Boilers are efficient machines. They will remain that way, and safe, providing they are maintained correctly, and the majority of manufacturers recommend getting them serviced at least once a year.
There are few people aware of what exactly is covered in a boiler service, including what it entails and what it costs. Prices will vary depending on company, with some seeming less-expensive than others. Something to be aware of is the difference between being charged for an 'Annual Safety Check' (often much cheaper) and an 'Annual Service'. Despite what some sales people will claim, these two services are vastly different.
The safety check is little more than checking the boiler for leaks and excess emissions. It will not identify worn items within the boiler, nor any issues with the boiler that are likely to cause a failure in the short/medium term future.
A boiler service is far more in depth. It involves dismantling the boiler, checking wear and tear on a variety of components, the pipework, the flue, and emissions. It will identify any potential issues that are likely to arise, and any components that are likely to fail soon. Finally, certain parts may be replaced as a matter of course, such as the nozzle in an oil boiler.
Having a boiler serviced every year is much like having a car serviced every year. A boiler 's service programme is designed to replace wearable parts, prevent breakdowns, prolong the boiler's life, as well as to ensure the efficiency of the unit. Having a boiler serviced every year will significantly reduce the likelihood of it failing when you need it. Every year, many people are hit by boiler failures during the winter. Direct Line statistics showed that in 2010, fifteen per cent of the three million claims received in the winter months were for boiler breakdowns.
In November 2013, the British Government documentation stated that every year, around 40 people die from Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning. The official figures show annual deaths ranged from 25 to 45 between 2006 to 2011. However, the HSE warns that recent studies, such as one performed by the Gas Safety Trust charity 2010/2011, show that figures showing deaths and poisoning from Carbon Monoxide may be significantly under-reported. Annual boiler servicing is a significant step toward ensuring a boiler is safe and not releasing Carbon Monoxide into the house.
An appropriately qualified engineer should service a boiler. For a gas boiler the engineer must be Gas Safe registered, with the correct qualifications. An OFTEC registered engineer should service an oil boiler. An HETAS registered engineer should service a solid fuel boiler. Allowing an engineer who is not appropriately qualified to service your boiler may invalidate your boiler warranty, and even your buildings and contents insurance.
If there are any worn/potentially failing parts, the engineer will advise you and repairs will increase the cost of the service.
The following price guide should help budgeting for an annual boiler service:
- Independent Gas Boiler Engineer £60 - £80
- Utility Company Gas Boiler Engineer £80 - £100
- Independent Oil Boiler Engineer £90 - £150
- Independent Solid Fuel Engineer £120 - £180
A gas boiler service is likely to take between thirty minutes and an hour. An oil boiler service should take between two and three hours. Solid fuel boiler services will vary widely as there are many different types of boiler.
The most common gas boiler repair replacement parts following a service are:
- Diverter Valves £100 - £550
- Printed Circuit Board £200 - £450
- Pump £125 - £400
- Fan £200 - £650
- Gas Valve £150 - £600
These costs are only a guide (and include labour). The costs involved in these, or any boiler repairs, are going to vary quite widely because of the make of the boiler and the location.
Many companies offer boiler cover policies. These insurance policies will cover your boiler in the case of a breakdown, and in many cases include an annual service. You are not required to take out a policy with your energy supplier, though many offer discounts for their customers. Policies range from about £4.00 a month to about £20.00 a month. Most offer unlimited callouts, but the 'excess' charged for each callout ranges from free to £100 dependent on the policy. In may be worth checking your buildings and contents insurance policy to see if it already covers your boiler, or can have your boiler added to it.
In order to save money, it is wise to switch your boiler on for a few minutes each month. The most common fault found while servicing a gas boiler is a sticking diverter valve, which is the part responsible for directing heated water for the central heating and the hot water. As most boilers are only used for heating during the autumn and winter months, this valve can seize through lack of use during spring and summer. As shown above, this can be an expensive repair.
It is best to have had your boiler serviced late in the summer, before the autumn chills set in and forces the heating to be turned on. This means that you can be confident that your boiler will be in good shape for the winter, and help to avoid the long waits and high fees charged for call outs and labour over the winter months.
A standard boiler repair with a single component failure will cost on average £235. This rises to £550 if a second part has failed. Regular servicing is the best way to prevent surprise repair bills. It is also worth considering whether it makes more financial sense to pay for boiler insurance with an annual service included, or to put the premium amount to one side in case of repair.
For instance, with an average premium for a gas boiler at £12 a month with no call out fee. A service at £70 each year would mean that, over a three year period, £222 could be accumulated towards a repair bill.