Written by Hugh Metcalf

What to do when your boiler breaks down

At this time of year, a boiler breakdown can be a serious problem. Here’s how to get your central heating and hot water back up and running as quickly as possible. 

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Image: Boxt 

A boiler break down is never ideal, but even less so during the winter months, as it leaves your home susceptible to near-arctic temperatures.

From quick fixes and ensuring your boiler is safe to getting an engineer or new boiler out to you as soon as possible, here’s our quick guide to beating the broken boiler blues.

Troubleshoot common problems

A boiler may seem like one of the more complex components of your home, but that doesn’t mean you can’t diagnose, and potentially fix, a problem by yourself. We’ve pulled together a list of the most common boiler problems, and how you can proceed in fixing them, or whether you need to call out an engineer.

Ensure your boiler isn’t dangerous

While your home being freezing cold isn’t desirable at this time of year, a faulty and dangerous boiler should be your main concern.

If you can smell gas there may be a leak. If your gas meter is easy to access, turn off the gas supply. Then, open the windows and doors. Evacuate the building and call the Gas Emergency Service on 0800 111 999. It’s important that you don’t switch any plugs on or off, create any sparks and do not smoke or use your mobile phone in the property as you could cause an explosion.

If the pilot light is orange or yellow (not blue) the boiler is not burning the fuel away completely and may produce carbon monoxide (CO). You won’t be able to see or smell carbon monoxide gas, but breathing it in can quickly cause you to become seriously ill. .

Early symptoms of CO poisoning include headaches, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, confusion, tiredness, pain in the stomach and/or difficulty breathing.

Black stains around or on the boiler could also indicate a leak and damaged, rusty or corroded pipework (including green discolouration on copper pipework) should be inspected by a Gas Safe engineer ASAP.

If you notice black stains, a yellow or orange pilot light and/or you may be experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms, evacuate the property and call 0800 111 999.

Invest in a boiler care scheme

If you don’t already have a reliable plumber in your little black book, finding someone who can come out and deal with your boiler problems quickly is another hurdle to bringing the warmth back to your home. Plus, consider the extra expense at this time of year.

Investing in a boiler cover scheme is a good idea, as boiler repairs and replacements are often not included in home insurance policies. These schemes also often make it easier to book a engineer to come out to look at your boiler quickly – after all, this is a seriously busy time of year for many plumbers and boiler engineers! However, many schemes exclude new sign ups from assistance when there’s an existing boiler fault, so be sure to have this safety net in place ahead of time.

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Image: Boxt

Get a new boiler quick

If your boiler has reached the end of its life, then time to get a new one installed. This may sound like a lengthy process, especially during these sub-zero months, but consider a next-day service like Boxt. If you order by 3pm, you could be having your new boiler delivered and installed the very next day, ensuring you’re not left out in the cold for too long.

Wrap up in the meantime

With no central heating and hot water at this time of the year, it’s not going to be warm and cosy in your home, so ensure you’ve got lots of layers and blankets to wrap up in. Consider investing in something that will keep you warm, but that won’t end up with you facing an exorbitant electricity bell. Products like electric blankets are surprisingly efficient to run.


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