With snow storms and arctic temperatures sweeping the UK, keeping warm and cosy is the number one priority for most of us as we battle through the winter months. In fact, our own research reveals that the biggest winter worry for 15% of the population is the heating breaking down - second only to icy roads - highlighting that, although not particularly sexy, a smooth running boiler equals a happy household.
What it also showed was that we could all be savvier when it comes to keeping our heating in check. Over a quarter of UK boilers have broken down without being insured, with two fifths of Brits saying that they'd have to borrow money to cover the repair cost or have no choice but to go without heating if their boiler broke down. Additional, two thirds of us admit we don't know how to check our boiler pressure, and a third don't know who to call if our boiler was to break down.
But all is not lost. There are a few simple steps we can take to help winter proof our heating system, without breaking the bank ...
• Service your system: Having an annual boiler service is the best way to avoid an unexpected breakdown. Don't wait until winter to do this though - sort it during the summer months so your heating is in tip-top condition for when you need it the most. While your engineer is there, you should also consider getting a cleaning device fitted, which will help keep your system clean and protect your boiler. Make sure they check the inhibitor in your system too, as the chemical additive helps to protect your system, which is very important.
• Insulate your pipes: If you have a gas condensing boiler, you'll also have a waste pipe that takes away small amounts of water from your boiler to the drains. Depending on where your boiler is located, the pipe (usually white or grey in colour) is run outside of your home and discharges to the drains. In very cold weather there is a risk for this to freeze if the pipe is in an exposed location, causing a blockage and your boiler will stop working. Insulating the pipe, could go a long way towards preventing them from freezing. You can pick insulation up from most DIY stores and it's far less expensive than a breakdown.
• Thaw your pipes: If your pipes do freeze over, you will need to thaw them out to get the system back up and running. Covering your pipes with a hot water bottle or pouring warm water over them are the most effective ways of doing this. Once thawed, reset your boiler and you should be all set.
• Bleed radiators: If you find your radiators have cold spots, it's time to bleed them, as its probably trapped air. If they are still cold after that, it's likely that your system needs to be cleaned, so call out an expert. More advice on radiator bleeding can be found at CentralHeating.co.uk.
• Check your pressure: If your boiler pressure gauge is reading low it won't run effectively, so it's important to check the dial. Check the operating instructions for your boiler to find out the correct settings according to your system. This will also show you how to re-pressurise your system. If you cannot find operating instructions, then contact your boiler manufacturer or visit their web site as many are available to download online.
• Keep your heating in check: Giving your system a bit of exercise during the summer months will help keep it in check and ensure your pipes don't get clogged up. Simply switch on your heating for about 15-20 minutes every month and if your radiators are warming up efficiently you have nothing to worry about. Likewise, if you're going on holiday during the winter, programme your system to turn itself on and off every day.
• Seek expert advice: Call out an expert straight away if you suspect your boiler is broken, as you could potentially put you or your family at risk if you try to fix the problem yourself. Make sure you always used a Gas Safe Engineer when calling someone out and ask to check their registration card.
• Get cover: An eye watering eight million households across the UK are not insured, leaving them at risk of a hefty repair cost if their boiler was to break. To help give you peace of mind, you should consider taking out boiler and heating cover.