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Winter Weather Advice: Getting your boiler ready for winter

With an estimated 92% of UK homes using a boiler system with radiators as their main source of heating, it's essential to make sure your boiler is in good working order as the weather gets colder.

The average lifespan of a boiler is around 10-15 years. Although, with the proper maintenance and care, some boilers can last up to 20 years.

This guide will explore a few simple ways you can make sure your boiler is winter ready.

Does cold weather affect boiler pressure?

The cold weather puts an additional strain on a boiler because it has to work harder and longer to keep the house warm. When the heating is on, the system pressure increases because the water expands as it gets hot and this is normal.

A sudden rise in boiler pressure is most likely an indication of a failed expansion vessel, blocked pressure sensor (due to a dirty system), the filling loop may have been left open during "topping up" the pressure or the system has been overfilled during "top up”.

Also, frozen pipe work could cause a rise in boiler pressure if the boiler has been switched off for a long period and it is in an unheated area. But it's also important to note that these points are only the case for a combi, system or a regular boiler with a sealed system. An open-vented boiler doesn't have a pressure gauge and so you wouldn't know the system pressure at any given time.

Boiler settings for winter

As the weather gets colder, it’s possible that you'll need to adjust your boiler settings to make sure it's running efficiently through the winter period.

What temperature should your boiler be set at in winter?

There isn’t a universal winter temperature setting for boilers in winter, although there is a general guideline that will help your boiler run efficiently. It’s recommended that combi, system and regular boilers should be between 60°C - 70 °C when the temperature drops. In some cases it can be lower, it really depends how quickly your home cools down during cold weather.

When a boiler is below the recommended temperature setting, it may not produce enough heat to warm up a home. Whereas, if the temperature exceeds the recommended setting the boiler will use more energy than necessary to warm your home and may over heat the rooms. At high temperatures modern condensing boilers might not be running in a high efficiency condensing mode, which would result in higher energy bills.

Tips to make sure your boiler is ready for winter

Making sure your boiler is ready for winter, there are some simple steps to make sure it’s running efficiently. An efficient boiler will keep you warm and help to save you money on energy bills. Here are our top tips for getting your boiler ready for winter:

Bleeding your radiators will help the heating system's efficiency as it removes any pockets of air that have built up during periods of disuse. This results in hotter radiators and means you don’t have to turn up your radiators as much to warm your home.

To bleed your radiators:

1. First, turn off the heating system and allow the radiators to cool

2. Once they are cool, locate the bleeder valve on each radiator and use a radiator key to open valve

3. Hold a cloth or rag under the valve to catch any water that may drip out. Slowly turn the valve until water starts to drip out

4. Once the water starts to drip, close the valve and turn on the heating system.

Read our full step-by-step guide on how to bleed your radiators.

If your radiator is still not warm at the top after bleeding it, your central heating system may need flushing as there could be a build-up of sludge that is affecting the radiator's performance. This must be done by a heating engineer.

If you’re unsure of anything, contact a qualified heating engineer.

We advise servicing a boiler annually to keep it running efficiently for longer periods of time. As a boiler gets older, it will naturally need a service to maintain the upkeep and reduce the risk of a breakdown. A boiler that breaks down in the middle of winter is usually very expensive to repair or replace.

An annual boiler service can also maintain your boiler's guarantee as well as help to maintain the health and safety of your boiler.

You can book a Glow-worm boiler service here.

Depending on the type of boiler, if your boiler pressure is too low, your boiler may not work properly and will cause your home to be colder than it should be. The low water level in an open-vented system will also cause the boiler to become faulty.

The recommended safe pressure is between 1 - 2 bars, but you must check your boiler’s instruction booklet before making any adjustments. If the pressure gauge is a dial type then the needle should be in the green area during operation, if the needle is in the red area then it could indicate a problem.

However, some boilers may still be working when the gauge is marked as red. Although, if your boiler won’t switch on or is shutting down, then there’s a problem that needs attending to.

If you have a smart control and monitor your heating through an app, the app should alert you if you have lower boiler pressure.

If you find a boiler leak before winter, get it fixed before it has a chance to do any damage. Boiler leaks are usually caused by loose seals or joints, pressure issues or corrosion. Depending on the severity of a leak during winter, pipes can freeze. As water freezes, it expands, which causes pipes to burst and can lead to expensive repairs. Leaks that are left can also cause mould and mildew growth resulting in health problems.

Additionally, if you spot your boiler having low pressure, this can be an indicator that your boiler is losing water somewhere.

Condensing boilers recover heat from exhaust gases and use that to create further heat. This makes them more efficient than standard boilers because they use less energy to heat the home.

The water created from the condensing process is slowly released from your boiler through a condensate pipe. The slow process makes the water subject to freezing at very low temperatures. It’s advisable to check the insulation surrounding condensate pipe is sufficient and in good condition, otherwise, the frozen water could affect the operation of your boiler.

If your condensate pipe is frozen, read our blog post for a step-by-step guide on defrosting it here.

Think of a thermostat as the middleman between you and your boiler. It tells a boiler to keep the heat on until a chosen specific temperature. It’s able to do this by sensing the temperature of the space and then turning on/off the heating or cooling system to maintain the desired temperature.

It’s crucial to make sure that your thermostat is positioned away from windows and draughts so that it can accurately sense the temperature of a room and work accordingly to your needs. It’s highly advisable to test your device before winter to make sure that it is running efficiently.

Read our guide to ‘What is a Thermostat and How Does One Work’.

It is important to test your boiler before you reach the winter season. Ideally, a boiler should be tested during the summer or autumn, to give you enough time to make the necessary repairs should any be required before winter.

Testing your boiler before winter means that you will miss the boiler breakdown rush that usually happens in winter when gas engineers are busy. Sorting any issues will be quicker and more efficient for your needs.

Get your boiler ready for winter with a Glow-worm service

When the colder months start to creep in, the last thing you want is for your boiler to give up on you. By taking some time to get your boiler ready for winter and following our recommended tips above, you can help to avoid any nasty surprises and keep your home warm and cosy all season long. If you have any concerns about your boiler, or if you think it may be time for boiler service, then please get in touch with us.