As the days get shorter following the clock change and the cold weather is now really starting to kick in, many of us will have turned our heating systems back on.
In fact, this year things have been slightly different due to the unseasonable mild weather during July and August, an estimated eight million of us have already made the move and switched our boilers on much earlier than usual*.
If this includes you, or if you’re one of the households who has so far resisted temptation and kept your heating system turned off, it’s important to get your boiler serviced, especially after heavy use during last year’s long and cold winter.
Servicing your boiler
Having your boiler serviced at least once a year gives you peace of mind that everything is working correctly and to maximum efficiency. Also, if there are any problems, it’s easier to find an available technician relatively quickly before the really cold weather sets in.
A typical service should last approximately one hour and, for an oil heating system, you can expect to pay between £60 to £130.
The technician will inspect the boiler to ensure it meets safety regulations and is working correctly. This includes checking the essentials such as the controls, burner and flue. They will also clean the boiler and run an efficiency test.
Importantly, the oil tank and supply pipes should also be inspected for any signs of leakage or water contamination. This is something we recommend you also check yourself on a regular basis.
Choosing the right technician
When it comes to choosing a tradesperson, as with any industry, there are always unqualified cowboys who try to present themselves as professionals. They often offer cheaper prices which can be very tempting for households on a low budget, but this can cause big issues further down the line.
Alternatively, you can opt for OFTEC registered technicians (who service oil and solid fuel appliances) who are fully qualified, certified as competent and meet the highest industry standards. Gas boilers must be serviced by a Gas Safe registered technician. Both GasSafe and OFTEC registered technicians will also provide you with a report confirming the work that has been done and alert you to any potential problems.
Why is using a registered technician so important?
1. Peace of mind
Heating systems are not usually something we spend much time thinking about. We turn them on and, if they seem to be working correctly, put them at the back of our mind. We forget that they are one of the most important devices in our home and often the most heavily used.
However, this can mean any underlying issues with the system go unnoticed – but when the problem gets worse, it quickly become a big headache!
Small issues are quicker and cheaper to fix than waiting until the whole system packs up. It’s also better to deal with any problems early before the winter weather kicks in. You don’t want to be left in a cold house, waiting for a technician during their busiest months, or get landed with a big emergency repair bill around the already expensive festive period.
Additionally, an unqualified technician might not fully inspect the system and miss potential problems which could even make things worse later down the line.
Oil boilers have an incredibly strong safety record. However, as with any other fuel burning appliance, there is the potential for things to go wrong which could, at worst, result in a leak of Carbon Monoxide (CO).
CO is produced when carbon fuels don’t burn properly and the poisonous gas can cause long term health problems, such as prolonged headaches, nausea and breathing difficulties, and even death. In fact, over 50 people are killed by CO poisoning every year**.
Unfortunately, the gas is odourless and colourless which makes it difficult to detect and often people can suffer the symptoms for many months before realising what the cause is.
Having your boiler serviced by a professional can help to prevent this problems arising.
3. Maximum efficiency
As well as checking the system is working correctly, a professional heating technician will also ensure it is operating to maximum efficiency. Not only can this help prolong the lifespan of your boiler, it can also reduce your fuel consumption.
This means the heating oil you purchase will last longer and, combined with the huge drop in the price of oil, result in significant financial savings.
To improve the efficiency of your boiler even further, you may also want to consider upgrading to a modern, condensing unit which can save you over 20% on your fuel bills whilst also reducing your carbon footprint.
4. Professional advice
Heating technicians are not just there to service your boiler. They also provide advice and guidance on a whole range of issues from whether your boiler needs to be upgraded and which type would be most suited to your home, to whether changing your control system could save you money.
For such big decisions, you want to make sure the advice you receive is from a trusted professional who can clearly discuss the different options available and what would be best for you.
5. Good for the environment and your pocket
Regular tank checks as part of the annual service mean safe oil storage. For you, the homeowner, it means avoiding the risk of a leak and the potential environmental damage that can result. It also helps prevent the financial loss resulting from the lost fuel, as well as a potentially expensive clean-up bill.
Find a local OFTEC registered technician to service your boiler, or check that your existing technician is fully registered.
This is a Guest Post by Tim Miller on behalf of OFTEC.
*uSwitch Heating Survey, August 2017
** ONS Number of Deaths from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Report, September 2016