.  This piping is external and normally leaves your house to be directed into a drain.  You may try to thaw out a condensate pipe that has frozen up, by tipping hot water (not boiling water) onto it.  In most cases, this is not a sign of a boiler breakdown.

Would it be Cheaper Replacing rather than Repairing?

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As boilers are very complex appliances, it is recommended that you schedule annual servicing for yours.  That not only ensures your boiler runs flawlessly and efficiently, it also adheres and preserves your manufacturer’s warranty.  This may be chargeable with a service fee (£80 to £100) or be part of a boiler care plan with monthly payments.  However, if you keep experiencing boiler breakdown often, and you have not yet upgraded to a modern high efficiency condensing boiler, now would be a good time for you to consider replacing rather than repairing/servicing.

Viessmann Vitodens 100-W

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