Winter Central Heating Care: Prevent Boiler Breakdown
In the depths of winter, the last thing you want to have to deal with is a boiler breakdown. Being
left with no heating or hot water when the temperatures drop is miserable, let alone around
Christmas time. With funds running low, and possibly family staying, there really is no worse
time for a boiler breakdown.
Some breakdowns can’t be avoided. However, winter raises its own challenges for a central
heating system, and there are some things you can do to help avoid a boiler breakdown when you
need your heating the most.
Preventing Boiler Breakdown
• Arrange a service. Having your boiler serviced as the winter months approach is always
a wise idea. Any lurking problems that could cause a boiler breakdown later on will be
spotted and fixed before you end up having to pay expensive callout fees in the depths of
• Keep your central heating on. Condensing boilers in particular are more prone to
freezing up, due to the chance of the condensate pipe freezing in subzero temperatures.
The best, most energy efficient way to prevent this from happening is to keep the heating
on low constantly so the pipe can’t get cold enough to freeze. If your condensate pipe does
freeze, try thawing it out with a hot water bottle or by pouring warm water onto it.
As an important side note, boilers do tend to break down less when they are used regularly.
Prolonged periods of disuse can cause components to freeze up, which is why so many people
report boiler breakdown at the beginning of Autumn – when the heating goes back on.
Preventing Burst Pipes
Another common problem over winter that householders face is burst pipes. Burst pipes can cause
a great deal of damage and hassle – this is a problem that you definitely want to prevent rather than
cure. Burst pipes occur when the water within a pipe freezes, and the expansion of the ice causes
pressure to build between the blockage and the closed tap. To prevent burst pipes, we need to try
to prevent them from freezing in the first place.
• Insulation is absolutely essential. ‘Naked’ pipes are far more likely to freeze over. If your
water pipes aren’t insulated, buy some inexpensive lagging material from your DIY shop
and wrap up the pipes before winter comes.
• Keep warm. On cold days, be sure to open the underthesink cupboards and the loft
hatch to let some of the heat get into the space around the pipes.
• If you’re going away over winter, ask a friend or neighbour to check the pipes to make
sure they aren’t frozen, and make sure you leave the heating on low while you’re gone.
• If your pipes freeze, turn off the stopcock immediately and open the nearest cold tap to
allow the trapped water to drain away as you thaw the ice. When you have located the
frozen area (there may be more than one), begin to thaw the pipe with a hairdryer. Be sure
to protect your possessions in case the pipe bursts.