Troubleshooting a Broken Boiler: Fix It Yourself, or Hire a Pro?

fixing boiler

No one ever wants to be in this situation, yet it happens all too often: it’s freezing cold outside, you can’t wait to get back home, take a hot shower and finally relax.

Unfortunately, your boiler has other plans and decided that now is the perfect time to stop working. And that can be a scary scenario right there.

The boiler is an essential home appliance and no one wants to spend the night cuddled up under three blankets to make up for the lack of heating.

And besides, how do you fix the malfunction?

Is it just a small problem that anyone can solve without being a DIY guru, or is it a potentially dangerous one that requires the skills of a professional? 

The key to finding the right solution in time lies in understanding the main things that can go wrong with your boiler, so use this simple checklist to make the difference between a simple malfunction and a potential emergency.

The Thermostat 

check boiler thermostat

Before panicking that the boiler is broken, stay calm and check the thermostat, because this is one of the most common reasons why the heat goes off.

As easy to use as they may be, digital thermostats can have many errors and sometimes you can fix the problem in a few seconds, without calling a pro: 

  • Check whether the screen of the thermostat is empty because the battery may have run out 
  • If you’re using a wireless thermostat, make sure it’s still connected to the boiler 
  • Double check the settings and place the thermostat next to an interior wall, in the center of your home. If you last programmed it a few months back, the settings may not be right for the current weather. 
  • Look at the date and time on the thermostat. If it doesn’t run on batteries, a power outage may have reset the time and your boiler will still turn on, but at a different time. 

Clogged Air Filters 

Ideally, you need to replace the filter at the start of the season and every couple of months while you’re using it.

Dirty filters will restrict the airflow, putting more strain on the fan motor and you risk overheating and malfunctions.

Moreover, this causes the fan motor to consume more energy and reduces the air quality which will aggravate asthma and allergic reactions. 

Check the filter on your boiler and, if it’s filled with dust and debris, you can easily replace it the next day.

You could also get insurance for your boiler and this will protect you against such financial predicaments.

To find out more information about the advantages of getting a boiler cover plan you can check this website.

Topping up Boiler Pressure 

adjust boiler valve

Even high-end boilers can stop working if the pressure inside gets too low, but that’s no reason to panic.

Ideally, the pressure should be between 1 bar and 2 bar, but minor leaks and bleeding your radiators can slowly lower the pressure over time until it gets below the recommended value.

When that happens, a safety switch is turned on to prevent the central heating system from running dry.

To get your boiler back and running, all you need to do is adjust the boiler valves until the pressure gauge reaches 1.5 bars, and then reset the boiler.

To prevent this from happening again, check the pressure indicator every couple of months and adjust the pressure as needed.

If the pressure keeps dropping very often, contact your technician to inspect the boiler, because you may be dealing with a hidden leak. 

Bleeding or Purging Your Radiators 

purging boiler radiator

If the radiators are colder on the top than on the bottom, that’s an indication that they need to be purged.

Get some sort of container so you don’t risk soaking up your carpets and twist the purging valve, it’s usually located on the side of the radiator and you can do it by hand, with a screwdriver or with a radiator key.

You’ll hear a sort of whistling sound and you keep the valve open until the first drops of water come out, that means all the air has come out and the radiator should now heat up evenly in about an hour. 

Belt and Blower Problems 

boiler blower motor

If you’ve checked the thermostat and performed the usual troubleshooting steps, but your boiler still won’t work, or it keeps making a weird noise, then the problem could be from an unlubricated or worn-out belt or the blower motor that needs replacement.

In this case, it’s best to avoid DIY work because not only could you hurt yourself, but also risk damaging the boiler even more. 

Burst Pipes and Uncontrollable Leaks 

call boiler service

Burst pipes and water leaks can happen for a series of reasons, which is why you should call the emergency boiler service as soon as possible to prevent extensive damage to your property.

However, before the experts get there, you can follow these steps to minimize damage and control the leak: 

  • Turn off the water supply from the water main 
  • Gradually drain the faucets, first the cold taps and then the hot ones. You might also want to flush the toilets to relieve some of the pressure in the pipes 
  • Prevent moisture damage by placing a container under the leak 
  • Open the windows to let the warm air circulate 

What to Do If the Alarm Went off 

Sometimes, the boiler can stop working because the carbon monoxide alarm sensed a leaked and cut off the supply.

To rule out a false alarm, switch the detector off, take it outside the property, and reset it.

If it doesn’t ring when you take it back inside, it may have been a simple error.

However, if it starts ringing again, or you’re sensing a gas smell, you could be facing a dangerous leak.

Even at low levels, gas exposure is extremely risky, so open the windows and call your boiler technician or emergency services as quickly as possible, without attempting to do any repairs yourself.