/ Home & Energy

Boiler trouble? Our cameras reveal the truth about repairs

Boiler broken down? About to call an engineer to get it fixed? When they put away the toolbox, how do you know your boiler’s been correctly repaired or you’ve been charged the right amount? We went undercover.

Everyone’s winter nightmare is that their boiler breaks. Our boiler went last year – cue electric heaters, lots of blankets and, yes, occasional trips to the pub to keep warm.

Fixing boilers can be expensive and it’s also crucial that it happens fast – so the cards aren’t exactly stacked in your favour. If the guy (or girl) fixing my boiler tells me it’s the valve, or the printed circuit board, or the controls, how am I going to know if they’re right or wrong?

Which? goes undercover

With this in mind we decided to go undercover here at Which?. We invited ten engineers to service a gas boiler to which we had introduced a minor fault and watched their job with hidden cameras. This was a fault that should be fixed during the service at no extra cost (we basically disconnected a lead which stopped the boiler from lighting – a five minute job). So, how did they get on?

Two engineers suggested that we needed expensive repairs when we didn’t. One independent engineer said he wasn’t sure what the fault was – he thought it was either the board or the gas valve, with repairs predicted to cost around £500.

Another said it would be at least £200 for the part but suggested we might be better off getting a whole new boiler. We also found that two others missed key checks when trying to service the boiler. So not only are some of these engineers suggesting expensive, unnecessary repairs, others aren’t carrying out basic checks.

Do you need boiler breakdown cover?

We’ve passed our findings to the Gas Safe Register and it said it will investigate any potential safety issues.

But we didn’t stop there – we also looked at whether it would be a good idea to get boiler breakdown cover. We found that cost-wise most people wouldn’t save money taking this out. This is because the average spent on servicing is £75 and you probably won’t need repairs.

However, we also know that most people who have boiler breakdown cover do so for peace of mind, so we surveyed Which? members to find out who’s best. You can read this in more depth in our boiler contracts review. Let’s just say than one boiler servicing company got a much higher customer score than the others in our survey.

So, if you have boiler cover, do you think it’s worth it? And if you’ve ever had your boiler serviced or repaired, did the engineer do a good job and charge you a fair price?

Bob H says:
26 April 2013

Recently I asked British Gas to come and look at my faulty boiler, and they told me, if it could be fixed within half an hour the charge would be a standard £89. When the engineer called, he said he had never seen one like it before, because it was a very old boiler, and parts would probably no longer be available, so he would have to disconnect it as it was dangerous. Is it right that I should still have had the £89 pound deducted from my bank account for the disconnection, rather than for any attempt at a repair.—- Thankyou ..

Zoe says:
1 May 2013

Please can someone offer me advice. My father a pensioner has a broken boiler, just stopped working. Phoned a few companies to come and have a look and were all busy, anyone the last one could come out. The boiler is about 7 years old and cost about £1800 at the time it was fitted. Anyway, the plumber told my dad what it was and they agreed a price including part of £300, then the plumber banged away at the boiler for an age and told my dad he missed it before but there is also a leak (wasn’t there before because it wasn’t wet in there but now it was when my dad was shown again) this part would have to be ordered in and would add another £600 on my dads bill, this has been going on about 6 days and the plumber came back today after finally getting the part and then informed my dad after a few hours of working that there was another fault and that part would be an additional £200. My dad has signed a form saying that the bailiffs would come if he doesn’t pay and also that the company take the old “broken” parts away. I think they are just conning him and told him to get a 2nd opinion but he said he can’t as he’s worried about bailiffs coming out and will just pay it, he really can’t afford it but this man seems like a cowboy although the company say he is their expert and wont send anyone else out. What can he do, he’s been a week without heating and hot water and is desperate to get it sorted. The plumber is going to come back again tomorrow.

Terry says:
3 May 2013

As a Gas Safe Engineer I am sorry you have had this problem, Please give me your postcode perhaps you are near me and I can help.

Brady says:
22 June 2013

Did this problem get sorted?? What area did the guy live in? I am also a gsr engineer. Doesn’t sound right to me

gas brains says:
15 November 2014

after a shift selling property in spain.

gas brains says:
15 November 2014

ah.gas safe.run by capita.the congestion charge people,now you know you are saved.

faizan says:
16 September 2013

Hi please could some give me advice. I dont have British gas insurance son I had to pay 500 for them to repair my boiler. Its now been 5 weeks and the same issue I had before the repair has arisen again. What should I do. I’m worried that if I tell them they will say its a different fault and charge me for another repair. I know the part he repaired comes with a year guarantee. But I think he may of fixed the wrong thing in the 1st place. What should I do.

gas brains says:
15 November 2014

the lottery.

Andrew Moody says:
16 September 2013

I have a number of properties and would not let any plumber including any large service company near my boilers without identifying the fault myself which is not difficult given the amount of free advise available. Just Google your problem and the Make of Boiler. I have had plumbers disconnect wires to produce a “fault” to create work and others who have told me outright lies. The industry is out of control and driven by a culture of extracting as much cash as possible from the unsuspecting public.

gas brains says:
15 November 2014

ok then.what is the fault when eight engineers and the rep.stand around a dead boiler unable to repair it,till one of the guys whacks it with the yellow pages,dont sat the yellow pages is out of date,oh,it works after that.

Carina Birkin says:
4 June 2014

I have an engineer coming out soon to service the boilerand he has told me that I may or may not need a boiler service kit and it would be an extra £20 on top of the £60 for the service – if I do need it
The previous 3 times that I had the boiler serviced none of the engineers have even suggested a boiler service kit. Apparently ( he says) it’s something to do with the pressure.

brady says:
4 June 2014

Some boilers need seals replacing every service, some need it ever few years, other can run and run with out needing a seal change. I would suggest if he is looking at changing seals then he is conscious enough to do a good job, he has priced it right too. though not entirely sure how the pressure effects a seal change. Maybe you miss heard that bit?

gas brains says:
15 November 2014

yes, its because new boilers are designed to rob your bank.

Chris says:
11 November 2014

I have been paying Homeserve £367 a year for an 8 star insurance which should cover boiler repairs.
I have had the misfortune of calling them out last Tuesday week as our heat exchange had cracked on our halstead hero 50 boiler. I knew what had happened as I worked with the company that made these boilers for over 25 years until Glen Dimplex took us over and shut the boiler side down when they transferred business to Liverpool and expected those in essex to uproot and join them.
I am being told that Homeserve cannot source the parts and want us to find a new boiler and get a plumber to fit it. They will give me £200 towards costs.
I got a local plumber in to take a look and after a phone call, he advised his firm can get the part and will do the work. I will therefore have to pay for all of this.
Homeserve have now reduced me to a 7 star policy which excludes my boiler, so I am left with nothing from them.
How can I be treated this way. They knew how old my boiler was when I took out their insurance.
This will cost me over £300 for parts + labour at £60 hour – none of which I can claim back.

Cowboys says:
24 December 2014

British Gas Engineers ( if you can call them that) are appauling there workmanship is very poor. you can email me and I will show you some of their shoddy and dangerous work.

You can tell they’re not the best when they pull out their little tablet to diagnose issues. I don’t remember the man from the AA or RAC ( other car repair companies available) doing that.

Even worse when the little tablet doesn’t even have the right info so they make the same mistakes over and over and over again. I just hope they updated it after I told them when someone else identified the issue that the tablet said was a faulty PCB, when it wasn’t.

Hi there! I had a lot of trouble with my boiler when I first moved in to my new house – it was a boiler I was very unfamiliar with and the pressure was far too low. I had a look online as I had just moved I was fairly reluctant to call out an engineer immediately and thankfully I came across YouTube videos that took me through a step by step guide (introducing me to new things such as the filling key) which was really easy to follow and fixed my problem. There are lots of other videos as well for many different problems, I would definitely recommend a look before calling out an engineer.

[This comment has been edited to align with our commenting guidelines. Please do not post promotional links. Thanks, mods]

I see you say that four of the ten engineers said you needed expensive repairs or failed to do basic checks. Does that mean that the other six did the job correctly? 3-4 out of ten being dishonest isn’t great, but I would hope that the majority were honest.

Dawn Holben says:
6 March 2015

I called homeserve on the 31st of jan because we had no hot water 3 days later an engineer arrived and worked out what the problem was and arranged for the parts to be ordered.
The engineer then came back with the wrong parts so I spoke to homeserve to tell them I wasn’t happy. A third engineer arrived again with the wrong parts.
And then the 4th engineer arrived with the wrong parts.
All this time homeserve were being no help at all.
The fifth engineer arrived and decided the parts ordered were not necessary and went away an ordered other parts.
Yesterday 5 weeks after I reported the fault and having no hot water the 6th engineer arrived fitted the parts and left. Within a few hours I had to call homeserve again as the boiler was leaking water all over my kitchen cupboard and floor.
They sent an emergency plumber out to isolate the leak and said an engineer would bo out the next day to sort the boiler out.
But this has now left me with no heating or hot water.
I phoned homeserve this morning and they said they would get an engineer out today but the the contractor phoned to say they can’t do it until tomorrow.
my husband the had an argument with the contractor and homeserve and 30 minutes later I had a phone call to say an engineer would be out before 3pm.
At 4.30 no one turned up and the contractors and homeserve are saying that no engineer was booked to come out.
So I am now sitting here with a cold and a chest infection and I have asthma with no heating or hot water.
whilst all this has been going on the engineers broke the ignition switch and now the drop down panel on the front is broken.
I wish I had never heard or took out cover for homeserve and if I had the money I would call another engineer to do the work but unfortunately we have just had a £1100 repair bill for the car.
And during all this all homeserve have done is refund my excess and given me £30 compensation.
I really thought having the cover would give me peace of mind but that is far from what it has given me and I am no nearer to getting my boiler fixed.

Mrs P Collier says:
17 August 2015

We are looking into a local company for an annual service agreement for our new property which has a seven year old boiler. Before they take us on they have done an assessment of our boiler. They say before they will agree to an annual service contract we will need to pay for a Service Kit and radiator inhibiter. They have quoted £100 for the service kit and £50 for the inhibiter. Is this a fair price?

My neighbour has a maxol micro turbo boiler, 11 years old. After a pipe burst the heat exchanger overheated and now leaks. Advice from a couple of engineers is that a replacement hex is no longer available as a spare part, so the boiler is a write off. My question, is anyone out there offering a hex repair or custom build to avoid the cost of a new boiler?

Good morning, I have one of the electric boilers with a tank on top of them to half fill with water , it suddenly have stop working, I have no idea how to sort this issue , I had previously called engineers who will say they are not familiar with electric boilers ,any one who can advise many thanks

If you have the make and model number, someone here might be able to help you.

To explain in more detail Our boiler was having issues and after calling another suplier we decided to put a claim. Homeserve engineer came on 24/09/16 and decided that the boiler needs a new heat exchanger. He told us that he needs to order parts , called his manager and set up an appointment for Tuesday 27/09. We waited the whole day and after calling the office were told that no appointment was set. They then offered another appointment for Thursday 29th and another engineer came in without any parts and without knowing anything about our issue. After numerous phone calls to the office and the other engineer he told us essentially the same thing, he needs parts and we have another appointment Saturday 01/10. On Saturday a third engineed came, this times with parts and tools, spend 2 hours reinstalling the parts in the boiler to realise that they have ordered the wrong parts. Once again the boiler was not fixed and we now have an apointment for Tuesday 4/10. I took a day off on 4/10/16 and no engineer showed up even though on 1/10/16 I have confirmed with homeserve that I had a service appointment for 4/01/16. The service was once again postponerd until 6/10/16.

We had no hot water or heating for 9 days now and had to stay home for 5 different days waiting for them. I have contacted the company in three different ocasions and filled complaints but heard nothing from them.
On 6/10/16 an engineer came. He was supposed to come between 8-13 and he came at 12:50 and stayed untill 15:30 . He fitted the part in the boiler and the boiler started to work. However it had a leak and we were forced to call homeserve again. We had been promised an engineer between 13-18 on 10/10/16. The engineer first called saying he will come at 12 then he said he will come at 1 then that he will come at 4 and finally he came at 17:50 and stayed untill 19. He fixed the leak but now the boiler makes a horrible noise each time it starts.
I called again and was promised an engineer on 12/10/16 between 8-13. Due to past experience I called both the office and the support office evry hour between 8-12:30 and was assured each time that surely somebody will come befoew 13. One of the people I spoke to was actually quite rude saying that even if the engineer comes at 13:00 he is still not late. However at 12:30 the engineer called and said he will only arrive in a “couple of hours. In fact he came at 14:50. I am hoping he will resolve this now.

gasman says:
3 January 2017

i think the moral of these stories is to extend warranties..Not take any boiler care covers

I had British Gas do my safety check a few weeks back. It passed, which was no surprise as the boiler is barely a couple of years old.

It has dripped slightly ever since the visit.

At first, I didn’t notice it, then I noticed water collecting beneath it but, as it’s right next to the kitchen sink I just assumed that I’d spilled a little. When I finally realised that the boiler itself was leaking, I contacted British Gas Home Care (with which my landlord has a plan), whereupon they stated that they would charge me nearly a hundred quid for the call out.

I argued that as the leak appears to be related to something done by their engineer, and as I have no money, I’d be better off servicing it myself and keeping my fingers crossed. Would they be okay with the consequences?

“Ah… we’ll put this down as a recall visit. There’ll be no charge if the engineer agrees that it was left in that state by us.”

I get your game, British Gas. I see what you’re doing.

I had a health check on my boiler three days ago Never had a problem with my boiler Before and he said the boiler was all good and he gave it a good clean, and yesterday it’s stoped working properly no heating. Phoned and they want an excess of £100 to come out. But how do I know it wasn’t there fault in the first place.

Sarah, sorry to hear this. This case is either a very unlucky coincidence or a good argument in favour of the “if it an’t broke, don’t fix it” principle.

I think that you should complain on the basis that the boiler was working fine, until it received the attentions of that health check.

If the health check did involve any intrusive operations or disassembly and reassembly by the boiler health check operative, then there is an obvious risk of those actions causing a fault.

I would expect any reputable maintenance contractor to recognise and re-mediate those risks on your behalf, as opposed to expecting you to pay for faults they’ve caused.

Hi Sarah – Was the boiler working normally between having it serviced and you discovering that it was not working?

If the problem was caused by the maintenance work it should be sorted out as Derek has said, and you should not be expected to pay the callout charge. On the other hand, if the boiler has been working fine for a day or two and a part unrelated to the maintenance work has failed (e.g. a circuit board) then it is probably coincidence that the fault has occurred so soon after servicing.

You don’t know they didn’t cause the fault, nor whether it was coincidental. A reputable company will hold up their hand if they have caused the problem and refund any call-out charge.

The (independent) plumber who services my boiler charges £55+vat to visit. If you know of a similar reputable person you could have them visit, explain the situation and get them to fix it – you need heating. However, before taking that step I would inform the original service company of your intention and that, should the fault prove to be theirs, you will seek to recover the repair costs and call out charge.

Why involve another company, Malcolm? If the first company declines to refund the charges made by the second company you might have to take legal action to recover the money.

It depends upon the attitude of and confidence in the first company and whether, if they do revisit, Sarah can trust them to be honest about the cause of the problem. They may well just make a repair charge on top of the call out and tell Sarah it was coincidence – which it might well be. So she will pay a charge with little or no chance to contest it.

If Sarah gets a reliable independent in – should be less expensive – they should be able to decide on the cause of the fault, and if that is down to the original servicer, give her grounds for a claim. If it proves to be just, or likely to be just, coincidental then she will be no worse off; probably better off as the charge may well be less – a £100 call out is high for starters.

As for taking legal action to recover money, the sums involved are unlikely to be large and whether it will be worth the hassle and cost of a court claim, and then hoping it is complied with, is up to the claimant.

I’m not advising Sarah, just thinking out loud about what I might do in the circumstances.

I would strongly advise Sarah to give the company that did the servicing the first chance to investigate the problem. With luck the problem may be sorted out at no cost.

Boiler servicing is often cheaper than a servicing callout because it can be done at any time that is mutually convenient, whereas a breakdown call is a matter of urgency if the customer has no heating or hot water.

Thank you everyone I will do exactly that. And hopefully I can get it sorted. Really appreciate all of your help and advice.

Please let us know how you get on, Sarah. It’s no fun being without a working boiler at this time of year.

Hi Sarah

I can see that you have received some helpful advice in the above comments.

If it can be confirmed that the issue you are now experiencing with your boiler can be linked back to the work carried out during the health check, then there will be argument that reasonable care and skill was not demonstrated and that your consumer rights have been breached. Consequently, the company will be responsible for bearing the cost of any remedial work.

I understand that the company are wanting to charge a high call out fee to investigate the matter. This fee should be waived if the current problem can be linked to sub-standard work as mentioned above. Alternatively, as suggested by @malcolm-r you may wish to instruct an independent engineer to carry out an inspection and diagnosis of the issue. If the diagnosis supports your position then you should be able to recover the cost of the independent engineer’s attendance from the company as a consequential loss.

I do hope that you achieve a satisfactory resolution of this matter.

If you would like to discuss your situation in more detail or if anyone would like further advice on a similar situation, then please do get in touch with Which? Legal.

This information is provided by Which? Legal. To join call 01174 054 854 or visit Which? Legal to find out more.

Lauren Stacey
Lawyer FCILEx

Hi everyone, I paid the £100 for the engineer to come out as the company said if it turned out to be the engineers fault I would get a refund. Engineer came this morning took everything apart put it all back together and said he couldn’t find anything wrong. He said it could be the fan as it wasn’t very loud? And he started the boiler straight away And then several times. He then left, the heating went off and it the boiler has stopped working again no heating or hot water. Phoned the company and they said they will get someone out on Monday. Oh and Also to get my money back I had to put a complaint in and wait 6-8 weeks for a reply.

Thank you Lauren I have only a few minutes ago. I will look into this thank you.

I was meant to say thank you I only seen this a few minutes ago.

Cathryn says:
15 February 2021

HomeServe UK
Plumbing service
Today at 12:47
You sent Today at 12:47
I’m sorry to have to write this email, as 6 years ago Homeserve dealt with a toilet flooding issue excellently a few years ago, however our recent experience has been far from excellent!
Took out boiler, plumbing & electrics cover with u in early January this year, the boiler health check was scheduled for 28th January.

And so the farce begins, as the engineer proceeded to find several supposed issues & put a warning notice on the switched off boiler – an appliance that had been OK.
I am disabled & can’t easily write, so was assured notes of all findings would be made for me but sadly they were not.
So, the next day I contacted customer services to get the report sent to me by email – this was apparently actioned but had not appeared a few days later, so rather concerned about an unusable boiler in the cold weather, I phoned again to be told the same thing. Still no report landed in my inbox, my husband tried phoning & after being on hold for an hour, got through & gave another email to try, just in case.
Still no report after nearly 2 weeks. My husband thought he’d try Twitter on 9/2 & low & behold the lovely Alice got back to him in 15 mins, was very helpful & did get the report sent finally on 10/2. However, this was useless, stating even less than the warning notice but declaring the boiler was in “bad condition”. The biggest thing he went on about was the insulation on the cover!? I’ve had on good authority from 2 independent sources that this black foam is simply to dampen noise!
After receiving the useless report I spoke to Homeserve again on 10/2 requesting any further info as wanted to get the remedial work done. Was shocked to hear that no notes had been provided. Was told they’d be requested from the engineer & sent to me – this hasn’t been forthcoming to date .

We decided to get a second opinion & service on the boiler – nothing immediately wrong, certainly not several things & their only advice was to get the expansion tank done at some point as it has a small hairline crack. Can send the reports if needed, unlike Homeserve, they arrived in hours from Plumbing Force.

This was a cost (£162) we feel we were forced to pay as we need to know what to fix. Not happy we’ve been left in the dark & cold by Homeserve

Homeserve lied to us and convinced me to upgrade to a more expensive boiler, the engineer who deceived us made a mess of our kitchen which cost hundreds to put right. I have had two independent engineers look at the installation and have found many faults and proved that they lied to us just to get more money from us. I want the boiler re installed and my kitchen to be repaired. Can anyone help from a legal standpoint?
Thank you

Which? Legal offer affordable legal advice and you don’t need to be a Which? member. It’s helpful that you have obtained independent advice and it would be useful to take photos as evidence.

When you pay for a service you are entitled to reasonable workmanship. You can make a claim against the installer (or whoever you paid) under the Consumer Rights Act and here is advice if you decide to take your own action: https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights

Best of luck, Allan.