Martyn James: What to do if your heating cuts out

Boilers have a habit of breaking down when you need them most, so make sure you know your rights, sa

Martyn James on what to do if your heating cuts out. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

This week I gave in finally and turned the heating back on.

The sun came out briefly and I wavered a little but I have to accept it. It’s October and it’s getting cold.

This year, of course, putting on the heating is more of a concern to people.

Energy prices are hitting record levels and I’ve had countless questions about how to save money or cut bills (check out last week’s column for more tips and support).

But just to complicate things, this time of year is the peak time for callouts for broken boilers. That’s largely because with the heating off for such a long period, problems only become apparent when you turn the boiler back on.


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Here are a few tips if your boiler isn’t playing ball and you are worried about the cost of an engineer.

Martyn James of Resolver. Picture: Resolver

Martyn James of Resolver - Credit: Resolver

  • If the heating isn’t working

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First things first, check the thermostat. It sounds ridiculous but loads of boiler problems stem from the battery in the thermostat running out.

The display might suggest there’s a problem with the boiler but a quick battery change could solve the problem and save you an expensive call out.

Do a few basic checks, like turning the dials and thermostat down, pressing the ‘boost’ option and seeing if the boiler kicks into life. 

Repressurising the boiler can be a bit nerve wracking if you’re not technically minded, but it’s a relatively simple process for most boilers. Don’t launch straight into it though. Read the steps first and make sure you are confident with the process.

  • Can’t find the boiler guide?

You’re not alone. You can find most guides online – and there are loads of YouTube guides to basic problems too. Don’t get too ambitious though. I am legally obliged to tell you not to tinker with the boiler’s inner workings if you’re not an expert!

If your radiators aren’t heating up properly then you might need to ‘bleed’ them. Again, this can seem rather intimidating if you’ve not done it before but it’s actually quite easy. Most energy companies have guides on how to do this online. If you’ve lost your radiator key, they’re often quite generic and easy to replace. It’s recommended that you bleed your radiators once a year even if they seem to be working fine.

If you think you need to make a claim on a boiler or home emergency policy, check first to see what you’re covered for. Most have 24 hour call out lines and a long list of things covering your rights and timescales on repairs and replacements. That way you are prepared for any hidden costs and know your rights if there are delays with repairs.

If you’ve got blocked or leaking pipes, check to see whether the pipes are on your property (claim through your insurer) or outside it (usually the water company needs to sort this out). Confirming access points can save a lot of hassle should you ever need to make a claim.

  • Boiler and home emergency cover

Is it worth taking out a policy to cover boiler breakdowns? Costs for calling out an engineer can be pricey and can increase quite a bit depending on what’s gone wrong.

However, you can fork out £300 or more for some insurance policies and there’s an argument that just putting that money to one side could save you more in the long run. If you do decide to take out insurance bear in mind some policies only cover the boiler, while others cover the central heating and items that run off it too.

If you’re thinking about taking out boiler or home emergency cover, before you do anything, check to see what your existing home insurance covers. You might find you don’t need it.

Not all boiler contracts are insurance products – which matters because if there’s a dispute, you can’t go to the Financial Ombudsman if it’s a service contract or other agreement.

Resolver can help you sort out complaints about pretty much anything for free. Check out www.resolver.co.uk

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