John Francis, Heating Engineer

Autumn and winter are the busiest times for InstaGroup heating call-outs. Householders turn on the heating for the first time in months to warm up their home, and only then find something is not working properly. Perhaps the boiler won’t ignite. Or the radiators don’t get warm.

But before you call out a heating engineer, there are a few simple checks you can do yourself – it could save you quite a bit of time and money.

Tips from the InstaGroup heating expert

The most obvious is to double-check the boiler is connected to a power source. Make sure the boiler is plugged in at the mains, or that the fuse hasn’t blown. Also, check the boiler controls are switched on, and the thermostat is not set too low.

If you’re turning the heating back on after the summer, go around the home and check the entire heating system. Are all the radiators working well in every room? Don’t forget to check the radiators in any spare rooms or unused areas of your home.

If the problem seems to be a lack of water pressure, take a look at the pressure gauge on the boiler. Is it set at the correct level? You can check this and re-set it yourself by following the instructions in your boiler manual.

These are just a few of the common problems I hear about every year through my work with InstaGroup heating, many of which can be solved directly by the householder. You can find more solutions at my Top Tips for your Heating. You’d be surprised how often people can get their system working again, without the need to call out an engineer.

Time to call out an engineer?

Your own checks might not be able to fix your heating, but they can still help an engineer diagnose the problem. When you call InstaGroup we always ask a few questions first, so we can build up a picture of what’s happening. This not only saves time when we arrive, it can guide us with which parts or components we should bring to fix your particular boiler or heating system.

An important point — when your engineer arrives always confirm they are Gas Safe or OFTEC accredited. Don’t be shy about asking to see their ID card, and be sure to read both sides. If the card doesn’t list your type of boiler, it is not safe for them to work on it.

Getting things working again

Whether it’s a call-out at a large house, a Park Home or a flat, my approach is the same.

I start by doing a risk assessment of the heating system, and I get a bit more background information from the customer. I’ll want to know the age of the boiler, whether it’s been making strange noises, or if any of the radiators have stopped working, for example.

Then the key thing I look for is whether it’s a system or a component failure, rather than an actual boiler failure. I’ve been fixing boilers for many years, especially the leading brands of boiler we focus on at InstaGroup heating, such as Worcester Bosch. Generally I’ll know the boiler’s features and can quickly identify what’s going wrong, for instance I might spot a fault with the time-clock or a broken down pump.

I will usually have the right parts with me and can fix the problem, getting everything up and running again on the spot.

Look after your boiler

If I’m carrying out a boiler service I’m pretty thorough. I’ll check the complete hot water and heating system, including the hot water storage tank, the heating controls and the radiators – as well as the boiler of course.

Sadly, this is the prime time of year for a boiler service call-out to actually become a boiler breakdown call-out – or even an installation for a new replacement boiler.

If I had one bit of advice, it would be to look after your boiler. Book it in for a regular yearly service: if it’s been installed properly and serviced regularly by a trusted company it should keep your home heating and hot water running reliably for 10-15 years. But the system needs to be checked over by an accredited OFTEC or Gas Safe engineer once a year, at the very minimum.

Get ready for ‘the big switch on’

So, don’t wait for the cold weather: check your boiler is working properly all year round, preferably once a month, as part of your home’s general maintenance.

And for safety, whether you are calling out an engineer for a boiler service or to look at a fault, always confirm they are qualified to work on your type of gas or oil boiler.

My final words of wisdom? Listen to your InstaGroup heating engineer. A key part of InstaGroup’s service when we’re installing a new boiler is to offer the customer a short demonstration, going through the controls and features of the boiler. It’s well worth 5 minutes of your time, because it could end up saving you much more. Plus — remember to keep those boiler instructions handy!

See my Top Tips for your Heating

Answers to your heating and boiler questions

Meet our other experts