Boilers are among the most useful appliances in your home, and because of this, they also potentially experience the most stress. When a boiler breaks down, especially during winter, it can be a major inconvenience, not to mention that it brings additional problems such as gas or water leaks. However, you can usually detect the following warning signs before this happens:
1. Unpleasant Smells
Be on the alert for any unpleasant smells coming from your boiler. In fact, shut the system down right away and call in an expert.
Burnt metal or plastic smells are produced by overheating. On the other hand, a foul, sulphuric smell that resembles rotten eggs would point to a gas leak.
A gas leak involving carbon monoxide is very dangerous because it can trigger explosion or fire. It’s also a health hazard, with carbon monoxide poisoning causing migraines, issues with breathing, or even death. If this happens, turn off your gas supply at the meter. Keep the doors and windows open, and don’t light or smoke anything to avoid the gas flaring up. Everyone must also evacuate.
Carbon monoxide doesn’t have an odour on its own, but sulphur is added to it so people can easily detect when it leaks. As an additional precaution, many buildings have a carbon monoxide detector. A gas leak is confirmed by dark stains around or on your boiler as well as a yellow flame instead of blue.
2. Strange Noises
Boilers naturally emit a low background noise that’s easy to tune out. When it does catch your attention because it’s making strange noises such as banging, knocking, gurgling, or whistling, then it’s a sign that there’s something wrong with your boiler and you need to have it checked by an engineer.
Your boiler might have unusual water pressure. Alternatively, there may be faulty parts such as a malfunctioning fan or heat exchanger, but just from the noise, you won’t be able to pinpoint the specific part that it’s coming from right away because noise travels throughout the system.
A more specific sound to watch out for would be kettling, where your boiler sounds like a whistling hot kettle. This happens when there’s a mineral buildup that’s blocking your heat exchanger.
Whatever sound your boiler is making, it’s important to have an engineer look at it right away. If the noises are detected early, your boiler’s still likely to be repaired without any major replacements.
3. Higher Energy Consumption
It’s normal for boilers to exert more energy when it’s cold, but a sudden increase in your energy bills might mean that your boiler is inefficient. An engineer will let you know if it can be fixed quickly or if your boiler is already breaking down beyond repair. After all, a boiler that’s close to sputtering out completely will need more and more energy to perform its original functions.
All boilers will eventually break down because of age. Any boiler that’s above 15 years in age is already considered old. While maintenance can prolong a boiler’s lifespan, it’s unavoidable for a boiler to become less efficient by a few percent every year. This might seem to make only a small difference, but it accumulates over time. Aside from causing you additional money, old boilers are also less environment-friendly.
As a benchmark for your boiler’s default efficiency, check its rating on the energy label. This can range from A (green) to G (red), with A being the most efficient while G means it’s at less than 70% efficiency.
4. Water Leaks
If there’s a puddle or extra moisture around your boiler, then you’re looking at a water leak, which needs immediate attention. For one, slight dripping can turn into a full-out leak. This can lead to damages to your property, including mould infestation, as well as additional corrosion in your boiler.
To figure out the problem, your engineer will have to isolate which part the water is leaking from. It might simply be because of a loose pipe connection, especially if the leak happens around the tank or pipes. A more serious cause would be a malfunctioning component. This could be a pump seal that has to be replaced because it has already worn out over time or a faulty pressure valve that’s leading to excessively high pressure. At worst, it’s showing that your boiler’s already near the end of its lifespan and it might stop working completely at any point.
5. Not Performing Properly
One of the most obvious signs would be when your boiler isn’t performing properly, whether that means it’s not heating up at all, there’s always unnecessary delay, or the heating is never strong enough.
The most common reason for this is there’s an internal component such as a motorized valve, thermostat, or airlock that needs to be replaced. However, don’t attempt to fix it yourself—reach out to an engineer for proper diagnosis and repair. There might also be a circulation problem, where sediment is hampering your heating unit, eventually manifesting as blockages and uneven heating from your boiler. Finally, it could indicate that your entire boiler is close to degrading and you need a new one already.
Regular servicing for your boiler minimises the chances of this happening. Whatever the cause behind your boiler’s poor performance, don’t ignore it because the damage might get worse.
If you detect any of the signs mentioned above, don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you’re in the Bristol region (or a local certified gas engineer if not). This will keep your situation as safe as possible and ensure the best course of action when it comes to your boiler.